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Linebackers bring back the hits

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    UH's rebuilt linebacker unit includes sophomore Paipai Falemalu on the strong side.
    UH's rebuilt linebacker unit includes Corey Paredes on the weak side.

Being able to inflict some punishment was worth enduring a bit of discomfort.

"It’s really hot, and they’re heavier than I remember," Hawaii linebacker Corey Paredes said after the Warriors completed their first practice of fall camp in pads.

"But it feels good. Finally get to hit again."

Contact was limited yesterday, but Paredes was predictably involved in one of the first big thuds of camp, and the development of a rebuilt linebacker unit as a whole figures to impact the effectiveness of the Warriors defense once the season opener rolls around on Sept. 2.

While the defense entered camp with experience on the line and in the secondary, the middle level must replace the production and leadership of Blaze Soares and R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, the Warriors’ top two tacklers last season.

"Linebacker is such an integral part to what’s happening in front and what’s happening behind them. They’ve really got to be tied in," said Dave Aranda, the Warriors’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

"I thought we made some strides the first two days. I’m happy with their knowledge and their confidence."

Paredes owns the most game action of the group with four starts and 54 total tackles, including a team-high four sacks, last season. He opened camp with the first unit at weak-side linebacker with freshman George Daily-Lyles in the middle and sophomore Paipai Falemalu on the strong side.

Daily-Lyles redshirted last season and is being pushed by seniors Mana Lolotai and Jake Heun. Falemalu played defensive end a year ago and sat out most of spring practice to rest an injury.

"We’re one of the younger groups on the whole team, but we’ve got a lot of guys with heart," said Paredes, who moves into the middle in the Warriors’ nickel packages. "We’re ready to play and put our bodies on the line, and that’s the most important thing."

Daily-Lyles moved up the depth chart in the spring and conceded to still having "that big-eyed look" in the huddle at times. He called sitting out last year a blessing as he adjusted to the college game, and finds himself at the top of the rotation.

"It’s full-go right now," Daily-Lyles said. "Spring was getting acclimated to the game. Now it’s if you don’t know it, you’re stumbling, and to the back of the depth chart you go."

For Falemalu, the shift from end to linebacker represents a return to the position where he excelled at Kahuku.

"It’s a learning process, but Coach Aranda, (graduate assistant Ryan Biesemeyer) and the other veterans are helping me a lot," Falemalu said. "It’s coming back real quick. It feels like home."

At 6-foot-3, Falemalu gives the Warriors a taller presence on the edge than in previous years as he drops into coverage. He could still play some defensive end in certain packages.

"He’s one of the best athletes that we’ve got, I’d say, on the entire team," Aranda said. "Pai’s a weapon and a mismatch for us."

Falemalu and junior Aaron Brown are expected to both work on the strong side. Brown redshirted last season because of a faulty hamstring and has been sidelined by an ankle injury so far in camp. Aranda plans to feature the duo according to the situation.

"We have to get him back healthy and get him back playing," Aranda said. "He’s just a playmaker, period."

The first day in pads included a period of one-on-ones between the offensive and defensive linemen. Other than that, the offense and defense have gone through drills on opposite sides of the field so far. Head coach Greg McMackin said that’ll change starting tomorrow when the units begin working against each other.

Quick hits

Senior cornerback Lametrius Davis was held out of yesterday’s practice as a precaution to rest his knee. Sophomore Kawika Ornellas has been first in the rotation in Davis’ place. … In a field-goal period, senior Scott Enos made two of four attempts, hitting from 32 and 37 yards. Freshman Tyler Hadden connected from 32, 37 and 42 yards and had a 37-yarder blocked by John Hardy-Tuliau. … The Warriors practice at 8:30 a.m. each day this week, with two-a-day practices set to begin Wednesday.


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