Veikune, Leonard getting work
Warriors loaded with defensive linemen
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Everyone's talking about how many good defensive linemen Hawaii has this year.
The Star-Bulletin will preview Hawaii's opponents every day until the start of the season. See today's story on B6:
San Jose State
New Mexico State
"It's the deepest we've ever had. We've got eight to 10 guys who would've started other years," UH coach June Jones said. "When we go on the road, especially to Reno, it's going to help a lot because we can rotate guys in. For the first time we can really battle that fatigue on the road."
That's nice, but what do the backups do in the meanwhile. Stand around and watch?
Defensive coordinator Greg McMackin's schemes call for versatile, tough, smart players. The more of these specialty roles you can fill, the more you get to play. Josh Leonard and David Veikune aren't listed as starters, but chances are their numbers will be called several times every Saturday night starting with next week's opener against Northern Colorado.
Defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said the two juniors are symbolic of the entire unit's attention to detail and competitive spirit.
"This may be the most conscientious group I've been around," he said.
"There was only one day during camp when they didn't come to practice sharp. That's amazing when you consider how hard camp is, all the stresses on them.
"There comes a point in camp you get to where you just have to go and play someone else. We're at that point."
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Hawaii junior defensive linemen David Veikune and Josh Leonard saw a lot of action at practice yesterday. They can expect that at least once a week this fall, with starters Mike Lafaele and Fale Laeli missing most of the Friday morning sessions with a class.
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As for Saturdays, there might not always be as many plays for them. But the game-day contributions of these two key backups are being counted on heavily by the Warriors, beginning a week from today when they open against Northern Colorado.
The versatile linemen will fill several roles in UH's various defensive packages. Their smarts -- as well as their strength and quickness -- make them valuable.
"David showed us last year that he has the physical tools to play a variety of spots and the mental capacity to fill multiple roles. His role will expand," defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said.
Veikune is listed at 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, but plays bigger, allowing him to fill in at tackle in both three- and four-man fronts. His quickness makes him an asset as a pass rusher from either end; his primary job is subbing for starters Amani Purcell and Karl Noa.
"It's just like last year. I know all the positions," Veikune said. "With our Okie package we still go back to the old stuff, with some new stuff added.
"I like defensive end because you get the most flexibility, you can rush the quarterback. It reminds me of high school, when it was just get to the ball. Of course it's a more complex game at the college level."
The Campbell High graduate transferred to UH last year after stints at Colorado and Fresno City College. He said being on a team ranked No. 23 headed into the season is a bonus.
"I came home strictly because I was homesick and wanted to be with my family," Veikune said. "This just makes it better."
Leonard -- a highly-decorated defensive end at Sierra College (Calif.) -- could have gone to Nevada, Boise State, Wyoming or Washington and had a better chance of moving right into a starting spot. He elected to join what he knew to be a crowded defensive line at UH.
"I was expecting it. I knew Hawaii had great athletes," Leonard said. "I chose to come here for the competition. I wasn't going to get it anywhere else."
That doesn't mean the 6-3, 274-pound Leonard is content to sit on the bench. He's glad Reinebold and defensive coordinator Greg McMackin feel he's versatile enough to contribute as a tackle as well as at end.
"I like it if it gets me more playing time," Leonard said.
In fact, he said he prefers playing tackle to end. Is it because of the contact?
Leonard's face lit up when asked that.
"Yeah," he said.
Don't count him out
Despite his impressive bulk, 5-10, 280-pound Jason Laumoli gets lost among the large group of candidates for playing time in UH's one-running-back formation.
So the senior from Yuba College and American Samoa was obviously pleased to get a good share of reps with the first team yesterday. He'd spent some time with the scout team earlier in the week.
"I didn't mind helping out to get our defense ready, but it's good to have another opportunity. One of the things I like about this system is everyone gets looked at, more than once." said Laumoli, who played in three games last year, carrying four times for 34 yards. "It all takes time."
The former defensive tackle has reason to believe his patience might be rewarded. Jumbo backs are in style, including his former UH teammate, Reagan Mauia. Mauia, also a former defensive lineman, was drafted by the Miami Dolphins and was playing a lot before an injury.
"That motivates me a lot," Laumoli said. "He made his dream happen, and that really motivates me to push hard."
Starting safety Jake Patek returned to practice after missing one day with a thigh bruise. ... Starting linebackers Adam Leonard (hamstring, knee) and Blaze Soares (shoulder) continued to ramp up their participation, while the third starter, Solomon Elimimian (hamstring) continued to keep his return at a slow pace. ... Jason Rivers had three touchdown catches in a 23-play goal-line drill. ... This morning's practice was scheduled to go from 8:30 to 11 or 11:30. ... Season tickets were expected to arrive in the mail yesterday or today and no later than Monday. ... A story on quarterback Colt Brennan appeared in yesterday's New York Times, and his picture was on the front page of its Web site. ... Tyson Kafentzis and Erik Pedersen worked out with the linebackers yesterday. They began fall camp with the safeties.