Defense stars in UH scrimmage


POSTED: Saturday, August 22, 2009

For once, Blaze Soares felt what it was like on the other end of a big hit.

During 7-on-7 drills yesterday, Soares and fellow Hawaii linebacker Jake Heun reacted to a pass over the middle. Soares came down with the ball, but absorbed the brunt of a collision with Heun.

“;Jake laid me out,”; Soares said. “;He gave me a taste of my own medicine.”;

With that, the senior returned to his role of delivering hits rather than recovering from them once the Warriors went into their scrimmage.

While continuing to get back up to speed after missing last season due to injury, Soares made an impact in the full-speed scrimmage while playing with the first unit, delivering one of the biggest hits of the morning on running back Alex Green.

“;It just feels good to be flying around hitting people again,”; said Soares, who's had precious little opportunity for contact since UH's appearance in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day 2008. “;I feel blessed just to be out here hitting people and to be with my teammates.

“;It was just a lucky read,”; Soares said of the hit on Green. “;The defensive line did their job and I had to come off a block and he was right there and he ran into me.”;

It was one of several big plays by the defense yesterday as the offense looked to sort out its depth chart, particularly at quarterback.

With Greg Alexander entrenched as the starter, backups Brent Rausch, Shane Austin and Bryant Moniz operated the offense for most of the scrimmage, with Moniz guiding the lone scoring drive of the morning.

After a shaky start against the top two defensive units, including an interception by Aaron Brown, Moniz went 4-for-4 on his fourth series and hit Kealoha Pilares for a 19-yard TD while working against the backups. He finished 8-for-12 for 78 yards and also showed a knack for scrambling out of trouble.

UH head coach Greg McMackin said Moniz, a Leilehua graduate who transferred from Fresno City College, began the day “;slashed”; on the depth chart with Rausch and Austin. Rausch was 8-for-12 for 60 yards, while Austin went 5-for-9 for 31.

“;We were looking for the backup quarterback and Bryant did some good things; all of them did some good things,”; McMackin said. “;We're going up (to the office) right now to evaluate it.”;

McMackin said the Warriors will begin focusing on the game plan for the Sept. 4 opener against Central Arkansas by Wednesday. At that point, McMackin said the backup will get about a third of the snaps behind Alexander, while the others will have to “;learn by osmosis.”;

The coaches limited the action for many of the established starters yesterday. The first-team offensive line played 12 snaps and defensive end John Fonoti was also taken out early.

Brown, a safety entering camp, played nickel back exclusively in the scrimmage and tipped two passes while rushing off the edge from a linebacker spot and came up with the interception against Moniz, returning it 25 yards.

“;I think today was a big steppingstone for our defense,”; Brown said. “;We communicated well, we executed the plays well, so now it's just getting ready for Central Arkansas.”;


Hit of the day

Even with Soares and Heun on the field, the biggest hit of the morning was delivered by backup cornerback Steve Stepter.

On a short pass into the flat, Stepter broke on the ball and drilled Ryan Henry, sending the slotback's helmet flying.

“;(Henry's) my boy, but it's a scrimmage and an evaluation,”; Stepter said. “;So I'm trying to make plays and try to get a role on this team.”;


Special teams gets a look

Royce Pollard turned in big plays in two phases of special teams as the Warriors had their first look at full-speed action in the kicking game.

Pollard raced in to block a punt by Alex Dunnachie and later popped through a seam on a kickoff return.

“;I was real versatile in high school and I want to get back to that,”; Pollard said of playing on special teams.

Kicker Scott Enos showed some power on his kickoffs, while Pollard, Jovonte Taylor and Kealoha Pilares found room to roam on their returns.

Enos and Brian Blumberg missed 36-yard field goals.

“;We've done a lot of competitive drills up to this point, and for the first time we started putting the moving components together,”; special teams coordinator Chris Tormey said. “;From here on in we have to take the drill work and take it onto the field.”;


Short yardage

Safety Kenny Estes left the field on crutches with an ice pack on his left knee. Preliminary reports were the injury did not appear serious. Estes had just returned from a shoulder injury on Thursday. ... The offense showed a “;wildcat”; look early in the scrimmage, with Green taking the snap and picking up 8 yards and a first down.