UH WARRIOR FOOTBALL
UH defense takes major hit
STORY SUMMARY » | READ THE FULL STORY
The Hawaii football team will be without two prominent members of its defensive front for an extended period.
Linebacker expected to miss first five weeks of season
Linebacker Blaze Soares was diagnosed with a tear in his left calf yesterday and could be out of action for six to eight weeks.
Soares, slated to start at outside linebacker entering fall camp, suffered the injury in Monday's practice, had to be carted off the field and had an MRI performed later in the day. The recovery time could keep him out of the Warriors' first five games.
The Warrior linebacker corps, expected to be a strength of the team this season, has also been without Adam Leonard since Friday with a tight hamstring.
Defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea could also miss the Aug. 30 opener against Florida with a tear in his triceps muscle. Savaiigaea sat out the last two practices and had been working with the Warriors' first two units up front.
Center John Estes also saw limited action in practice yesterday as he rested a sore shoulder. He hopes to be back in the middle of the line for today's practices. Redshirt freshman Sila Lefiti took most of the snaps at center in Estes' place.
FULL STORY »
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
An injury to starting linebacker Blaze Soares elevated Brashton Satele, above, to the first team.
The Hawaii football team will be without linebacker Blaze Soares for an extended period after the junior was diagnosed with a tear in his left calf yesterday.
Soares, projected to start at outside linebacker this season, was carted from the field after suffering the injury early in the Warriors' practice on Monday and found out it could keep him out of action for six to eight weeks.
Soares had an MRI on Monday and saw a specialist yesterday to determine the severity of the injury.
The bad news for the Warriors continued with word that an MRI revealed a tear in junior defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea's triceps, which could also keep him out for the Aug. 30 opener at Florida. Neither player is expected to need surgery.
Both Soares and Savaiigaea were coming back from injuries that limited them in spring practice. Soares, who registered 27 tackles in nine games last season, missed practices with a stinger and Savaiigaea had a strong spring cut short by a fractured tibia.
"I feel bad for both of those guys," UH coach Greg McMackin said, "because they worked really hard this summer and they were playing at the top of their game. Now they have to keep in shape during their rehab and come back to help us defend the WAC championship.
"Fortunately, we have good depth at both of those positions and we have to move on until they can come back and contribute."
"(UH trainer Eric Okasaki) and the medical staff did a great job of evaluating (Soares') injury and the doctors were very thorough."
With Soares out and senior Adam Leonard nursing a tight hamstring, the Warriors worked with a revamped linebacker unit the last two days. Solomon Elimimian, the starter at inside linebacker last season, has been playing outside with junior Brashton Satele taking his place with the first unit. R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane has been playing at the other outside spot in UH's 4-3 alignment.
"At middle linebacker, you just find the guy with the ball and go kill them," Elimimian said of making the switch. "(At) outside 'backer you really have to be able to think. You have to play the receivers and our outside 'backers blitz a lot. So you have to be really versatile and really sound."
Satele, who's battled through injuries of his own in his career, and Kiesel-Kauhane played primarily on special teams last season and were expected to make bigger contributions on defense this season even before the injuries.
"I lost confidence a couple years. I talked to my friends and family and they kept pushing me to stay with it," Satele said yesterday. "Now I'm getting my chance, finally."
McMackin said Tyson Kafentzis (outside) and Mana Lolotai (inside) are also in the mix to contribute, and true freshman Paipai Falemalu has moved up the depth chart. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Kahuku graduate worked with the second team at outside linebacker yesterday.
"It's different coming out of high school because we don't have as complicated plays," Falemalu said. "It's helpful that I have all the seniors helping me. If I have any questions I can go to them and they help me, show me the ropes. Coach Cal (Lee, defensive coordinator and linebackers) is always there, too."
Falemalu said he felt he was doing well after his first eight college practices, but was still somewhat surprised to be bumped up to the big boys.
"I just found out today when I came on the field. Coach Cal told me to go with the second team and I said, 'That sounds good,' " he said. "It shows that the coaches think I can compete with these guys."
Even before yesterday, coach Greg McMackin indicated plans for Falemalu didn't necessarily include a redshirt.
Soares has struggled with injuries over the last year. He missed much of fall camp and the first four games of last season with shoulder and hamstring injuries.
The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon contributed to this story.