Warriors recharge


POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not so coincidentally, the Hawaii offensive line's recent progress has coincided with greater stability - both on the line and in the backfield.

Lineup shuffles necessitated by injuries hampered the Warriors front five's cohesiveness. Things have settled down lately and line coach Brian Smith noted the gains in Hawaii's just-completed trip to the mainland.

“;I thought the road trip was really good for us,”; Smith said after the Warriors returned to practice yesterday. “;I thought both games we played really well. The last three weeks we've been playing a whole lot better and getting better every week.

“;They're getting a chance to play together and then we're getting a lot healthier. ... The continuity of the line is extremely important.”;

The Warriors (5-5, 4-3 Western Athletic Conference) are in the midst of their second bye week of the season, which gives them a chance to recharge prior to a run of three home games to close the regular season.

The team returned from a 10-day road trip on Sunday and returned to practice yesterday. The Warriors have another workout scheduled for this morning before taking the weekend off. They resume the schedule on Nov. 22 against Idaho.

“;Even a couple days of rest for myself is huge - you can just feel it in your body,”; center John Estes said. “;I feel much better at practice and we're going to feel much better at the game.”;

Hawaii started four different offensive line combinations in its first seven games, but has settled into a steady pattern in the last three.

Estes, right guard Clarence Tuioti-Mariner and right tackle Keoni Steinhoff have started every game this season. Aaron Kia and Laupepa Letuli began the season competing for the left tackle job, but now start side-by-side with Kia at tackle and Letuli at guard.

Keith AhSoon is now rotating in at left guard since his return from a knee injury, with Letuli shifting over to tackle on those occasions.

“;We're just getting used to playing next to each other and everyone's getting healthy,”; Estes said. “;Trust is very important for an O-line. You have to play within yourself and do your own job.”;

The offensive line contributed to Hawaii's most productive performance of the season last week, when the Warriors rolled up a season-high 42 points and 447 yards.

The protection helped quarterback Greg Alexander pass for 288 yards and running back Daniel Libre run for a season-best 88 yards - including a 48-yarder - and two scores

“;In this offense, running the ball is really important,”; Estes said. “;Once you start running the ball well, they'll bring a linebacker up, they'll bring a safety up and it'll leave holes in the secondary.

“;When you see a long run by a running back you know the whole O-line did their job on that particular play. When one guy screws up, it compromises the whole play.”;

Hawaii's emphasis on the pass tends to inflate its sack numbers, and the Warriors have given up 37 so far. They surrendered one against Utah State and four last week.

“;It's always a concern,”; Smith said, “;but there's tons of other factors that go into sacks besides offensive line play.”;

Along with developing a set rotation, Alexander's emergence over the last three games has had an impact on the line's performance.

The Warriors changed up their offensive style over the first half of the season, switching from a conventional run-and-shoot scheme to a modified running attack with Inoke Funaki at the controls.

With Alexander's solid recent performances, the Warriors - as NMSU coach Hal Mumme put it on Monday - “;went back to being the old Hawaii.”;

“;It allows you to get better,”; Smith said of the Warriors reestablishing their offensive style. “;When you're constantly changing things, and have different people moving in and out, and you're changing schemes, you can take steps back before you can move forward.”;


Second chance

Today's Scout Bowl II gives Adam Leonard and Keala Watson a shot at redemption.

The co-captains lost this year's first scrimmage for the Warriors scouts to the team led by Estes and Solomon Elimimian.

“;Last time was our chance to dip our toes into the coaching pool,”; Watson said. “;But this time around we'll be ready for them.”;

The captains drafted their teams on Tuesday and held a mini-practice after yesterday's regular workout.


Resting up

Several of the Warriors regulars, including linebacker Adam Leonard and defensive linemen Josh Leonard and Vaughn Meatoga, are taking advantage of the bye week to rest various injuries. Safety Mana Silva, who suffered a sprained ankle against Utah State, is walking around in a medical boot.