POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 15, 2011
Dave Aranda doesn't get the erase part of dry erase. The board on his office wall overflows with X's and O's, and it's hard to tell where one play begins and another ends. They resemble the cryptic scribbles of a professor obsessed with breaking new ground. Somewhere up there is the perfect antidote to second and 1 at the 30. But I can't see it.
The big screen on his desk is easier to comprehend; he shows me a twist scheme that enabled the University of Hawaii defense to thwart a tricky option play by Tulsa in the Hawaii Bowl. Ah, good times ... the first half of UH's postseason game. Second half? Different story. That's why Aranda, the UH defensive coordinator, still watches it "a lot" — more than three months later.
"I think that Tulsa game was our season," he says. "We played as well as we've played in the first half. We played tough and responsible. ... In the second half, busts. That happens. But the bad thing was we let one bust affect the next series."
The final was Tulsa 62, Hawaii 35. UH won 10 games in 2010, but anyone who watched the last 30 minutes on Christmas Eve wouldn't believe it. A Warriors defense that was for the most part a prolific turnover-producing machine during the regular season disintegrated. Aranda, the man tabbed "a genius" many times by head coach Greg McMackin, was left to rebuild.
That brings us to tonight's Warrior Bowl, the ceremonial conclusion of spring practice. The defense has some solid guys to build around, like tackles Vaughn Meatoga and Kaniela Tuipulotu, linebackers Aaron Brown and Corey Paredes and safety Richard Torres.
And they've got Aranda, one part mad scientist, one part relentless grinder, back for his second year as DC.
The opponents are their teammates, but tonight still represents a chance to make fans forget about the Golden Hurricane.
"The biggest issue with me is that we've got guys motivated, who play hard and have a consolidated mission," Aranda says.
He's crazy smart, that's what everybody says. Bet you didn't know he "was a poor student in high school" in Redlands, Calif.
"I never opened a book," Aranda adds. "I just played sports and did other things, I guess."
Other things included boxing. Any fights out of the ring? "Yes, there were some."
His dream was Navy enlistment. Otherwise set for boot camp, Aranda failed a physical because of football injuries.
So he enrolled at one of the few colleges that his grades would allow and started coaching. He found philosophy to his liking and made it his major. He opened books, especially ones written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "A very holistic view, but also some common sense. I read Sartre and some others, (but) I read Emerson for fun. It always spoke to me."
Boxing had fallen by the wayside. "I wasn't very good. Big head and small hands."
Injuries kept him out of college football, so he coached. He came to Hawaii three years ago without knowing anyone here other than McMackin.
His personal goal for 2011 is to improve as a motivator. "It's not about what you're asking that kid to do. It's about how you're asking."
His hope for the defense is consistency and resilience. "I'll put it back to boxing. If we ever got hit, we bled. When you bleed, there's a chance the fight gets called. We don't want to bleed."
I'm pretty sure he didn't get that from Emerson. I didn't see it on the dry erase board, either.