With the wedge sliced from kickoffs, the Warriors are seeking fast and athletic players for special teams.
A new NCAA rule prohibits more than two players from aligning shoulder-pad-to-shoulder-pad on kick returns. In the past, some teams formed a five-player wedge to create a wall of blockers for the kick returner.
"We’re going to see a lot more man blocking skills," said Chris Tormey, who coordinates the Warriors’ special teams. "It’s going to come down to your man in space. You have to be a really good athlete to play in space."
UH has spent two periods of every practice working on one-on-one blocking drills on kick returns.
One drill is the Warrior challenge, involving three blockers from the return team and three from the kickoff unit. All six players start the drill on their backs. At the whistle, they spring to their feet and engage in a one-on-one session. Starting from a ground position, Tormey said, prevents players from getting a running start.
With the no-wedge rule, Tormey said, "We’re going to see more speed across the board. That’s an emphasis for us, too. We’re going to get the best athletes, teach them the fundamentals, and, hopefully, put a competitive team on the field."
Tormey said four first-year Warriors — Sterling Jackson, Darryl McBride, Siaki Cravens and John Hardy-Tuliau — have been impressive on the kickoff units.
"Those are four guys in the mix we didn’t have last year," Tormey said. "They’re athletes, and we’re trying to put as many good athletes out there as we can."
There were big expectations for Kainoa LaCount, who signed a letter of intent with the Warriors in February 2008. But he did not meet the eligibility requirements until July 2009, and was admittedly overweight at the start of last season. This summer, the 6-foot-6 LaCount has trimmed down to 315, and moved to left tackle, where he is more comfortable.
"I watched what I ate, and I worked out a lot," said LaCount, who is listed No. 2 behind left tackle Austin Hansen.
The first step
Strong-side linebacker Aaron Brown said he should resume practicing next week. He has not participated in training-camp drills because of a sprained right ankle. He stopped wearing a medical boot Monday.
"Baby steps," he said. "You have to start somewhere."
Reward for a walk-on
The Warriors are awaiting approval on a medical hardship that would open up a scholarship. Defensive ends Liko Satele and Kamalu Umu, center Bronson Tiwanak, and cornerback Kawika Ornellas are among key contributors who are not on scholarship.