Warriors get contact high in scrimmage at stadium
It just makes sense that running backs normally prefer to run in the open spaces, chewing up yardage. But Hawaii sophomore Leon Wright-Jackson said good old-fashioned contact is fun, too.
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The Nebraska transfer didn't get many yards, but he did get to play some real tackle football for the first time in a while in the Warriors' scrimmage yesterday at Aloha Stadium.
"It felt good. I got that first pop out of the way. I hadn't been hit in over a year," said Wright-Jackson, who is expected to share the running back duties with Kealoha Pilares and David Farmer this season.
Some of the whispers coming out of Husker land were that Wright-Jackson didn't like contact. But he didn't avoid it yesterday, except in obvious situations where three or more defenders were bearing down on him. He did fumble twice early in the scrimmage but did a better job securing the ball later.
"The defense was strong today," Wright-Jackson said. "They're fast and they swarm to the ball."
Keao Monteilh, who is battling for a starting job at safety, appeared to relish the opportunity for live contact after redshirting last season.
He threw his bulked-up physique into Wright-Jackson to make a loud stop on the second play of the scrimmage. He later flew in to drop Mike Washington behind the line of scrimmage and drilled Pilares after a 1-yard gain.
"Being out for about a year, it's fun to be back out in Aloha Stadium," Monteilh said. "But it'll be a lot better if I could do it against some opponents. But I had a blast out there.
"When I saw people come, I was just breaking on the ball. I guess I was there at the right time."
In addition to battling for playing time at safety, Monteilh has worked at nickel back in certain packages. As a former cornerback, he has experience covering receivers and likes the versatility of the role.
"I can come, I can cover, I'm going to be throwing curveballs at them sometimes," he said.
Junior safety Desmond Thomas -- Monteilh's chief competitor -- was sidelined yesterday with soreness.
Perhaps setting the tone for the live scrimmage, the defensive line appeared to get the better of the action for most of the one-on-one period with the offensive line in the south end zone.
Defensive end Karl Noa made a quick dip inside to burst into the backfield on one play, while tackle Rocky Savaiigaea clubbed his way through on another. John Fonoti, returning from a year off, was impressive in powering into, then tossing aside his counterpart on more than one occasion.
Center John Estes (elbow) continued to be held out of contact drills, with Joey Lipp taking his place.
Special teams report
The Warriors enjoyed some live hitting in the special teams periods, which focused on punt returns, kickoff returns and field goals.
Punter Tim Grasso improved on each of his three punts, nailing his kicks 40, 42 and 45 yards deep to Washington. Both of Dan Kelly's kickoffs, from the 30, reached the end zone where they were fielded by Washington and Keenan Jones, who were able to bring them out to the 20.
Kelly got off to a slow start in the field-goal period, going 3-for-6 on 40-yarders from the left hash mark, middle and right hash. With Grasso holding, Kelly warmed up from 45 yards, drilling three attempts with Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry rushing in hard off the edges. Briton Forester missed his first two kicks from 45 yards, then made his next two.
Hawaii is No. 23 in the Associated Press preseason poll of sportswriters and broadcasters who cover college football.
It is the first time UH is ranked in the preseason by the AP. The Warriors are No. 24 in the coaches' poll.
The AP poll was released yesterday. USC is No. 1 and five-time reigning Western Athletic Conference champion Boise State is at No. 24. The Broncos are the only ranked team on the Warriors schedule this season.
Safety Viliami Nauahi
and defensive end Tua Mahaley
are expected to join practice tomorrow and observed yesterday. Others likely in tomorrow are two veterans -- running back Jayson Rego
and safety Josh Aufai
-- and possibly freshman offensive lineman Sila Lefiti
. ... Coach June Jones
said captains will be named sometime toward the end of this week. ... The freshman talent show was last night. ... With the start of school tomorrow, practice is from 7 to 9 a.m.