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Kicking it around with the coach


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POSTED: Sunday, March 29, 2009

Greg McMackin recently sat down with Star-Bulletin reporters Billy Hull, Jason Kaneshiro, Brian McInnis and Dave Reardon to answer questions about his second spring camp as Hawaii head football coach.

Q: Compared to last year, are you in the rhythm you want to be in now?

A: It's been fun. It's slower this time.

Every team has its personality. I thought last year's team overcame adversity. This year's team is still making it's personality. One thing I really like about this team is the work ethic. They're working their tails off, and I think it's because we don't have a bunch of stars and everybody's competing and competition make guys work harder. All 112 or 113 guys and they're all working hard. I give credit to the strength guys, Tommy (Heffernan) and Mel (DeLaura), but the players have an attitude about them.

The thing I like is now we're going into spring so we've got to keep the intensity and we have to teach.

All the coaches, they've really worked hard on presenting and teaching and it's important we do a good job of coaching it and improve on what we did last year.

Now we can actually work with them and watch them on film and everybody feels like they have a shot, so they're really going hard.

I think these guys really have a great work ethic. That's what they've shown me to this point. Now we have to get into the X's and O's and all that stuff.

Q: Last year you had to basically find a whole bunch of new starters for offense, this year it's the defense. It would seem you can do it faster on defense. Is it a smoother transition?

A: The thing about defense is you run a package, but what I like about Hawaii is the guys we have playing defense are aggressive. So we get 11 guys aggressive to the ball, we just have to teach them to run to the football, tackle, and it is easier than last year. Offensively we were trying to run a system and nobody knows it yet. It's way more difficult.

I feel very comfortable getting our defense together. I think we have a great defensive staff. It's just a matter of teaching and finding the guys this spring and then we have guys who are going to join us (in the summer).

Q: How concerned are you about the secondary after losing your top four cornerbacks and a bunch of safeties?

A: We lost nine DBs and all the starters, and none of these guys really have game experience. Richard Torres is really the only one who has game experience and he was our backup nickel.

The good thing is we brought in some guys who we think are talented players. They have to learn our system, but they're going to see the pass every day. We're going to rep and teach and they're going to get a lot of reps covering, and we have some good young guys who are coming up. I'm confident in the coaching, we've got Rich Miano and Chris Tormey. It's a matter of teaching schemes, and athletically we have some good guys.

It's game experience. In the secondary, you're playing a coverage and if somebody busts, it's gone. So that's not as easy as the front seven. It's something we're going to have to teach well.

Q: Is it important for guys like (JC transfers) Lametrius Davis and Melvin Hopkins to get in during the spring?

A: Oh yeah, because they can work in the spring. We redshirted all of our JC players last year, except for Jovonte (Taylor). So all these receivers and DBs, we were sort of saving them. (Cornerback) Jeramy Bryant is outstanding. He got hurt (last year), but I think he's going to be really good.

Q: With their work ethic, do you feel you can do things differently?

A: I've coached the same way for a long time and we have things like Super Games. I want them to work hard and have some fun, too. This group is just really together. I wouldn't say we have a bunch of leaders. They just group together. It's a fun thing to see.

I've got the same philosophy. You have to care about your players and coaches and you have to teach and get better.

There are some things I don't dwell on from last year because I got over it. This is a whole brand new team. We're going to improve on anything that we learned from last season, but this is this year's team.

Q: Are there guys you're looking at to take that leadership role or is that something you're going to see develop over the spring?

A: There's guys like Brashton Satele, who's played a lot of ball for us. R.J. (Kiesel-Kauhane) started for us. Obviously, John Estes was a captain for us last year. Kealoha (Pilares). There's leadership, but it's not like we have 35 seniors and everybody's trying to be a leader. A lot of guys like Rocky Savaiigaea, Blaze (Soares), before they can lead they have to play between the lines, but they're great leaders. Greg Alexander is a guy who's done some things, but he's not a yell and screamer.

I just like the way it's all fitting together. We're sort of letting it happen naturally. We're not trying to make any leaders, but they're working it out together.

Q: It looks like you feel you have the pieces of the puzzle.

A: If we keep going like this (climbing) we can reach all of our goals, but it's going to take a lot of work and we have to get a lot better. We haven't done anything yet. The only thing we've done to this stage is we've really gone through a great pre-spring workout, now we have to have a great spring.

This spring is a crucial spring. We have to come together and get things taught and improve.

Q: Are you going to work more under center?

