McMackin likes what he sees in his return
For the second time in his coaching career, Greg McMackin watched his Hawaii defense start fall practice by running a grueling set of 220-yard dashes.
While the staff and surroundings remain much the same as when UH went 9-4 in 1999 when McMackin was defensive coordinator the first time -- his only year in the islands before taking the same title at Texas Tech -- other things have changed, and for the better.
This time, the program carries such luxuries as a winning attitude, depth at every defensive position, and a fresh No. 24 preseason ranking.
"It's great to be back. June (head coach Jones) has done a great job here," McMackin said at the Warriors' morning practice yesterday. "The coaches are mostly the same guys who I worked with before, and the players are just fun to work with.
"It's time to go to work."
His unit -- which graduated Ikaika Alama-Francis, Melila Purcell and Leonard Peters to NFL camps -- is getting attuned to his new 4-3 scheme. McMackin must hammer out starting lineups and rotations.
"The players will trust us because they know we work really hard to play the best players," McMackin said. "If a guy can help us win, then we want to get him on the field."
Depth is plentiful at linebacker, with Blaze Soares, Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard projected to start. But senior Brad Kalilimoku, an off-again, on-again starter since his freshman year, will likely complete a dangerous four-man rotation over the three spots. Leonard, the team's leading tackler last season at 114, could see time rotating over to the middle linebacker spot.
"All four of those guys, I feel really strong about the linebacker corps," McMackin said.
Leonard is coming off knee surgery in June to repair a meniscus, and was held out of yesterday's running as a precaution.
"Whatever Coach decides. I just play where they tell me to play," Kalilimoku said. "I always just try to do my best and strive to do better and better. I'm going to continue to do that."
In addition, McMackin said he has confidence in reserves such as C.J. Allen-Jones, Micah Lau, Brashton Satele and Timo Paepule.
The safety position alongside Jake Patek is up for grabs. Desmond Thomas is listed as the starter; Keao Monteilh and Erik Robinson are serious threats to challenge for the spot.
"I respect that," said Robinson, when asked about Thomas' spot above him on the depth chart. "But I'm (going to) keep working harder and harder ... If it take me to play special teams, or whatever, I'll do whatever it take to get a win."
Hungry players like Robinson make McMackin's task challenging.
"He's a great person, and he's a team guy," McMackin said. "He's gonna need to learn the system, but he does the things that we want and we'll take a good look at him this fall, and he'll be competing for a starting position."