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UH's offensive line ready to start anew


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POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

Gordy Shaw hasn't brought it up.

Nor have his players talked much about it unless asked.

For the most part, the Hawaii offensive line has turned the page on last year's stats. Still, some lingering memories remain, fueling the desire to pen a new chapter starting tomorrow.

“;A lot of us have a chip on our shoulder because we had a bad rep last year,”; senior tackle Laupepa Letuli said. “;Through the whole year, we had a bad taste in our mouth. We have to let that go.

“;We worked extra hard (this summer). A lot of the guys came twice a day to run and really wanted to improve themselves. And as a unit I think we've grown mentally, physically, emotionally from last year.”;

Warrior quarterbacks were sacked 57 times last season, the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision and a figure more reflective of the struggles of an offense in transition than a direct indictment of the line.

With greater experience, the Warriors hope improved efficiency follows and the senior-dominated line is eager to test itself in tomorrow's season opener against Central Arkansas at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m.

“;We've been working hard all summer, so it's time,”; left tackle Aaron Kia said. “;I think we're ready to go out there and play.”;

The Bears of the FCS (Division I-AA) Southland Conference figure to present a challenge for the Warriors' front five — a unit expected to start Letuli and Kia at the tackles, guards Raphael Ieru and Ray Hisatake and center John Estes.

Central Arkansas returns nine starters on defense, including playmaking defensive end Larry Hart. The Warriors will keep a close eye on where No. 9 lines up after Hart earned FCS All-America honors last season with 21 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks.

“;He reminds us a lot on the offensive staff of (UH defensive end) John Fonoti,”; said Shaw, the Warriors' first-year offensive line coach. “;A little bit smaller, but he has that bag of different pass-rush moves and the speed and the quickness John has.

“;He plays everywhere. ... It's a way to get him moving around so you can't double him all the time.”;

The middle of the Bears' line features tackles Taylor Scott (6-4, 274) and Uriah Perry (6-0, 274), a starter in 2007 who sat out last season due to injury, with Markell Carter (6-5, 272) at the end opposite Hart.

Strong safety Pieri Feazell was the team's leading tackler last season and linebacker James Lancaster had 11 stops behind the line of scrimmage.

“;Their defensive front is not exceptionally large but they move together, they run to the football. They're very sound fundamentally,”; UH offensive coordinator Ron Lee said.

Shaw said the coaches have thrown various defensive looks at the line since the start of camp, many they've seen on film and others they devised on their own to keep them on their toes.

Although reducing the sack total is a goal — Shaw has set a target of one sack per 20 attempts, an extension of the NFL average of one in 15 — he doesn't feel the need to use last year as a motivational tool.

“;I don't think I've mentioned it once and the players haven't mentioned it once,”; Shaw said. “;I don't think you need any more motivation than we want to win the WAC championship.”;

Hawaii's tie to Conway

Tomorrow's game is the first meeting between Hawaii and Central Arkansas, but there is a connection between UH and the Conway, Ark., school. Cat Fowler, a 2006 graduate of Conway High, is now a senior middle with the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team.

“;It's so awesome. It's really exciting just to have a team from the South come out,”; Fowler said. “;I went to a few of their football games (growing up) but we were more Razorback fans since my dad (Steve) played basketball for Arkansas.

“;Central Arkansas is definitely part of the community (pop. 60,000). I'm really excited. I'm definitely going to go to the game. I couldn't believe it when they announced that Central Arkansas was coming out here.”;

The Bears arrived in Honolulu yesterday and went straight to practice at Aloha Stadium.

Finishing touches

As much as what he saw on the field, UH head coach Greg McMackin was encouraged by what he heard out of the Warrior defense during yesterday's practice, the team's final full workout before the opener.

“;I thought the communication on defense was as good as it's been all camp,”; McMackin said.

“;Communication is a demonstration of knowing what you're doing, and if they're communicating like that they know exactly what they're doing.”;

The Warriors have a light walk-through scheduled for this afternoon before taking on UCA tomorrow night.

“;We've gone through everything. We just did a 2-minute drill, we've been in every situation,”; McMackin said. “;The guys are good and spirited.”;

Short yardage

Fonoti didn't practice yesterday after suffering a bruised knee during Tuesday's practice. McMackin has said the senior is probable for the game. ... Defensive tackle Chris Leatigaga said the early prognosis for his return from a dislocated kneecap is four to six weeks. He was injured during practice at Aloha Stadium last Thursday and is waiting for the swelling to subside before starting his rehab.

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Star-Bulletin reporter Cindy Luis contributed to this story.