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FURTHER REVIEW


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Warriors have the goods to be good again

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:04 a.m. HST, Mar 06, 2011



There's no threat of a lockout here. It's early March, and this year that means it's football season in Manoa.

Fall camp is in the summer, so there's no reason why University of Hawaii spring practice can't start in winter, right?

Here are some thoughts on the state of the Warriors as UH gears up for the start of head coach Greg McMackin's fourth spring camp this week.

REPLACEMENTS MUST be found for the guys who really make the run-and-shoot go, the slots. This is especially important since the offensive line is once again rebuilding.

Moving Greg Salas inside worked because he was quick, strong and big enough to get off the line and get open (the rare exception being the Boise State game when Kealoha Pilares was hurt and the Broncos could give Salas extra attention). Bryant Moniz got the ball to Salas, and then he did the rest with his great hands and aggressiveness.

Salas is a rare talent who fit perfectly into what the Warriors do. Does UH have a player who can fill that role in a similar manner in camp?

Maybe.

His name is Darius Bright, and if you saw him practice last fall you might agree he has the raw material for it. The only reason the JC transfer redshirted in 2010 is that the Warriors were loaded with experienced pass catchers and McMackin wisely decided he'd be more valuable for the upcoming two seasons. At 6-feet-5 and 230 pounds, he's bigger than Salas. He's plenty fast and has good hands; we'll see if he's quick enough for the slot.

Although he could also be outstanding at wideout, I hope Bright gets a long look inside, and that Miah Ostrowski lives up to his potential on the other side as Pilares' replacement. We saw last year what Moniz can do with skilled slot receivers.

ON DEFENSE, I believe in strength up the middle; if you have at least one experienced stud in the middle of each layer and some exceptional athletes to fill out the sides, you should be at least OK.

Hawaii has that. Defensive tackles Vaughn Meatoga and Kaniela Tuipulotu, linebacker Corey Paredes and safety Richard Torres are as smart as they are tough, and that's saying a lot. It's a solid nucleus to build on, and there are quite a few other guys like Aaron Brown, Paipai Falemalu and John Hardy-Tuliau who have a penchant for making big plays.

Hardy-Tuliau and Mike Edwards could give UH its best cornerback tandem in many, many years.

SOME DUMMY wrote last year that special teams should be much improved in 2010. They weren't, and UH was lucky it didn't cost it a game.

Actually, I'll stand by that should. There was no real reason why that phase of the game wasn't significantly better than in 2009 with the weapons UH had at its disposal and the key specialists; all with a previous year of experience.

Plus, Hardy-Tuliau arrived on the scene to block kicks and Salas was deep for punts.

It was more a question of philosophy. I understand the risk vs. reward strategy of fair-catching every punt because your offense is so potent field position doesn't matter very much. Same thing with not going for blocks for fear of devastating roughing penalties.

But I also understand morale and momentum, and what a huge opportunity special teams present to seize the tempo of a game and to provide knockout punches.

When you have a Hardy-Tuliau, you let him loose. When you have an Alex Dunnachie, you let him punt it high and deep and down the middle.

Now, UH has a special teams coach in Dick Tomey who will unleash the hounds — but with the experience to know when to rein them in, too.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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