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Monday, November 24, 2014         

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Sacks therapy

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has a two-pronged plan to help the Warriors generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks

By Stephen Tsai

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In reviewing the defensive problems of the first three games, the Hawaii football coaches crunched the numbers.

It did not take long.

The Warriors (1-2) have one sack and three quarterback hurries.

The best weapon -- the blitz -- has been on the fritz.

"We should be a very good blitzing team," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "Honestly, at one point, we were. Right now, we're not. We've got to get that fixed, and get that fixed in a hurry."

Part of the problem is strategy. Army used a run-option offense. Colorado's quarterback used a three-step drop out of a shotgun formation.

"To Colorado's benefit, they didn't sit back there forever," said Cal Lee, who coaches UH's rush ends. "They got (the pass) out pretty fast. Three steps from the (shot)gun you're not going to get many sacks."

To speed up the Warriors' defensive attack, Aranda has a two-step plan: 1) Change the practice drills, and 2) change the personnel.

The Warriors usually devote most of each practice working against a scout team that portrays the upcoming opponent. Aranda's plan is to have more drills between the first-team offense and No. 1 defense.

"We've got to get more good versus good," Aranda said. "There's something to be said about seeing the looks you're going to be seeing on Saturday (by practicing against the scouts). But then, what our blitzing situation brings us, there's something to be said about good versus good, and speed versus speed. That's something we've talked about."

The Warriors also are going with smaller rotations at defensive end and linebacker. The emergence of Po'okela Ahmad, a junior linebacker, has triggered a chain of events in which Paipai Falemalu has reclaimed the starting job -- for now -- at defensive right end.

Falemalu was recruited as an outside linebacker. But after redshirting following shoulder surgery in 2008, he was used as a rush end in certain defensive packages last year. He entered this past spring as the No. 1 right end.

After bulking up to 260 pounds early this summer, Falemalu was told he would be used in the hybrid linebacker/end position. He then was forced to lose weight.

"Honestly, I can gain and lose weight as I choose," Falemalu said. "If I want to gain weight, I eat more than I usually do and work out more. To lose weight, I run more instead of lifting more."

When Aaron Brown missed most of the preseason because of a sprained right ankle, Ahmad received the bulk of Brown's duties in nickel packages. After Brown recovered, it was decided to keep Ahmad in the rotation. That meant Falemalu was not needed at linebacker.

"We felt (Falemalu) could be best served getting all of his reps in one spot," Aranda said of the decision to play Falemalu full-time at right end. "He doesn't have to learn two or three different positions. He can learn one position -- where he can play fast."

Aranda said Falemalu is quick enough to generate a pass rush. Elliott Purcell will start at left end.

"He's got a motor you don't find too often in players," Lee said of Falemalu. "It just keeps on running, and it doesn't stop until the whistle."

Aranda said Brown will make his second consecutive start at left-side linebacker, with Ahmad serving as the top backup.

"We have a few guys who are playmakers," Aranda said. "Aaron is one of those guys. When he's in the game, he makes plays. He is a very good blitzer. We have guys who are blitzers. We're going to get back to that."






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