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StarBulletin.com

Hawaii ready to hit field


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POSTED: Friday, September 04, 2009

Take a good look folks.

For those heading out to Halawa tonight, Hawaii's season opener against Central Arkansas will be the last chance to see the Warriors in person for a while. Thirty-six days to be exact, the second-longest stretch between home games in the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision.

By the time Hawaii plays under the Aloha Stadium lights again, the Warriors will be heading into their fifth game of their 13-game schedule with the direction of the season close to defined.

But that's a concern for another day for Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin.

The more immediate focus is opening his second season at the helm with a lineup featuring several players untested under Division I conditions, particularly on defense.

“;I think they're all really excited about playing somebody besides themselves,”; McMackin said. A crowd of between 33,000 and 35,000 is expected.

“;Certain guys play better when the lights are on and some guys don't. Game reps are the most important reps you can get. I'm anxious to see how we play when the lights are on. I really like how the players have worked and the coaches have worked. I have a good feeling about this football team.”;

For some, tonight's game against the Bears of the Football Championship Subdivision marks their introduction to Division I competition.

“;I've been waiting since high school to be out in front of a big crowd, under the lights. I'm really excited about it, not really nervous,”; said junior college transfer Rodney Bradley, who joined the team last spring and is slated to start at wide receiver. “;It'll be interesting to see how we play when it really counts.”;

For others, such as defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea and cornerback Jeramy Bryant, it'll be a return to game action after injury-abbreviated seasons a year ago. Linebacker Blaze Soares hasn't faced an opponent since the Warriors' Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia on New Year's Day 2008.

“;I finally get to fly around and hit somebody else other than my teammates. Being out for a year, I have a lot of steam built up ready to let loose,”; Soares said.

“;Every night I just get more excited. I'm having a hard time sleeping because I'm so excited to play against somebody else and hit somebody.”;

The Warriors have had 15 practices in the spring and 29 more since the start of fall camp close to a month ago to refine the fundamentals and implement their schemes. Their first test comes against a Central Arkansas team that went 10-2 last season and arrived in town on Wednesday with a seasoned defense that has had the summer to study the Warriors' run-and-shoot system.

“;They're very experienced, they play well as a unit and they run,”; UH offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;I think that'll be a good test for us with their team speed, and they've had time to prepare.”;

UH quarterback Greg Alexander has been sharp in recent practices, continuing to develop his timing with a revamped receiver corps led by slotbacks Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares and wideouts Bradley and Jovonte Taylor.

“;Make no mistake about it, our defense in our league is going to be really good and I expect them to play well tomorrow, but I think they're going to be severely challenged,”; UCA coach Clint Conque said.

How a Warrior defense abounding with new starters responds when the game atmosphere gets the adrenaline pumping will be among tonight's focal points.

“;They've got to do their jobs,”; McMackin said. “;That's the biggest assignment on game day. Not to try to make every play, just do your job and believe in your teammates.”;

Like the Hawaii defense, the Central Arkansas offense is replacing several key performers off last year's team. Robbie Park takes over at quarterback after waiting his turn for three seasons. He'll have running back Brent Grimes (1,211 all-purpose yards, 21 touchdowns last season) to hand the ball to, though the Bears will be without two projected starters—receiver Willie Landers and fullback Nick Cowger—due to injuries suffered in practice.

And like McMackin, Conque is curious to see how his team responds under the lights and before a crowd expected to be perhaps the largest to see a UCA team compete in the program's history.

“;It's hard to simulate the speed of the game and I think the biggest concern is the first quarter and not come out here and hyperventilate and let the crowd get in our head,”; Conque said. “;But I think we have a pretty mature football team and hopefully we'll play that way.”;

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
HAWAII PROBABLE STARTERS
Offense
Z7Jovante Taylor5-9170
LT77Aaron Kia6-5290
LG64Ray Hisatake6-3315
C55John Estes6-3300
RG74Raphael Ieru6-2315
RT50Laupepa Letuli6-4310
Y21Kealoha Pilares5-11200
or88Ryan Henry5-9170
X3Rodney Bradley6-0190
QB12Greg Alexander6-4240
H1Greg Salas6-2200
or2Jon Medeiros5-9185
RB23Leon Wright-Jackson6-1215
or11Inoke Funaki5-11205
Defense
DE90Elliot Purcell6-3255
DT95Vaughn Meatoga6-2290
or92Rocky Savaiigaea6-2305
DT49Tuika Tufaga6-2285
DE58John Fonoti6-2255
or98Liko Satele6-2260
SLB53Blaze Soares6-1245
MLB50Mana Lolotai6-0230
BLB59R.J Kiesel-Kauhane5-11225
CB2LaMetrius Davis6-0190
SAM9Spencer Smith5-11205
or24Aaron Brown6-1205
FS43Mana Silva6-1220
CB18Jeramy Bryant5-10180
Specialists
PK20Scott Enos5-9180
P31Alex Dunnachie6-3235
Snap45Luke Ingram6-5210
Hold11Inoke Funaki5-11205
KR7Jovante Taylor5-9170
PR88Ryan Henry5-9170
CENTRAL ARKANSAS PROBABLE STARTERS
Offense
X19James Lovett6-2192
Y83Preston Echols6-0202
LT76Will Merritt6-5292
LG74Matt Dickerson6-5284
C58Casey Thurber5-11278
RG57Austin Emerson6-3292
RT73Lane Freiwald6-7324
TE80Rico Moss6-1236
W31T.J. Adams6-1192
QB7Robbie Park6-4212
RB21Brent Grimes5-9196
Defense
DE8Markell Carter6-5272
NG60Uriah Perry6-0274
DT50Taylor Scott6-4274
DE9Larry Hart6-1248
SLB44Lamar Moore5-11196
MLB13Jacob Bane6-0234
WLB4James Lancaster6-0229
CB5Jamie Hill5-10192
SS2Pieri Feazell6-0209
FS24Phillip Johnson6-0210
CB20Anthony Gambles5-9174
Specialists
PK38Eddie Carmona6-0210
P35Jonathan Beard5-9170
Snap57Austin Emerson6-3292
Hold88Derek Owens5-8162
KR31T.J. Adams6-1192
PR20Anthony Gambles5-9174