CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michael Malala and Amani Purcell were healthy enough for UH practice yesterday.
Injuries dog defense
UH was down to three healthy outside linebackers yesterday
Roll call for the Hawaii defense has seldom held form from one day to the next during the Warriors' preseason workouts.
While the first units on offense have been relatively stable through fall camp and into this week's practices, the defense has had to work through various ailments that have kept the rotations fluid so far.
"You gotta play who you've got," UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said. "That's all that you can do."
Including this morning's workout, the Warriors are down to seven full practices before taking on Alabama on Sept. 2 in Tuscaloosa. But head coach June Jones isn't overly concerned with the aches that accompany the preseason grind.
"Every year it's this way this time of year, and I anticipate when game time comes they'll be able to play," Jones said.
The outside linebackers were down to three players at full speed other than scout-team members yesterday. C.J. Allen-Jones and Tyson Kafentzis held down the first-team jobs most of fall camp, but gave way to Brashton Satele and Amani Purcell on Monday.
But Satele's summer of frustration continued yesterday when he again reverted to observer due to a deep thigh bruise that limited his practice time for much of camp.
While Kafentzis returned from an illness that kept him out on Tuesday, Allen-Jones, who has been bothered by a tight hamstring, spent most of practice running on the side.
That left the Warriors with Kafentzis and Kamehameha graduates Micah Lau and Karl Noa rotating on both sides of the formation, with Purcell -- a little gimpy while still working his way into football shape -- taking some repetitions as well.
"We had a lot of guys down," Kafentzis said. "It's the same thing. The only real difference is you're taking guys on with your right shoulder on the left side and your left shoulder on the right side. Everything else is interchangable. We only had three guys running today, so we were giving each other breathers."
Lau worked extensively with the first unit yesterday. The 5-foot-9, 207-pound junior had seen limited action on special
teams prior to this season, but he's earned the praise of his coaches and some action with the first-teamers with his effort in camp.
"Probably our most improved outside 'backer, maybe our most improved player from last year, is (No.) 26," Glanville said.
Lau said he was surprised to get as much work as he did the past few days and also plays on the punt return and kickoff units. He had expected to contribute there last season until an ankle injury sidelined him, but he has been able to stay healthy this summer.
"You gotta go to the cold pool," Lau said, detailing his keys to warding off injury. "Pretty much you gotta hit treatment every day to stay loose and healthy."
Kafentzis had been with the first team most of fall camp, and took this week's change in the depth chart in stride.
"If you get discouraged, that screws up your game. You can't get like that," he said. "You just gotta go out with a good attitude and compete and whatever happens happens. I'm happy where I'm at right now. You can't get discouraged. That's a terrible way to go about it."
Nose tackle Michael Lafaele sat out for a second straight day with a protective boot on his sore right heel, but said the injury shouldn't keep him out long.
Lawrence Wilson got back into the mix, playing through a sore ankle, while Kahai LaCount continued to work with the first team.
"(I've) got to take some reps right now to get my conditioning going," said Wilson, who ranks among the strongest players on the team.
While Wilson's return this week helped maintain the Warriors' depth at nose tackle, defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold remains concerned about the senior's ankle.
"He's a tough kid and he's trying to work through it, which I give him a tremendous amount of credit for. But it's a fine line," Reinebold said. "He knows with the competition that we have, if he's going to be on the field he's got to prove it every day in practice. The fact of the matter is he stepped on a sprinkler head on a practice field and he has an ankle that does not allow him to go at full speed."
Safety Brad Kalilimoku continued to rest a tight hamstring and backup offensive lineman Keith Ah Soon didn't practice due to a stinger.
On the run:
C.J. Hawthorne's ability to latch on to the ball has secured him a job as the Warriors' punt returner.
As a projected starter at cornerback and a member of most of the special teams units, Hawthorne figures to be busy.
"I definitely enjoy that. I think that was my best thing in high school, returning punts," Hawthorne said. "So I'm thrilled that Coach allowed me to return punts, so hopefully I can bring a lot of excitement back to the special teams.
"The main thing is to catch the ball. The No. 1 goal is to give the ball back to the offense."
Backup slotbacks Aaron Bain and Michael Washington have also worked at returning punts.
Ross Dickerson leads a group of contenders to return kickoffs that includes Kenny Patton, Chad Mock and Ian Sample.
Hawthorne and A.J. Martinez have established themselves as the top cornerbacks. Junior college transfer Keenan Jones could still figure into the plans for the Alabama game if he's cleared to practice soon.
Jones said two scholarships may be awarded in the coming days, with Kafentzis and defensive lineman Renolds Fruean among those who could be added to the list. "There are three or four guys who have a chance," he said. "We want to make sure we pick the right guys. It also might be a situation where we (save it for a) grayshirt."
Eyes on Colt:
Colt Brennan is among 22 quarterbacks named to the Manning Award Watch List, released by the Sugar Bowl committee yesterday.
The award, created in honor of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning, will be presented to the nation's top quarterback based on a vote of national media and the Manning family. Texas' Vince Young won last year's award.
Brennan is also on the "watch lists" for the Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year award and Maxwell Award.