Savaiigaea wants to come back quickly
Things were going just too close to perfect for Rocky Savaiigaea.
The hard offseason conditioning work was paying off for the Hawaii defensive tackle. He was dominating every aspect of spring practice.
Then, yesterday, during drills, Savaiigaea sprained his right ankle.
No problem, said coach Greg McMackin. Savaiigaea has nothing left to prove.
The junior from Aiea won't hear any of that, though.
"I want to try to come back on Monday," said Savaiigaea, while waiting to be carted to the training room. "The way this spring has been going has been good for me."
McMackin wants him to take all the time he needs to heal, but knows Savaiigaea has other ideas.
"He's been playing great, but I'm not concerned," McMackin said. "Honestly, if he didn't play again (this spring) he's shown me what he can do these first two weeks. But he'll be out here ready to go next week. He's a tough kid."
Savaiigaea said it's about being a role model for the new players.
"We've got six practices from here to the 26th, and I feel like I need to be out here every day. To be a leader you've got to be out here every day to set an example for the young ones to follow. I don't want to be one of those that coach from the sideline, I'd rather be the one lining up, do it, and then they can follow from that."
Defensive tackles coach Ikaika Malloe understands Savaiigaea's frustration with the injury.
"He's been having a great spring, and there's a lot of competition on the defensive line," Malloe said. "There are jobs to be won and Rocky's trying to take full advantage of it. At the same time, Josh (Leonard) and Keala (Watson) are trying to make sure they're on top as well."
Receiver Malcolm Lane (ankle), center John Estes (hamstring), left guard Keith AhSoon (calf) and left tackle Laupepa Letuli (hamstring) will also likely return to practice next week, McMackin said.
Cornering the market
The play of JoPierre Davis
is catching up to his former bravado.
The cornerback who two years ago promised to "dominate" whichever side the Warriors posted him at has matured. His commitment to preparation and team play has put him in the lead to start at right cornerback.
"He's a tough physical corner who can run," McMackin said. "He could be our most improved player."
Davis helped his cause yesterday with an interception of Tyler Graunke in team session.
"It's just concentration. I'm just trying to stay focused out here," Davis said. "With this team around me, I just never want to let them down. I know we've got the best front seven in the nation, or one of the best front sevens, and I just want to keep up with them, make plays like they make plays."
Davis said he changed his lifestyle when he realized being a night owl didn't dovetail with UH's morning practices.
"Last year was the first time I stopped going out. I was going out during spring. It's not even an option anymore. I'm not the type that can get up easy if I've been out at night. I've got to sleep to get up easy," Davis said. "I've got people calling me telling me to go out. I tell them I can't. It's just not possible."
Teammates have noticed the benefits of Davis' focus.
"It's about minimizing mental mistakes and doing what the coaches want you to do," linebacker Adam Leonard said. "He's doing a great job with his athletic ability. I always knew he could play. It's just a matter of working the scheme and technique the coaches are teaching him. He's doing a great job of putting the work in the offseason."
Finding his slot
Sophomore Kealoha Pilares
is making some headway at his new position.
The former running back's play at slotback in team session yesterday and the ensuing scrimmage impressed McMackin. Pilares caught a 15-yard pass from Graunke and endured a solid hit from Erik Pedersen during the scrimmage.
"He's learning the offense. I think he'll be just like one of our starters," McMackin said. "He's going to play a lot, we're going to use him a lot in different situations."
Walk-on freshman linebacker Corey Paredes
made the most of limited time with three tackles in the scrimmage. ... Linebackers Blaze Soares
and R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane
missed practice because of a family funeral. ... Tyson Kafentzis
ran with the first group at strongside in their absence.
Star-Bulletin writer Jason Kaneshiro contributed to this report.