Rolling in the reserves


POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Second string doesn't necessarily mean second rate.

Hawaii's depth on defense was expected to be a strength this season, and contributions from the second level of the depth chart proved valuable in the Warriors' recent success.

“;We're rolling them in enough to give guys breaks and give guys with fresh legs an opportunity to play,”; Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said.

“;We don't put guys in just so they can see what it's like. We put them in if they can help us win the game and make plays.”;

The Warriors defense, which faces a prolific Boise State offense on Friday, rotated frequently in a win at Fresno State and got big plays from backups last week against Louisiana Tech.

Safety Desmond Thomas came up with a fumble recovery and an interception last Saturday. Defensive end C.J. Allen-Jones saw more action in relief of David Veikune in the last two games and came up with two tackles for losses, including his first career sack, against LaTech.

“;Desmond has been a starter for us and C.J. is quick as a cat,”; McMackin said. “;And now that we have (defensive end Francis) Maka it gives us more depth.”;

Thomas started seven games last season and backs up Keao Monteilh at free safety. But he subs in for strong safety Erik Robinson when the Warriors spread five defensive backs across the secondary.

“;When it's more of a passing situation, he's got a little more range and he goes to the ball well when it's in the air,”; UH defensive backs coach Rich Miano said. “;He's more of a center fielder for us.”;

Thomas was in on half of UH's four takeaways last week. He scooped up a fumble on a kickoff return in the first half against Louisiana Tech and later tracked down a pass over the middle for his first interception of the season and second of his career, and had a shot at another pick.

“;When I got one, then (cornerback Calvin Roberts) got one, then here was a fumble recovery, sacks, people just started making plays and it's contagious. Everybody feeds off of it,”; Thomas said.

Allen-Jones moved from linebacker to defensive end in the spring and has accelerated his progress in recent practices as he's continued to adjust to the position.

“;He had a great week of practice. He really made strides in his technique and was a 'wow' guy every day on the film and that translated to the game,”; defensive line coach Dave Aranda said. “;He's feeling real comfortable and he's a weapon for us.”;

Freshman defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga also made an impact off the bench for the Warriors. The Kamehameha graduate stepped in last week when senior Keala Watson was sidelined due to a concussion and drew raves from position coach Ikaika Malloe, who said it was Meatoga's best performance of the season.

“;We need to always be into the game,”; Meatoga said. “;Especially when the defense gets together on the sidelines we need to be ready for adjustments.

Meatoga admitted to playing through some butterflies early in the season and, “;I still have the same nerves before the game,”; he said.

But watching the starters go to work helps settle him down.

“;It's good to see Keala and Josh (Leonard), they always go out there and hold their ground and soften them up for us,”; Meatoga said.

Maka was declared eligible last week after his appeal for an extension of the five-year clock was approved by the NCAA. He didn't get into last week's game, but could be part of the defensive end rotation on Friday. He's playing on the left side behind John Fonoti and Elliott Purcell.

“;We feel real comfortable with all of them,”; Aranda said. “;(Maka's) got those fresh legs, so we want to get him in the game.”;