Corners may be
crucial at USC
Hawaii's Elimimian hopes to
create better memories in his
return to the Coliseum
When the Hawaii Warriors walk into the Los Angeles Coliseum a week from tomorrow to play fourth-ranked Southern California, the memories will come back for UH junior cornerback Abraham Elimimian.
He hopes to create some better ones.
Four years ago, Elimimian, then a senior at Crenshaw High School, played his final prep game in the huge landmark facility.
"We lost to Carson 20-10 for the state championship," Elimimian said. "One of my old teammates is a fullback for USC, Lee Webb. Maybe I can meet him on some running plays.
"Everybody's going to be there. My parents, (high school) coaches. I'm looking forward to a different outcome this time," said Elimimian, who returned to practice yesterday after missing several workouts with a sore shoulder from last Saturday's 40-17 victory over Appalachian State.
If the Warriors are to upset the Trojans, Elimimian and fellow cornerback Kelvin Millhouse will likely be big reasons.
Some who saw future NFL players Hal Stringert and Jeris White play for UH in the 1970s might disagree, but there are those who say Elimimian and Millhouse -- a junior and senior who have started together for most of the past two seasons -- are the best cornerback tandem in the program's history.
They get a chance to prove that next week by slowing or stopping USC receivers Keary Colbert and Mike Williams. Colbert is one of the most productive receivers in the Trojans' proud history, and Williams was a freshman All-American last fall.
"Those are the best dang receivers we'll play against. And they are a big part of their overall scheme," Hawaii coach June Jones said yesterday after practice. "But I have great confidence in Abraham and Kelvin, and (safety) Hyrum (Peters). They can all cover man-to-man and they know how to play zone."
When UH's defense has been at its best the past two seasons, Elimimian, Millhouse and sometimes Peters have shut down opposing receivers, allowing the rest of the Warriors to crowd the line of scrimmage and stop the running game, too.
In last Saturday's win against Appalachian State, the corners (as well as the defensive line and linebackers) were effective enough that even Peters, playing free safety, was able to freelance to a degree and make big plays all over the field.
But everyone involved knows that was last week, and next week is a different level of football.
"This is going to be one of the biggest challenges of our careers," Elimimian said.
Ilaoa runs: Sophomore slot receiver Nate Ilaoa did some running yesterday for the first time since discovering he has a partially torn ACL in his right knee, an injury he incurred during a 51-yard catch-and-run in Saturday's game.
"It feels OK," said Ilaoa, but he only did straight-ahead running yesterday. "I'll test it more in the near future. If there was a game today, I think I could play, but I don't know if the coaches would let me. I think there's going to be a decision in the next few days."
If Ilaoa undergoes surgery for the injury, he will be out for the rest of the season.
Jones said earlier this week that he doesn't want to risk Ilaoa's future for one game.
"We'll take a look at it, probably Monday, and see if he can play," Jones said. "But he's a rare talent and we don't want him to blow out his knee and make it worse."
Short yardage: Senior defensive tackle Lui Fuga continues to regain strength in the ankle he broke in the first game of last season, and hopes to make the travel squad for the USC and Nevada-Las Vegas games. ... Second-year freshman offensive tackle Tala Esera has returned to workouts after getting a medical clearance. He attended fall camp but did not practice while awaiting results on some tests. ... Jones said he expects to sign his new five-year, $800,016-a-year contract within the next few days. ... The Warriors' next practice is Sunday at 3 p.m.