A: We're not going to work that much under center.

We're going to get our quarterbacks reps teaching the system. Greg's going to get four reps, Brent (Rausch) is going to get two and Shane Austin's going to get two. The other guys are going to have to take reps in individuals or scrimmages, but we've got to get those three guys ready and we're going to give Greg most of the reps.

Q: With a new offensive line coach, is the spring even more critical for the line?

A: I love the confidence of Gordy Shaw. We just met on our entire personnel today and he sees so much potential. He's a positive guy and he sees so much potential with our offensive line.

He is really excited about coaching these guys. He's an outstanding coach and he likes the guys we have. You'll never hear an excuse out of him. We've worked hard at getting our protections and everything together with our schemes. It's just a matter of teaching, and he's a great teacher.

Q: You've talked about Inoke (Funaki) and finding a place for him somewhere.

A: This spring we're going to play him at running back and take a look at that. The key obviously is if he can block. He can scramble—we have to see how he runs as a running back and then we'll look at him at slot. We want him comfortable and if he fits in there we know he can help us on special teams.

The thing about Inoke is he has so much versatility. So we're going to take a look at that and if he feels comfortable and we feel he can contribute, then great. If not, we're going to move him back to quarterback and let him fight it out for the backup role.

We're not going to call it the “;wildcat,”; but he's a natural. Now you're in short yardage ... now you've got option, and the thing we have those people don't is he can throw the ball, too. So you're not changing your offense, it's just sort of a short-yardage changeup. ... We're going to add that and he can do that as a running back or even as a receiver. He's got so many tools.

Q: You don't see him at safety at all?

A: No, we're going to use him on offense. We feel pretty good at safety. We've got Spencer Smith, we could have played him last year. Hits and runs and was our best special teams player last year. Kenny Estes, and we've moved Lametrius. We're going to look at both safety and corner because he's a physical guy who can run. He's a big corner, but he's such a great athlete he can play free safety, too.

Q: How about Vaughn (Meatoga)?

A: Vaughn's a stud. Vaughn's our best defensive lineman right now. He was good last year. He never comes out of his stance; he can play all day long at the same pad level. He is going to be a big-time player. Weight over 300 pounds, doesn't look it, great kid. He's tough and does everything.

Q: So no big scheme changes on offense or defense?

A: Scheme-wise the only thing is I thought special teams needed a complete overhaul from last year. I feel we have a great special teams coach. I think he's a great teacher. We've taken schemes from the best programs in the country. It's not just taking schemes, it's sharing ideas, because Chris coached special teams for a long time as a head coach. He's got his own philosophies, I've got a lot of confidence in him.

 

Lining up the Warriors

A look at the 2009 Hawaii football team, position by position. *—appealing for sixth year of eligibility.

 

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Coach: Nick Rolovich

Chart toppers: 12-Greg Alexander (6-3, 230, Sr.), 16-Brent Rausch (6-4, 180, Jr.), 10-Shane Austin (5-11, 200, Soph.).

Returning: 13-Bryce Kalau'oka'a'ea (6-1, 200, Soph.), 18-Steele Jantz (6-3, 205, Fr.).

Newcomer: 17-Bryant Moniz (6-0, 185, Soph.).

Outlook: No controversy this time around with Alexander returning as the incumbent after starting the final six games of last season. Alexander grew more comfortable in the run-and-shoot as the season progressed, finishing with 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. He'll get the bulk of the repetitions this spring to continue his development in the system, while Rausch and Austin are groomed for the backup roles.

RUNNING BACK
Coach: Brian Smith
Chart toppers: 23-Leon Wright-Jackson (6-1, 215, Sr.), 2-Inoke Funaki (5-11, 190, Sr.), 22-Jayson Rego (5-9, 215, Sr.).
Returning: *26-Daniel Libre (5-8, 185, Sr.), 38-Joey Cadiz (5-7, 190, Soph.).
Newcomers: 27-Kennedy Carlson (5-10, 230, Soph.), 29-Hogan Rosehill (6-1, 220, Fr.), 35-Kimo Alo (5-11, 205, Sr.), 48-Kahekili Kalalau (5-9, 220, Jr.).
Outlook: The coaching staff will look at Funaki—the team's third-leading rusher last year as a quarterback—at running back and slotback this spring in an effort to get his athleticism on the field. A foot injury sidetracked Wright-Jackson last year, when he was limited to 28 carries. Smith takes over as position coach after working with the offensive line last season.

