Jones, a run-and-shoot
expert, talks some defense

Second of two parts
Part One

Editor's note: Hawaii football coach June Jones goes into the 2003 season with a 31-20 record in four years, a new multi-million-dollar contract, and several national publications predicting his Warriors will win the Western Athletic Conference championship. With the Aug. 5 opening of training camp on the horizon, Jones answered questions Monday from Dave Reardon, Kalani Simpson and Jason Kaneshiro of the Star-Bulletin, Robert Kekaula of KITV (Channel 4), and Scott Robbs of KKEA 1420-AM.

In yesterday's editions, Jones talked about the offense and quarterback Tim Chang. Today he shares his thoughts about the defense and his concept of "unconscious confidence."

Question: One of the best camp competitions for a starting job looks like it's at free safety, where you've got David Gilmore and Leonard Peters, who were neck-and-neck last spring. Has either pulled ahead? Are there other positions where the guys are close?

Answer: In that situation we'll find roles for all of them. Hyrum Peters is our best safety, probably one of the best football players on the team, if not the best. So we're pretty solid at safety with three to four safeties back there. We've got some young kids coming in we think are pretty good. Corners, we've got two or three young kids coming in to go with the three guys last year to give us five or six who can play. That's a good position to be in.

Q: Do you expect a full season from Travis LaBoy this year?

A: His biggest thing has been injuries. The bottom line is we have probably 12 (defensive line) guys now and if he doesn't practice he's gonna be like everybody else. He's not getting on the field. He's got a lot of competition and competition makes everybody better.

Q: Tony Akpan and Ikaika Alama-Francis are progressing quickly, aren't they?

A: Very. I'll go on record. I think in three years Tony Akpan will get drafted in the second to fourth round. After watching him in 15 practices this spring, and him not knowing anything about the game, I mean, he's willing to make the commitment. He's in the weight room everyday. He's running everyday. When you have the physical, and you have that kind of want-to, you're a can't-miss.

Q: He has a football scholarship now. Will he continue to play basketball?

A: I told him go play. I hope he does.

Q: How heavy do you want him to be?

A: As heavy as he wants to be. At his size, 280-285 is probably ideal, and still be able to run. He has some skills you can't coach. Ikaika's the same way. He has a chance.

Q: Could Ikaika and Tony be ready to play this year?

A: Yeah. Oh yeah. They don't have redshirt years. We'll use them where we can use them.

Q: What about your new defense overall?

A: It's really not new. It's what we've done, just tightening it up.

Q: Less thinking, more reacting?

A: That's accurate. I gave (former defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa) freedom to add what he wanted, and it compromised some of the rules that made it easier for the kids. So we took the positives that Lemp did and made them tighter and the rules hold up for the other part of the package. In the spring you could see the kids had more confidence. When the defense was called, they knew what to do.

Q: Does that give the position coaches more time to teach technique?

A: We spend a lot of time on technique. But I think in any successful organization it's repetitive action that makes you successful so you don't have to think about what you're doing. Doing it at a level that I call "unconscious confidence," which means under pressure it's a reaction and you do the right thing. It comes from doing it over and over and over and over again in practice. And then being able to beat your opponent at technique.

Two years ago when Rolo threw that ball into the end zone against Fresno State and Ashley (Lelie) caught it, everybody said, "Oh, what a great play." We do that thousands of times in practice, over and over. Because we do it repeatedly in practice we can do it in a game. You give the kids a chance to execute because you do it repetitively in practice. You don't have to think about it and it automatically happens. Nate Jackson had a sack of David Carr in that game. This was his quote: "It was exactly like I do in drills every day. Wrap around the left hand, swat with the right hand."

Q: Is Isaac Sopoaga the best defensive lineman in the WAC?

A: I think Isaac has the potential to be the best defensive lineman in the country. He's only played four years of football. This is the first offseason he's really devoted to workouts. He's taken a leadership role on our team. I would anticipate he will be one of the most dominant players I've had on any football team.

Q: Is Hyrum Peters the best safety in the WAC?

A: Hyrum is so instinctive and natural at what he does. He can play safety, corner. He makes more plays at safety because he's involved in the play. He's like an undersized Pisa (Tinoisamoa).

Q: How about (cornerback Kelvin) Millhouse? Is he NFL caliber?

A: He's already been invited to the Shrine game, so that tells you the scouts are already looking at him. It wouldn't surprise me if he gets drafted high. It's fun to watch the kids progress.

Q: Brown Faavae is another defensive player with a lot of talent.

A: He's got to prove he can do it in the scheme of what we're doing, but we'll find a role for him this year and he'll keep getting better. He'll be a great special teams player. Probably a backup, but we'll find a spot for him to contribute.

Q: The defense has given up a lot of points and yards in past years. But that's not necessarily the best barometer of success, is it?

A: In this conference, it's very difficult to be a top defensive team. When I was talking to Lemp, who was here last week, he talked about now at Boston College and he's looking at the film and getting ready to play. He's amazed at how simple the other teams' offenses are. They don't do anything. Here we get everything in a course of a game. Four wideouts, five wideouts, three tight ends. I mean, this is an unbelievable conference. Defensive coaches, defensive teams would rather be in the Big Ten or the SEC because three out of four downs you can line up and know what they're going to do. Here, you never know what they're going to do.


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