Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Offensive line improves over last season with Shaw

By Stephen Tsai


He is faceless on Facebook, and not atwitter with Twitter.

Hawaii offensive line coach Gordy Shaw also encourages sensitive players not to read newspapers or listen to talk-radio shows during the football season.

"Stupidity," Shaw said of the strategy to avoid criticism, "is sometimes a blessing."

But here's a news flash: The offensive line is a large part of the Warriors' recent success.

In the first six games this season, the Warriors have relinquished 13 sacks, or 4.5 percent of the passing situations. That is down from the 2009 season, when the Warriors allowed sacks on 6 percent of the passing plays.

What's more, the UH quarterbacks have been hurried nine times this season, or once every 30.8 passes.

Fresno State entered Saturday's game as the Western Athletic Conference's sack leaders. The Bulldogs managed two sacks — neither by a defensive end — and were not credited with a quarterback hurry. UH won, 49-27.

"We basically stopped their ends from getting pressure," said Shaw, who is in his second season with the Warriors.

Because of his long tenure at Minnesota, which relied mostly on power running, there was the widespread assumption Shaw would try to implement more rush-blocking techniques to the Warriors' four-wide offense.

But Shaw said that when he was at Wyoming, the Cowboys ran empty-set plays about 25 times each game. That led to the offer from Minnesota, which initially was using a pro-style passing attack.

At UH, Shaw said, "we teach a group of guys the fundamentals."

Shaw said the "core" of the defensive front usually features six players in the tackle box. On pass plays, UH's sixth blocker is the running back.

"If they bring all six, then everybody has to be accountable and hold up for that play, blocking their guy from start to finish," Shaw said. "That's the way it is."

Shaw implemented one change to this year's blocking scheme. In past years of UH's version of the four-wide offense, the linemen aligned in a crouching position. Now, the guards are in a three-point stance, with the tackles remaining in a crouch.

"This group is good in their athletic ability and their ability to move their feet," Shaw said. "We get on (defenders) and stay on them. (Quarterback Bryant) Moniz might get bumped around a little bit, but we're blocking the defensive line. They're not flying through free."

During the offseason, there were questions about the game experience of the offensive line, which lost four starters from last year's team. Three were invited to NFL training camps.

The debate escalated when the Warriors did not settle on a starting offensive line before breaking training camp in late August.

But Shaw was confident the line would do well.

"I've got eyeballs," Shaw said. "You start out with the character of the players you're coaching. You can tell if it's not important to them or if it's very important to them. For this group, it meant a lot, it was important. They knew they couldn't take a step back or play the same every week. They knew they had to get better every week."

The line is experienced. Right tackle Laupepa Letuli, right guard Adrian Thomas and left guard Brysen Ginlack are 2005 high school graduates. Center Bronson Tiwanak is a fifth-year senior. Left tackle Austin Hansen is a fourth-year junior.

Now Shaw faces another problem: Getting playing time for tackle Kainoa LaCount and guard Brett Leonard.

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