UH's O-line develops strong bond


POSTED: Sunday, August 09, 2009

Communication is paramount to an effective offensive line.

This season, the Hawaii linemen are striving to reach that point where they don't have to speak to be understood.

“;It's like (former UH great Jesse) Sapolu said, he just looked at his teammates and they knew what to do,”; guard Ray Hisatake said. “;We're in the beginning stages of that now.”;

Most of the Warriors' offensive line, led by five senior starters, stayed in town much of the summer, building chemistry as they toned their physiques.

After Gordy Shaw was hired as the new offensive line coach last February, the Warriors established a starting five that held throughout spring practice and into the early stages of fall camp.

All-America candidate John Estes returns as the hub of the line, flanked by Hisatake and Raphael Ieru at the guard spots. Laupepa Letuli and Aaron Kia return as the tackles.

Where the internal battles for starting jobs was a focus of last year's camp, the line begins this season with a greater sense of stability.

“;Now we can work on improving as a unit instead of having to compete against each other to get that starting spot,”; Kia said.

Since taking over, Shaw also locked the linemen into their positions after injuries contributed to several shuffles within the unit last season.

“;Knowing they can improve their fundamentals and techniques at that one position has really helped them grow,”; Shaw said.

The line took its first true test of fall camp yesterday as the Warriors put on the pads and engaged in offense vs. defense drills.

There were two plays that would have been sacks out of the 36 in the 11-on-11 periods. The line was able to break running back Alex Green open for a big gain up the middle. Inoke Funaki and Leon Wright-Jackson picked up sizable yardage as well.

“;I was very excited and impressed with our communication both in the passing game and the running game,”; Shaw said. “;The first unit and the second unit did very well. We were probably 100 percent grading out mentally.

“;We popped some running backs through there. Any true offensive lineman loves to run-block, they don't want to always just be retreat blocking. ... I think we're going to be pleased with what we see on this practice tape.”;

Shaw said the unit entered camp “;stronger and leaner”; than it was in the spring, a result of a summer regimen that included the regular yoga sessions for flexibility, along with running and lifting.

“;It was harder than we all thought,”; Hisatake said of learning yoga. “;It hit so many muscles that we never even used. It was tough on the core, but as time went on we got a lot better.”;

The seniors are backed up by a second unit featuring a junior (Adrian Thomas), three sophomores (Matagisila Lefiti, Austin Hansen and Clayton Laurel) and a redshirt freshman (Drew Uperesa).

Before handing over the duties, the seniors—four of whom have been together since 2005—hope their cohesiveness off the field translates to improvement on game nights.

“;We've all been together, we know each other, know each other's families, and it's just fun playing with your best friends,”; Estes said.

“;I think that makes it more special,”; Hisatake said. “;We all know that after every practice, we're not getting that day back. We're this much closer to the end of our careers.”;


Minding the 'backers

Middle linebacker Brashton Satele sat out most of the team periods after he appeared to hurt his shoulder.

“;We're just being careful with him,”; head coach Greg McMackin said. Jake Heun took most of the repetitions in Satele's place, sharing time with Mana Lolotai, who worked primarily at outside linebacker.

Sophomore Corey Paredes closed spring practice as a starter at outside linebacker and has held that spot early in fall camp, breaking up two passes yesterday. R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane remains the starter on the opposite side.


Short yardage

Freshman receiver Billy Ray Stutzmann sat out the last two practices with an ankle injury. ... The Warriors' next practice is tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. They have their first set of two-a-days on Wednesday.