Warriors’ fast 3 weeks yields speedy new class
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Greg McMackin was quick to acknowledge that he had a lot of help in putting together his first recruiting class as Hawaii football coach.
He credited his assistants Cal Lee, Ron Lee, George Lumpkin and Rich Miano for doing "the brunt of the recruiting" in assembling the 22-member class of newcomers for next season. The staff also got a lift from Hawaiian Airlines, which accommodated travel to and from the mainland during the process.
What arose out of the three-week blitz since McMackin's hiring was an incoming class split between junior college and high school talent.
The JC impact is especially evident at receiver with five newcomers signed.
"I'm really proud of Rich Miano and George Lumpkin for going over there and finding these guys," McMackin said. "A lot of people wouldn't have gone to where our (coaches) went to. A lot of recruiters stay around the lights, the big cities. And these guys, some of them are off in the boondocks but they're great players."
McMackin also indicated the race to replace Colt Brennan is "wide open" with the signing of two prolific JC passers to join a group of returnees led by senior Tyler Graunke.
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Speed was a theme Greg McMackin hit on repeatedly during the close to 40 minutes he spent discussing his first recruiting class as Hawaii football coach.
There was both the on-field quickness that McMackin covets in recruits and the type shown by the Warriors coaching staff in identifying and putting together a group of 22 signees in a three-week span.
"It was a fast three weeks, but it was a fun three weeks," McMackin said during a press conference in which he addressed the attributes of this year's group of newcomers.
The group was split evenly between offense and defense, and between high schoolers and junior college players who he feels will make an instant impact, particularly at wide receiver and cornerback.
"Speed is a big deal to us," he said, "and these players, all of them, have speed."
McMackin took over on Jan. 16 and estimated that "85-90 percent" of the signees were players the coaches identified and recruited since the transition.
"Recruiting had really, with the Sugar Bowl and everything, kind of slowed down and these are guys the staff produced and we went out and got," he said.
"Everything was from scratch."
The staff got a lift from Hawaiian Airlines in accommodating travel for recruiting on the mainland. McMackin was also pleased with the group of nine locally grown recruits. He reiterated his plans to visit every high school on the island and hold a clinic for local coaches to "let them know they're a part of our family.
"We really wanted to hit Hawaii and get the best players in the state of Hawaii and we felt we got a good majority of them," he said. "We are going to really use Hawaii as a foundation for our football program."
The fact that only one recruit came from a school outside of Hawaii or California also signals the staff's emphasis on mining the West for talent.
The following is a position-by-position look at this year's class:
Greg Alexander (6-5, 240, Jr.), Brent Rausch (6-4, 190, So.)
The competition to replace Colt Brennan likely picked up with the additions of prolific junior college passers.
Alexander completed 60 percent of his throws for 3,487 yards and 40 touchdowns against six interceptions last season. Rausch, who played 8-man football in high school, had 26 TDs in his lone junior college season.
Senior Tyler Graunke is the heir apparent, having led the Warriors to wins over Charleston Southern, Utah State and Nevada last season.
"We feel we have two of the top three JC quarterbacks in the country," McMackin said. "They're both big guys, they both can run, they're both 4.6.
"I'd say it's completely wide open," he said of the competition. "That's a good thing about being new into a system. We're going to play the best player. ... That goes with every position."
Jake Heun (6-2, 250, Jr.)
Heun is already enrolled in school and provides a big body in the backfield to help in pass protection. The Warriors return shifty backs in Kealoha Pilares and Daniel Libre and junior Leon Wright-Jackson.
"He's just a tough guy. We want a guy who will just take somebody on and help us in our protection and then if they get worried too much about that then we'll hand the ball to him and let him run."
Craig Bell (6-1, 185, Jr.), Dustin Blount (5-9, 165, Jr.), Ryan Henry (5-10, 175, Jr.), Jovonte Taylor (5-9, 185, Jr.), Mike Tinoco (6-2, 200, Jr.), Earvin Sione (6-5, 190, Fr.)
Replenishing the receiver corps was a priority for the staff. McMackin is high on the newcomers' potential in the offense and as kick returners.
Tinoco and Bell will compete on the outside, with Blount slated for slotback. McMackin said Henry and Taylor could play either wide or inside.
Sione may eventually end up as a safety.
With all four starters gone, Mike Washington and Aaron Bain are the top returnees at slot, with Malcolm Lane and Greg Salas back on the outside.
"Those guys are going to be instant impact players and compete with the guys that we have," McMackin said. "Our (returning) guys will have a little advantage because they're going to go through spring ball."
Kainoa LaCount (6-7, 285, Jr.), Tui Tuiasosopo (6-1, 290, Fr.)
McMackin said both newcomers could contribute right away, but the Warriors will lean on the group of returnees with three starters back.
"We have a lot of guys on scholarship on the offensive line and we're planning on getting them better by coaching them techniques and that's what (line coach) Brian (Smith) is here for -- he's a great technician," McMackin said.
Haku Correa (6-1, 270, Fr.), Geordon Hanohano (6-2, 270, Fr.)
McMackin said the defensive line won't rotate quite as much as last year, with ends David Veikune and John Fonoti likely to see even more snaps this season.
McMackin likes Correa's ability to run, and he could play inside or on the edge. Hanohano was a first-team All-State pick at Saint Louis.
"For a high school kid, (Hanohano) hits like a college player," McMackin said. "He's physical and plays with great effort."
Paipai Falemalu (6-3, 220, Fr.), Art Laurel (6-1, 205, Fr.), Alema Tachibana (6-3, 200, Fr.)
The Warriors linebacker corps could be the strength of the team with Solomon Elimimian, Adam Leonard and Blaze Soares returning. Still, McMackin said Falemalu, a speedy All-Stater from Kahuku, could contribute right away.
He anticipates Tachibana developing into a defensive end as the 17-year-old fills out.
"We brought in three young linebackers so when Adam and Solly leave, Blaze is there and we have good young ones coming up," McMackin said.
Chris Black (5-10, 170, Jr.), Jeramy Bryant (5-9, 175, Jr.), Steven Christian (6-1, 175, Fr.), Steve Stepter (5-10, 180, Fr.), Christian Vasconcellos (6-2, 190, Fr.), Lewis Walker (5-11, 170, Fr.)
With three-fourths of the starting secondary completing their eligibility, the coaches targeted cornerbacks in what looks to be a trend under McMackin's plan to infuse speed.
"We probably won't recruit safeties any more," he said. "We want corners. If they get bigger we want them to move to safety. When the safeties get bigger, we're going to move them to linebacker. When the linebackers get bigger we'll move them to defensive end."