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Bruising hitter

Tormey calls UH special teams player Jordan Monico "a very good tackler"

By Jason Kaneshiro

LAST UPDATED: 1:23 a.m. HST, Sep 30, 2010

Hitting seems to run in Jordan Monico's bloodlines.

The son of one of the Hawaii baseball program's most prolific hitters, Monico's version of forcing contact tends to be a tad more bruising.

Where his father, Mario Monico, made a career of hammering fastballs, Jordan is quickly developing a reputation as a punishing hitter on Hawaii's special teams units.

"Because you don't go in too much on offense, you have to use all your energy somehow," said Monico, a reserve running back.

"When you hit someone hard, you get this adrenaline rush like you know you popped them," Monico said. "You pump your teammates up and the crowd likes seeing big hits."

Monico was credited with three tackles on kickoff returns in Hawaii's lopsided win over Charleston Southern last week, twice pinning the Buccaneers inside the 20-yard line, and has 10 special teams tackles in four games.

Monico expected his role this season to be defined by helping the starters prepare for game nights. He'd volunteer to jump in with the scout team during kickoff periods, and impressed the coaches enough to move him over to the kickoff team for UH's opener against USC.

He's now a member of all four coverage and return units, including a kickoff team that ranks ninth in the FBS by holding opponents to 17.16 yards per return entering Saturday's Western Athletic Conference game against Louisiana Tech at Aloha Stadium.

"We were having trouble blocking him on our kickoff return," UH special teams coordinator Chris Tormey said. "He understands football, fits in the right place, has really good size (6-foot-0 and 235 pounds), and he can run. He's a very good tackler. He wraps up and brings his feet on his tackles, runs through contact."

UH (2-2) vs. LA. TECH (1-3)

» When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
» Where: Aloha Stadium
» TV: PPV 225
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Monico spends most of his mornings within view of the stadium where his father carved out a storied place in UH baseball lore from 1982 to '85.

Mario Monico still owns the UH career records for batting average (.367), total bases (433) and walks (240, also a WAC record) and his 10 RBIs against Utah in 1985 remains a single-game best.

Naturally, Jordan gravitated to the diamond growing up and played in Les Murakami Stadium -- as Mario did when it was known as Rainbow Stadium -- with the Hawaii Island Movers following high school.

But football produced a scholarship opportunity and the three-sport standout at Moanalua headed across the country to attend Savannah State in Georgia.

"(Mario) was supportive in everything I did and was there to work with me, lifting weights, running, giving me pointers," Monico said.

He played in six games as a freshman linebacker with Savannah State, an FCS program, and hit .279 with four home runs with the baseball team in the spring. But a "miscommunication" with the football staff led him to seek a transfer back home, leaving behind a partial baseball scholarship.

He considered pursuing baseball again when he returned, but ultimately walked on with the Warriors and redshirted last season.

"I was thinking about it. It's still in my mind because I still love the game of baseball," Monico said. "But I'm just focusing on football right now and working my butt off.

"On the baseball field I'm more of a power hitter. On the football field I try to do the same, just be a hard hitter."

Monico's heavy-hitting performance last week triggered thoughts of moving him to linebacker. But with Hogan Rosehill suffering a knee injury late in the game, Monico is staying put at running back to provide depth behind Alex Green and Chizzy Dimude.

Monico and the UH coverage teams are working this week to contain Louisiana Tech's dangerous set of returners.

Phillip Livas has scored six touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns in his career, two short of the NCAA record held by five others, including former UH receiver Chad Owens. Lyle Fitte averages 28 yards per return and his 53-yarder in LaTech's win over Hawaii in Ruston was the longest surrendered by the Warriors last year.

"We're trying to make a concentrated effort to get more speed on the field," Tormey said. "Louisiana Tech has tremendous speed, not only at the returner positions but across the board on their coverage teams and return teams. So we need to be able to match skill with skill."

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