Libre gives UH depth at RB
» UH tabs freshman for stretch run
The stage couldn't be much bigger for Daniel Libre's possible debut as a Division I college running back.
The 2004 Konawaena graduate has spent the last two seasons buried on the Hawaii depth chart at slotback, but practiced with the first team at his natural position yesterday.
UH (8-0, 5-0 WAC), ranked 16th in the BCS standings, may be without freshman Kealoha Pilares for its duel with Fresno State (6-3, 5-1) on Saturday.
Pilares didn't practice yesterday and watched Libre share time with Leon Wright-Jackson and David Farmer.
"Since I'm not practicing, it kind of signals that I'm not going to play," Pilares said. "I'm not going to just jump in there and play without taking reps."
Coach June Jones, however, continued to hope results on Friday from a second MRI might show Pilares can play.
The absence of UH's leading rusher opens the door for Libre to take reps at the position he played in high school and as a freshman at Menlo College. After transferring home, Libre, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, was converted to slotback and has seen limited action on special teams. His ascent at running back comes at a critical time as Hawaii prepares for its toughest opponent to date.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Libre said. "It's a lot of pressure, but it's what I wanted since I got here."
Libre practiced with the first team last month, but his speed on special teams against New Mexico State got him noticed again.
"He has some good versatile talent," running backs coach Wes Suan said.
UH tabs freshman for stretch run
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Senior defensive end Francis Maka could miss a month with a broken leg suffered in practice.
If you're wearing a red shirt this late in the season, chances are you're not going to get into a football game until next fall.
But things have changed quickly for Hawaii freshman Kenny Estes. The safety from Waimea was tabbed to spend the entire year acclimating to college football via practices -- that is, before the coaches noticed during the bye week how consistent and relentless he is on special teams.
Now the 6-foot, 200-pound athlete could see action on the first play of Saturday's game against Fresno State instead of waiting until next season. Estes is now a member of UH's kickoff coverage team.
He wasn't sure it was such a great idea at first to burn a year of eligibility for a few games.
"I was kind of like, 'There's only four or five more games and I missed out on more than half of the season.' "
Then, Estes said, he realized that it's an honor that the coaches would want him to contribute to what is so far an undefeated season.
"This is the year to play. This is the year obviously that (UH is) going so far," Estes said.
Estes also gets first-team reps with the punt return unit, and will eventually get more time with the secondary.
"He'll get more reps now that he's part of our travel crew and our game crew," defensive backs coach Rich Miano said. "He's going to get some experience in the back end. When you have passion like he does and skill and athleticism, it's just a matter of time before he gets in the mix."
Estes was a great all-around athlete at Waimea, starring as a running back, defensive back, kicker and kick returner in football and for four years in soccer. He was also a member of the Menehunes' two-time state champion 4x100 relay team; the 2004 quartet also included Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon, who is among the nation's leading tacklers.
Estes enrolled at UH in 2006, but did not join the football team until this year. He's put on 20 pounds of muscle since arriving at Manoa.
"He's fast, he's tough. Every time we look out here on scout team, our guys can't block him (on kickoffs)," Miano said. "Every game means so much. Let's get our best athletes on the field. We still have four games, then a bowl game. You never know when your number's going to get called. He's going to get the opportunity in all these big games."
Miano said the Warriors might make some other changes on special teams to give the team the best chance possible to go unbeaten.
"We sat down as a staff, and (decided) if that means using some starters, a guy we were going to redshirt, so be it," he said.
Special teams player Guyton Galdeira said Estes earned his shot.
"He's been busting his butt and giving us a good look on scout team," Galdeira said. "That pretty much sums it up."
With backup senior defensive end Francis Maka out two-to-four weeks with a broken leg, sophomore Victor Clore could get more playing time.
"That would be the natural progression of things," defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said. "We're deep and we have some flexibility in the Okie and nickel packages, where Francis made a lot of his contributions. We're still four-deep that we feel really good about at end."
The starters are Amani Purcell and Karl Noa, with David Veikune and John Fonoti the No. 2s.
"It's a tough loss, but we play 10 guys on the defensive line regularly," defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said.
Maka was in on 17 tackles, including a quarterback sack.
Pau for now
With all the injuries at running back and the departure of Mario Cox, walk-on Lorgan Pau had a chance to move up the depth chart. But fate had a different plan.
"I blew my chance," the McKinley product said, noting the hyperextended knee he suffered in the New Mexico State game.
Leon Wright-Jackson or Dave Farmer will probably start, with Kealoha Pilares nursing a sprained knee. Daniel Libre could get some PT, too.
"Kealoha might not play, but he might. We'll see how it is game day," coach June Jones said. "Leon said he's ready to go (after some nagging injuries). Leon and Dave, we'll be fine."