Defense matters again at UH
AS anyone who has heard the mantra knows, defense is made up of two key, intertwining elements: alignment and assignment. Without that, nothing matters. Without that, you've got a breakdown, and you've given up six.
So they spend a lot of time on this stuff. Defensive practice contains its share of lectures, of walk-throughs, of chess lessons, practicing taking two steps to the left as the motion man goes by. Yes, they also run some, and go up against the offense occasionally, and beat up on scouts in yellow shirts. But a lot of it is this cerebral stuff, not exactly must-see TV.
And so at UH practice only the die-hards watch defense, much. But then, they're looking for something. Something extra, something small. Hoping to catch just that little glimpse.
Because alignment and assignment are all-important, but a defense is made up of players, too.
You would think we'd never forget that. But we were so excited about Jerry Glanville's arrival as Hawaii defensive coordinator last season we forgot that his unit would still be made up of a lot of the very same guys that had been ranked No. 116 in the nation the season before.
We saw what happened.
This offseason, UH made a commitment to recruiting defensive guys the way it once stockpiled quarterbacks. Hawaii's defense has a number of new prospects this year, especially in the secondary. Players.
"You just never know," Glanville said last week. "Until they play for you, you never really know what you have. Everything. If everybody was as good as you thought they were going to be there would be nobody playing second team. So you bring in enough guys, and that's June."
It was a new direction.
"He knew the problem," Glanville said of June Jones. "He said, 'We will fix that problem. That problem will get fixed right now.' And because of his commitment and he being the head coach, that's what we were doing. I got in the car and started driving."
And before you knew it, Hawaii was bringing in 37 cornerbacks.
(Dear Reader: Obviously that last statement is untrue. It's a joke, an exaggeration to make a point. That number is obviously too high. Everyone knows with Chris Camacho leaving the team it's actually 36 cornerbacks.)
So many, "In the beginning," new guy J.P. Davis said, "before they set some depth charts we were battling for reps and stuff, it was kind of like, it was getting stupid, because it was just like nobody knew who was in and people just wanted to jump in front of people (in line to go on the field), jump in front of people.
"But then once they set depth charts it's been going a lot smoother." Thank goodness.
In Davis, you have confidence. He is already a legend in the Star-Bulletin office after Dave Reardon asked him what side he played on and Davis answered it didn't matter, whichever one they wanted him to dominate.
In C.J. Hawthorne, who is now with the first group, you have the happiest, nicest, most polite football player going through training camp I have ever met. He calls everyone sir, sometimes twice: "Yes sir, yes sir." He is like sunshine.
And then there is the old hand, Kenny Patton. He is not new. He is a returning multi-year starter and they've brought in 37 new guys to do his job (and he was asked in the spring to move to receiver to boot). But now Patton is back and he's showing determination, heart, grit. After practice he said all the right things, and smiled while saying them.
"It's awesome," he said of the situation, "because when you get new guys in, you kind of learn when you teach stuff."
On the field, he'd spent the morning with the No. 1s, yesterday. He dove after loose balls, made a few great plays. He's decided he's a part of this new movement. You couldn't keep him out.
"I just know it's my senior season," he said. "There's no -- I'm not going to hold anything back. You know, leave everything on the field. Because these past couple years I've had some regrets."
Yesterday, you could see it. Everyone could. Yesterday, after practice, Hawthorne yelled, "Great practice, Kenny!"
Then he called him "sir."
Hawthorne had had three picks in scout drills. Yesterday morning, Glanville seemed happy with his corners. Earlier, he'd said this: "Everybody on tape looked like they could help us. Now they've got to get better than where they were. They can't be the same guy they were last year. They've got to get better."
They're in this together.
"It's a cool atmosphere," Davis said. "Actually it's not really a competition, it's more like a friendly competition. We all just help each other out, try to talk to each other about footwork and stuff. It's not too much that we can really argue about. We're all cool guys, so ... we had a couple guys leave and stuff, but those guys didn't have no heart.
"That's why the ones who are left have heart."
Put Kenny Patton at the top of that list.