'The responsibility will be shared,'By Dave Reardon
said UHsecondary coach
Special to the Star-Bulletin
When John Donne wrote that no man is an island, the dude obviously didn't have defensive backs in mind. At times, even the best safeties and cornerbacks can feel very lonely -- even in a filled stadium.
The nearest help is not as close as at other positions. The smallest mistakes are magnified and in the open for all to see. Looked at casually, there's no one else to share the blame when a big play is given up by a deep back.
Mickey Pruitt, however, doesn't want to hear any of that mess.
The University of Hawaii football team's first year defensive backs coach doesn't have much in common with Donne, a 16th century English poet. But Pruitt would agree: indeed, no man is an island -- at least in his secondary, on his defense.
"All the responsibility will be shared," he said. "Everybody will be getting to the ball. All 11 ... no, all 40 guys getting to the ball."
Pruitt's point is that every defensive player, even the ones watching from the sideline, will be of the same mind -- an aggressive, sharp one that doesn't make mistakes. And defensive coordinator Don Lindsey concurs.
Of course, Eddie Klaneski doesn't have to be taught that. Klaneski, one of the few bright spots in the Rainbows' 2-10 season of last year, is as tough and smart as they come at free safety. He has to be at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds.
The all-WAC performer led the team with 114 tackles last year, reminiscent of Clint Kuboyama's performance the season before.
But the Rainbows know they'll be in trouble if a defensive back has to lead them in stops again.
Klaneski is one of four returning starters in the secondary, but the only one guaranteed of being in from the get-go when the Rainbows line up against Minnesota two weeks from Saturday.
"We've got a very long way to go," said Pruitt, after yesterday's morning practice session at Barbers Point. "Did you see the films from last year?"
The Rainbow Horror Picture Show had more lowlights than the former NFL safety could recount -- UH's defense surrendered an average of 411.7 yards and 36.1 points per game.
Pruitt said his first priority is getting the cornerbacks to be more aggressive. They ran a lot of bump-and-run coverage yesterday, and figured to do so again today when full-contact drills began.
Starters Al Hunter and Robbie Robinson are back at the corners. But they are being pushed hard by newcomers Donnell Williams and Jovon Jiles, two junior college transfers from Los Angeles who Lindsey likes.
"We're real pleased with Donnell's athletic ability," he said.
"Jovon is a converted quarterback, so some of our terminology is Greek to him, but he's coming along, too."
At strong safety, 6-foot-2, 204-pound Ron Wood is challenging incumbent Chris Shinnick.
There's a lot of excitement about Wood, who has a reputation for, well, bringing the wood. He did nothing to tarnish that during spring drills.
"He laid some people out last spring, but he's still learning our system," said Pruitt of Wood, who is yet another Southern California product. "But he learns fast because he's hard on himself. And when you have someone who can punish people, he will get on the field."
Pruitt made his share of big hits at Colorado (where he holds the record for tackles by a defensive back) and in seven years with the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys.
It's already obvious that Pruitt won't accept excuses. And a group led by Klaneski won't offer them up.
"Everybody's responsible for everything," Klaneski said. "We've got way better athletes on the defense overall, more speed and size. But we need to do our job."
Still, even a bronco rider gets a break after seven seconds, and the secondary figures to get more help from their big friends up front this year -- especially since the Rainbows will line up in a 3-4 formation, more conducive to blitzing.
"There's no question. Since they pumped up the first football it's been true," said Lindsey, the 30-year coaching veteran, who was seemingly there when they did it.
"The best pass defense is pass pressure."