RECEIVER
Coach: Craig Stutzmann (GA)
Chart toppers: X—1-Greg Salas (6-2, 200, Jr.), 84-Joe Avery (6-4, 180, Soph.) or 3-Rodney Bradley (6-0, 190, Jr.); H (slot)—20-Jon Medeiros (5-9, 195, Sr.), 83-Ryan Henry (5-9, 160, Jr.); Y (slot)—21-Kealoha Pilares (5-11, 190, Jr.), 6-Dustin Blount (5-8, 160, Jr.); Z—89-Malcolm Lane (6-1, 180, Sr.) or 81-Royce Pollard (6-0, 175, Soph.), 7-Jovonte Taylor (5-9, 185, Jr.).
Returning: 9-Rick Taylor (5-10, 175, Jr.), 24-Craig Bell (6-0, 185, Sr.), 25-Matt Kiel (6-2,190, Jr.), 34-Jeremiah Ostrowski (5-9, 185, Fr.), 39-Troy Lauduski (6-2, 165, Fr.), *47-Nathaniel Nasca (5-8, 165, Sr.), 80-Daniel Lofton (6-2, 200, Jr.), 82-Jett Jasper (6-2, 195, Soph.), 87-Mike Tinoco (6-2, 200, Jr.).
Newcomers: 5-Billy Ray Stutzmann (6-0, 155, Fr.), 85-Corey Paclebar (5-7, 175, Soph.), Bradley.
Outlook: The sure-handed Salas is the Warriors' leading returning receiver (57 receptions for 831 yards). The Warriors must replace both starting slotbacks, and Pilares—the team's second-leading rusher last year—will concentrate on receiver this spring. Henry and Blount redshirted last year, giving them a season to learn the system. Taylor is back at full speed after missing all but three games last season due to illness.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Coach: Gordy Shaw
Chart toppers: LT—77-Aaron Kia (6-5, 290, Sr.), 72-Clayton Laurel (6-2, 280, Soph.), 76-Brett Leonard (6-5, 310, Jr.); LG—64 Ray Hisatake (6-3, 315, Sr.) or 56-Matagisila Lefiti (5-11, 295, Soph.), 61-Austin Hansen (6-4, 285, Soph.); C—55-John Estes (6-3, 295, Sr.), Lefiti or 75-Bronson Tiwanak (6-1, 315, Jr.);
RG—63-Brysen Ginlack (6-2, 310, Jr.) or 74-Raphael Ieru (6-2, 315, Sr.), 73-Drew Uperesa (6-2, 280, Fr.); RT—50-Laupepa Letuli (6-4, 320, Sr.), 66-Adrian Thomas (6-6, 305, Jr.).
Returning: 53-Levi Legay (6-3, 270, Fr.), 58-Joey Lipp (6-3, 270, Jr.), 60-Lucas Kennard (6-1, 255, Soph.), 65-Kahai Choy (5-10, 275, Fr.), 67-Tuiatua Tuiasosopo (6-0, 300, Fr.), 69-Andrew Faaumu (6-2, 340, So.), 70-Daniel Otineru (6-3, 285, Sr.), 79-Daniel Johnson (6-4, 290, Sr.).
Newcomers: 62-David Garness (6-4, 305, Fr.), 78-Steven Rodenhurst (6-3, 310, Soph.), Leonard.
Outlook: The line will be working under its third position coach in three years, and Shaw takes over a unit replacing three starters. Estes returns for his fourth season to anchor the line. Competition figures to be tight at both guard spots. Kia and Letuli shared time at left tackle last fall. Letuli will begin the spring on the right side.

 

Defense and Special Teams

DEFENSIVE LINE

Coaches: Dave Aranda, George Lumpkin

Chart toppers: LE—90-Elliott Purcell (6-3, 250, Jr.) or 46-Victor Clore (6-2, 250, Sr.); LT—49-Tuika Tufaga (6-2, 285, Sr.) or 92-Rocky Savaiigaea (6-2, 330, Sr.); 1—95-Vaughn Meatoga (6-2, 305, Soph.), 96-David Hafoka (6-1, 315, Jr.); RE—58-John Fonoti (6-2, 255, Sr.), 97-Alasi Toilolo (6-2, 255, Soph.).

