D-line's depth is put to the test


POSTED: Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hawaii's depth on the defensive front seven has thinned some in the last two weeks.

A day after linebacker Brashton Satele had season-ending surgery on his injured shoulder, tackle Chris Leatigaga suffered a knee injury during the Warriors' practice at Aloha Stadium on Thursday night.

While X-rays taken that night didn't show any breaks or nerve damage in his left knee, Leatigaga had an MRI performed yesterday.

Leatigaga, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior, redshirted in 2007 after transfering from Foothill (Calif.) College. He played in just one game last season, but after a solid spring entered this season looking to play a more prominent role in the defensive tackle rotation this season.

“;Chris has been one of the hardest workers in the offseason,”; defensive line coach Dave Aranda said. “;He dedicated himself to making a statement in his senior year.”;

Although the Warriors use two tackles in their 4-3 base alignment, the coaches consider Vaughn Meatoga, Rocky Savaiigaea and Tuika Tufaga starters in the defensive tackle rotation. They were followed by the trio of Leatigaga and redshirt freshmen Geordon Hanohano and Haku Correa on the second line of the depth chart.

“;There's not a lot of places where you have six defensive tackles you're comfortable playing in the game,”; Aranda said. “;Hopefully we can get that back.”;

Leatigaga was a second-team junior college All-American at Foothill in 2006. While he's been hampered by injuries in struggling to find playing time, his work on the finer points of line play elevated his status going into this season.

“;It's almost night and day as far as him being a technician,”; Aranda said. “;Any time you see a guy turn a corner like that, you want to see him succeed.”;


Haka practice

Before heading to the locker room, the Warriors spent a few minutes after practice working on the Haka. Savaiigaea led the instructions, but said a game day leader for the pregame chant had yet to be decided.

The seniors voted on Monday to continue the tradition, and will perform a version similar to the Haka used by the 2006 team, led by Tala Esera and Leonard Peters.

“;Some of us already know it, so we try to kind of spread it on and help all the newer guys learn it,”; Savaiigaea said.

“;In meetings the other day we went into what the haka really means, what it stands for and the way to do it. The big thing is not everybody here is of Polynesian descent ... but we tell them when you're at the University of Hawaii you represent the whole Pacific. We want them to do it correctly, know that it's serious when we do it, and we're doing it for a reason.”;


Back to work

The Warriors didn't have much time for sleeping in yesterday.

The team followed Thursday night's practice, which ended around 9 p.m., with an on-campus session, taking the field at about 7:45 a.m., after a team meeting.

“;You have to really battle through,”; Savaiigaea said. “;It took us a little while to get into it, but everyone's sharp and we know no practices can be wasted. The season's right around the corner.”;

The team has today to rest up before getting into game week tomorrow morning.

“;We've had a good camp; we got done what we wanted to get done,”; head coach Greg McMackin said. “;(Today) I want them to rest and come back fresh and Sunday we start our preparation on Central Arkansas.”;