Heun looking to KO UNLV's spread offense


POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

LAS VEGAS » Wish we could say the Hawaii defense has lessons learned the hard way at The Swamp last year to draw upon as it tries to stop an attack similar to Florida's—in scheme, anyway—tomorrow night at Sam Boyd Stadium. Like the Gators' spread option, UNLV's is a hybrid running and passing attack, trying to draw the best from both by stretching the field every way imaginable. Rebels head coach Mike Sanford used to be Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Utah.

The problem is few, if any, players remain from that Hawaii defense—for starters, zero starters. Then again, maybe that's a good thing since Tim Tebow and company scored at will against a senior-laden unit that sent two players to the NFL.

UNLV's offense isn't headed up by a Heisman Trophy winner. But it could give the Warriors problems because of UH's lack of experience. Here's the thing: When it comes to assignment football, it doesn't matter how hard you hit if you are in the wrong place. UH defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga is just a sophomore, but is very aware of this.

“;If you don't know your job you can take yourself and usually another guy out (of the play),”; Meatoga said following yesterday's practice at Palo Verde High School. “;So we're playing with nine people or less if you don't know your assignment.”;

THIS BRINGS us to Jake Heun. Actually, injuries to starting defensive ends John Fonoti and Paipai Falemalu bring us to Jake Heun. Coach Greg McMackin said Heun, a backup linebacker a couple of weeks ago, will start tomorrow at defensive end.

If you had to draw a picture of a football player, it might look like this swaggering strongman from Alaska. Bulging super-hero muscles. Mohawk. Big tattoo on his chest. And black-and-pink toenail polish.

Black-and-pink toenail polish?

“;Because I can,”; Heun told reporters when they noticed.

Who's going to argue with this confessed former street brawler and MMA prospect? He must have won most of his fights, because I noticed no scars. He says he's mellowed out, but who wants to find out for sure?

SO, THIS is the kind of guy you want on your side in many kinds of disputes, including a football game. It's not always a given that the craziest and strongest looking dude can play, but Heun has another thing going for him. He's smart. His teammates and coaches are confident Heun has the knowledge, discipline and temperament needed to deal with a multi-faceted offense like UNLV's.

Heun's been moved around more than a military dependent. At various times since high school he's been a linebacker, fullback, running back, tight end, defensive end, free safety, slotback and rover.

No quarterback?

“;That's my next move, I think I'm going to drop like 40 pounds in the offseason and play a little quarterback and free safety.”;

For tomorrow night, the Warriors will settle for a physical beast who plays with discipline and fulfills assignments. If all 11 on defense do that (and the Hawaii offense cuts back on its four turnovers per game), UH might overcome its 7-point underdog status.