POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2009

What started as one of those “;wouldn't it be cool ...”; conversations may soon become reality.





        At 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane is one of Hawaii's strongest players:

Bench press (max): 450 pounds


Bench press (225): 40 repetitions


Squat: 450 pounds


Power clean: 331 pounds


Vertical leap: 38 inches


Broad jump: 9 feet, 10 inches




It'll take a few pieces falling into place, but R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane and Blaze Soares—his second cousin—could keep Hawaii's outside linebacker spots within the family come the fall.

“;Growing up as kids we were always talking about sports every time we'd see each other,”; Kiesel-Kauhane said. “;When we first came (to UH) he was talking to me about how cool it would be for both of us to be starting on opposite sides and it would be good for the family. Hopefully he gets better and I stay healthy.”;

While Soares recovers from a leg injury that kept him out last season and again this spring, Kiesel-Kauhane has solidified a starting spot during spring practice.

Kiesel-Kauhane isn't exactly new to the role, having started four games last season. But he was generally considered the fourth linebacker in UH's 4-3 system.

He stepped in when injuries sidelined Adam Leonard and Brashton Satele at various points last fall and made his first career start in the Warriors' win at Fresno State. This spring, Keisel-Kauhane is working to secure a full-time spot in the starting group now that Leonard and Solomon Elimimian have completed their careers.

Helping to fill the holes left by a prolific senior class leaves Kiesel-Kauhane with some big shoes to fill, “;but his feet are getting bigger,”; linebackers coach Cal Lee said.

“;I just think it's his time,”; Lee said. “;Last year is last year, and we love the guys we had last year. But it's R.J.'s time.”;

Although Kiesel-Kauhane has turned in a solid spring, he reminds himself that his position is “;always in pencil.”;

“;It makes you work harder just knowing your job is not promised,”; Kiesel-Kauhane said.

Kiesel-Kauhane is among the strongest members of the team, but he focused more of his energy on developing speed rather than strength in preparing for his senior season.

He went through a regimen of agility drills and plyometrics designed to enhance his quickness.

“;I didn't want to get too bulky like the previous years,”; he said. “;I was coming in strong, but my speed wasn't how I wanted it to be.

“;The speed workouts helped me, I can feel it. I'm not second-guessing my speed any more, but there's always room for improvement.”;

That's not to say he sacrificed much in strength. Kiesel-Kauhane bench-pressed 5 pounds less in testing this spring than he did a year ago, but still maxed out at a robust 450 pounds, good for second on the team behind defensive tackle Tuika Tufaga's 455. He ranked in the top five on the team in most of the categories tested.

While Kiesel-Kauhane has held down an outside spot, Satele has moved into Elimimian's position at middle linebacker.

With Soares out and freshman Paipai Falemalu limited to noncontact drills, sophomore Cory Paredes has been working opposite Kiesel-Kauhane with the first team over the last week.

“;Cory can run and he's shown he can play,”; Lee said.