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No time for peace at defensive end for UH's Falemalu


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POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paipai Falemalu has a mantra he says to himself every time he thinks about becoming a better defensive end.

Be more violent.

Don't worry — the 6-foot-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman out of Kahuku isn't talking about becoming an MMA brawler. He plans to keep his rage in the trenches on the football field.

Since playing linebacker for UH through spring practice, Falemalu has refined his technique to make himself an asset up front. As the second team left end behind Elliott Purcell, much of his progression — at the coaxing of his position coach, Dave Aranda, and teammates — has revolved around giving maximum effort even when he isn't sure about a particular play.

As in, don't hold back your full strength, even if you don't know what's going on.

“;Coach Aranda and Coach (George) Lumpkin are real good coaches, and have helped me a lot,”; Falemalu said. “;And my teammates help me; if they see me doing something wrong, they always say to turn your hips more, you have to club more. 'Be more violent.'

“;I know pretty much all my plays right now, so before I was playing hesitant, I wasn't really sure, I was afraid to make mistakes,”; he explained. “;(Aranda) pulled me to the side (Monday) and said just keep working hard, and don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you make mistakes, go full speed.”;

That, and reacting to the speed of plays is his emphasis right now. Falemalu's adjustments are borne from the instant collisions after a three-point stance every play, compared to the handful of seconds an upright linebacker would have to see a play develop and react to it.

Aranda has seen steady improvement from Falemalu, who is on track to see game time as part of a rotation of linemen.

“;There's a multitude of little things that go into competing at a high level,”; Aranda said. “;He's been picking up those little things, whether it's not being tripped on an over-set by the offensive tackle, or whether it's working a secondary read on a down block. All those types of things that are advanced, that some of our seniors are getting, he needs to get right now. That's been his charge, and like I say, he's been getting it done.”;

Aranda thought Falemalu had his best day yet on Tuesday, and isn't the only one who's noticed.

“;He's a natural, he's smart, he works after practice,”; head coach Greg McMackin said. “;He's really learning the position. I saw him in the inside (running) drill and he's doing things right.”;

Pass rushing has come easier than defending the run so far, but Falemalu is optimistic he'll improve there too, as the UH offense has opened things up for running backs during team drills in recent practices.

He's benefited from playing with the second team as he's watched Purcell and the rest of the first team work before he hits the field.

“;It gives me a picture of what to do, how to react,”; he said. “;I mostly watch their hands. I need to work on my hands, getting violent with my hands and stuff. But other than that, it's real good. It's a big help watching them.”;

Good news, bad news

The 2-minute drill period tends to produce a mixed bag of results. Last Saturday, the defense controlled the action while the offense struggled. Yesterday, the offense converted two fourth-and-long situations into touchdowns, creating consternation for the defense.

Though the offense was able to deliver some clutch plays yesterday, the Warriors would rather avoid facing a fourth-and-15 scenario.

“;We were able to get the ball in at the end, that's what counts, but we still missed a lot,”; quarterback Greg Alexander said.

Alexander said the unit did a better job with time management, “;catching the ball and getting out of bounds, things like that.”;

Receiver Rodney Bradley, who missed last weekend's 7-on-7 scrimmage while nursing a groin injury, broke loose for one of those touchdowns from Alexander.

“;That's part of camp,”; Bradley said of working through the injury. “;I didn't want to miss too many reps so I just come out and try to fight through it without making it any worse.”;

The defense did have its moments yesterday. Three plays would probably have been sacks, with linebacker Jake Heun in on two of them, and the period ended with an interception by linebacker Po'okela Ahmad.

Nielsen throwing again

Freshman quarterback Corey Nielsen returned to practice yesterday after being held out for nearly a week. He underwent tests for an irregular heartbeat after complaining of shortness of breath last week. He passed the tests on Monday and cleared to practice on Tuesday.

“;It feels good to be back out with the guys, running around and stuff,”; Nielsen said. “;I don't think anything was wrong with my heart, but they just wanted to make sure I was cool with everything.”;

Short yardage

UH is scheduled to practice at Aloha Stadium on Aug. 27. The practice will be closed to the public. ... The team moved out of the UH dance studios and into the dorms yesterday. Classes start Monday.