Returning: 51-Geordon Hanohano (6-1, 295, Fr.), 54-Bo Montgomery (6-2, 250, Sr.), 68-Keahi Watson (6-1, 300, Jr.), 71-Cameron Allen-Jones (6-2, 255, Sr.), 75-Ikaika Mahoe (5-11, 280, Jr.), 80-Antwan Mahaley (6-4, 220, Sr.), 88-Quentin Beaver (6-1, 350, Fr.), 91-Chris Leatigaga (6-4, 305, Sr.), 98-Liko Satele (6-2, 260, Soph.), 99-Haku Correa (6-1, 275, Fr.).

Newcomers: 34-Abraham Cavaco-Amoy (6-2, 235, Fr.), 44-Alema Tachibana (6-2, 200, Fr.), 93-Waylon Lolotai (6-3, 245, Fr.), 94-Aaron Rink (6-3, 210, Sr.), Hafoka.

Outlook: The Warriors lost three starters, including team MVP David Veikune, off last year's front four. Fonoti returns after starting every game last season. Meatoga was part of the DT rotation and could be headed for a breakout season. Injuries sidelined Savaiigaea last spring and again in the fall and he'll have limited contact this spring. Among the newcomers, Rink is an intriguing prospect as a speed rusher.

LINEBACKER
Coaches: Cal Lee, Mike Smith (GA)
Chart toppers: STUB—53-Blaze Soares (6-1, 235, Jr.), 42-Paipai Falemalu (6-3, 255, Fr.); MAC—13-Brashton Satele (6-1, 255, Sr.), 50-Mana Lolotai (6-0, 240, Jr.); BUCK—59-R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane (5-11, 225, Sr.), 40-Po'okela Ahmad (6-1, 225, Jr.).
Returning: 5-Jake Heun (6-1, 250, Jr.), 36-Viliami Nauahi (6-2, 215, Sr.), 41-Cory Paredes (5-11, 230, Soph.), 45-Josh Andrews (6-1, 240, Soph.), 47-Joshua Rice (5-11, 220, Sr.), 52-Marc Moody (6-2, 230, Soph.).
Newcomers: 48-Joseph Malabuyoc (6-0, 225, Jr.), 57-Art Laurel (6-0, 220, Fr.).
Outlook: With Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard gone, Satele and Kiesel-Kauhane move into leadership roles. Satele is back in the middle after starting on the outside for the last four games last season. Kiesel-Kauhane is one of the team's strongest players. Soares and Falemalu are both coming back from injuries, opening the way for Nauahi and Ahmad to see more action this spring. Heun joins the mix after redshirting as a running back last year.

SECONDARY
Coaches: Rich Miano, Chris Tormey
Chart toppers: CB—33-Chris Black (5-10,175, Sr.), 4-Melvin Hopkins (5-9, 165, Jr.); SAM—43-Mana Silva (6-1, 220, Jr.), 37-Kenny Estes (6-0, 200, Soph.); FS—9-Spencer Smith (5-11, 200, Jr.), 2-Lametrius Davis (6-0, 190, Jr.); CB—18-Jeramy Bryant (5-10, 170, Soph.), 7-Lewis Walker (5-11, 160, Fr.).
Returning: 10-Kawika Ornellas (5-9, 170, Fr.), 11-Richard Torres (5-7, 165, Soph.), 20-Rykin Enos (5-11, 200, Fr.), 22-Steve Stepter (5-9, 180, Fr.), 28-Jordan Gomes (5-10, 160, Fr.), 39-Steven Christian (6-0, 170, Fr.).
Newcomers: 27-Cody Walker (5-11, 185, Jr.), 29-Marvin Judd (5-9, 185, Jr.), 35-Fesootai Papalii (5-10, 205, Soph.), Hopkins, Davis.
Outlook: Miano and Tormey have a rebuilding job ahead as the Warriors replace the entire starting secondary. Torres, backup nickelback as a freshman, has the most game experience of the returnees. Bryant showed potential last fall until an injury ended his season. Davis will get a look at both cornerback and free safety. Smith has been a productive player on special teams while waiting his turn to contribute in the secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Coach: Chris Tormey
Chart toppers: PK—98-Brett Symonds (5-10, 145, Fr.); LS—30-Chad Preacher (6-0, 220, Fr.).
Outlook: McMackin is having Tormey, the former head coach at Nevada, retool the schemes on special teams after an uneven 2008 season in which the Warriors finished last in the country in punt returns and had six kicks blocked. The Warriors replace all three specialists in the kicking game and don't have a punter on the spring roster. Freshman Alex Dunnachie is slated to join the team in the fall.