Elimimian deflects some credit to Warriors’ defensive linemen
After greedily gobbling up ball carriers on Saturday, Solomon Elimimian scooped up an individual accolade yesterday.
But when asked about the performance that earned him Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week, the Hawaii linebacker had no problem sharing the credit.
"It's just a testament to our defensive linemen," Elimimian said. "Me making 14 tackles is not as much about me as it just shows a lot about the defensive line and how they're keeping guys off me and when the plays come I make them."
The ability of the Warriors' front four to absorb blockers at the line of scrimmage freed Elimimian to match his career-high in tackles in Hawaii's 49-14 win at UNLV last Saturday. It was the second straight week the junior reached that mark, duplicating his total against Louisiana Tech.
He enters Saturday's game against Charleston Southern at Aloha Stadium with a team-high 33 stops. His 11 tackles per game is good for a tie for third in the WAC and a 17th in the country.
"He was everywhere," UH head coach June Jones said. "He made a lot of plays just flying around to the ball. We had three or four guys play well. I thought the overall scheme really settled and got going and I see an attitude starting to happen now."
A week after giving up 410 yards and 44 points in escaping with an overtime win at Louisiana Tech, the Warriors watched UNLV march 79 yards on 13 plays on its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead last Saturday.
The Warriors scored the next 42 points on their way to a convincing win. Elimimian said defensive coordinator Greg McMackin adjusted by creeping another defender closer to the line of scrimmage to create an eight-man front to help contain the Rebels' ground game.
"UNLV did a lot of things, they spread us out with three wides or four wides," Elimimian said, "but their main objective was to run the ball. A lot of teams are going to run the ball on us trying to keep our offense off the field. So Coach made some adjustments after the first drive and we started stopping them.
"The first drive I don't think we were really aggressive, they brought it to us. Once we settled down we just focused on what coach wanted us to do and we played better."
Elimimian is thriving in the middle of UH's 4-3 alignment, which often funnels running backs to him. Adam Leonard has also adjusted to playing on the outside. He had 11 stops last week.
"You have to be a more sideline-to-sideline player, it's a lot more blitzing," Elimimian said of his role in the scheme compared to last year's 3-4 base defense. "You have to be in charge of the defense and make sure everybody is in the right place.
"I can make more plays and it just fits our personnel on defense."
While the Warriors proved much more stingy against UNLV compared to the previous week's shootout, Jones is now looking for the defense to increase its turnover production. Hawaii has four takeaways so far, including Ryan Mouton's interception return for a touchdown on Saturday.
"We've had a lot of tipped balls, we've had a lot of chances, but we haven't been coming down with them," Jones said. "The second we start coming down with them I think it'll really snowball."
Jones also said sophomore linebacker Blaze Soares could make his season debut this week. Soares entered fall camp as a starter at outside linebacker but missed much of fall camp with a shoulder injury. A hamstring injury then kept him out of the season opener and the road trip to Louisiana Tech and UNLV.
Brad Kalilimoku remains the starter in the linebacker corps with Leonard and Elimimian.
"(Soares) was practicing today and I'm hoping he'll be able to play this week," Jones said. "It's just been a tough deal fighting through that thing, but maybe he'll be better for it."
Leon Wright-Jackson has been the first running back on the field in UH's last two games and is now listed on the top line of the two-deep. But the duties will likely remain shared among Wright-Jackson (57 total yards vs. UNLV), Kealoha Pilares (11 carries, 62 yards) and David Farmer.
"I thought Kealoha really played well," Jones said. "He ran the ball real well and made some nice cuts. Leon's kind of feeling his way still, but the second half when I got him back in I thought he turned it up a little bit."
Jones also praised the progress of receiver C.J. Hawthorne after the senior posted career highs with nine catches for 104 yards.
"He's really starting to take it to another level," he said. "All of them have played well, but C.J. has caught my eye."
Scouting the Buccaneers
Jones said getting information on Charleston Southern hasn't been easy, but expects the staff will have enough to prepare the game plan.
The Buccaneers are 1-2 after beating NCAA Division II Johnson C. Smith 44-20 last week. Defensive back Philip Ashley was named Big South Defensive Player of the Week and running back DeMarcus Moon was Freshman of the Week after rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.
"Just off of the first game, they're similar to a lot of teams we play," Jones said. "And they run, offensively, kind of the same thing Vegas did."