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StarBulletin.com

Warriors' D-line gets a boost


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POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2009

The Hawaii football team welcomed two linemen back from injuries in the Warriors' return to practice yesterday, while another spent the morning on the sideline.

Defensive end John Fonoti practiced for the first time since hurting his knee on Sept. 1, and Paipai Falemalu returned from a sprained ankle suffered last week in Las Vegas.

“;We're going to work them in slow this week, but John looked really good today, so I think they're ready to roll,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said.

The workload was relatively light for the duo yesterday as the Warriors (2-1) implemented the game plan for Wednesday's Western Athletic Conference opener at Louisiana Tech (1-2) in an hourlong session at Ching Field, their first practice since returning from a two-game road trip.

Fonoti, the lone returning starter on the Warriors defense, is looking forward to his debut in his senior season and will play with a knee brace while easing back into game speed.

Still, just being back in a helmet and taking part in drills “;felt awesome,”; Fonoti said.

“;I felt it a little bit, but I have to fight through it. I've missed too many games already. I'm just trying to get out there, make some plays and help out the team.”;

Falemalu hasn't been out as long, missing last Saturday's loss at UNLV, and is balancing a desire to get back on the field without risking further injury.

“;Just watching a game is frustrating, but after a loss it makes me feel a little guilty that I wasn't able to help the team,”; Falemalu said. “;It makes me want to play more, but at the same time the coaches want me to be cautious.”;

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, starting right tackle Laupepa Letuli watched practice with a brace on his left leg. McMackin said Letuli was hurt during a conditioning session, but labeled it “;a tweak”; and the senior could be back for today's practice.

In the meantime, juniors Adrian Thomas and Kainoa LaCount both worked at right tackle yesterday.

Thomas, a junior, has been a backup tackle for most of his UH career, but had been working at guard lately before shifting outside again yesterday.

“;I found out just this morning,”; Thomas said. “;I haven't played tackle in a while, since camp. It's good though.”;

LaCount sat out last season as he completed his transfer from College of the Canyons in California, and hasn't played in a game since 2007. He has yet to make an appearance in a game situation for the Warriors, but missing a year heightened the 6-foot-6 junior's appreciation for the little things.

“;Just being on the sideline right now is something special, just being a part of the game,”; LaCount said.

Receiver Jovonte Taylor and linebacker Aaron Brown also sat out yesterday.

Flexibility in the middle

Blaze Soares was expected to give the Warriors defense experience and fire in his return this season. The senior has also added versatility to the linebacker corps.

An outside linebacker throughout his UH career, he's played in the middle in certain packages recently. He spent much of last Saturday's game at UNLV at that spot, switching with R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane.

“;We're looking at combinations. It gives us a little flexibility,”; McMackin said. “;He's got good size and instincts. He's a leader and has a lot of football IQ.”;

Soares played middle linebacker at Castle High School and has a team-high 25 tackles in the Warriors' first three games, one more than Kiesel-Kauhane. Depending on the scheme and matchup, either can move into the middle.

“;As a linebacker unit, we always call the strength and we always echo everything,”; Soares said. “;Our communication between the linebackers is awesome, so the burden is never on one person.”;

Rausch waits

Junior quarterback Brent Rausch is unsure how long a broken right pinkie will keep him out of action. The injury to his throwing hand won't require surgery, but a timetable for his return depends on the healing process. He said he'll have it checked on a weekly basis.

“;They didn't really give me a time (for a possible return),”; Rausch said. “;I just have to see how long it takes to heal. Hopefully I can come back, but we have to see.”;

Rausch suffered the injury during practice in Seattle prior to UH's game at Washington State when his hand hit a teammate's leg as he fell to the turf. Bryant Moniz has been the No. 2 quarterback since then.