New-look Silva shines at safety spot


POSTED: Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mana Silva has an entirely new view from his safety position at the back end of Hawaii's defense.

And just like all of the position battles going on in front of him, Silva is entrenched in one himself.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior opens fall camp for the second year in a row running with the starting unit. But unlike last year when he came in out of shape and struggled picking up a new defensive scheme, Silva is showing off an improved understanding of the defense to go along with an impressive physical frame.

“;(Last year), I was kind of complacent and took a couple of weeks off and it got out of hand and I got out of shape and stuff,”; Silva said. “;(This summer) I trained every day, only went home (to Hilo) on the weekends to see my wife, and just worked hard.”;

Silva's physical abilities caught the eyes of UH coaches immediately after he transferred from Oregon State. But the move from offense to safety took a lot of time to learn, and limited his physical ability.

“;It's like being a rookie quarterback,”; associate head coach Rich Miano said. “;You have success going out there doing what you do and then you start throwing all these techniques and alignments and assignments at them and they struggle.

“;It wasn't until the end of the season in spring ball when he finally said, 'Coach, I know what I'm doing.' Now he knows what to do and is playing faster and you can see the improvement.”;

The UH defense lost nine starters and the secondary alone lost nine scholarship players to graduation, opening the door for wide-open position battles.

Silva and Kenny Estes practiced with the starters yesterday at the safety position with Spencer Smith and Richard Torres working with the backups.

“;It's different,”; Silva said. “;We've got a lot of new pieces, but we're hungrier and everyone is working hard.”;

Roughly 15 minutes after yesterday's practice ended, the only players left on the field were defensive backs. Miano was the last coach to leave the field after a 10-minute 1-on-1 session with senior defensive back Chris Black.

Coach Greg McMackin said the team was “;going back to the basics”; after yesterday's first fall practice, and that's clearly the case with the secondary.

“;There ain't enough hours in the day,”; Miano said. “;They are all hungry and they want to learn and they ask questions ... but it requires a lot of time with such a young unit.”;

The secondary will have four first-time starters when Hawaii opens the season Sept. 4 at home against Central Arkansas.

One of Hawaii's primary defensive concerns a year ago was giving up big plays. Opposing teams had 13 touchdowns of at least 40 yards on non-special teams plays last season, including nine in the passing game.

That responsibility falls directly on the shoulders of the guys at the back end of the UH defense.

“;That was huge for us last year,”; Silva said. “;All the big plays killed us really, and our focus is to eliminate a lot of those.”;