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McMackin and Warriors ready to spring into action

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Greg McMackin, right, relinquished his defensive play-calling duties to Dave Aranda last season.
  • DENNIS ODA / 2010
    Linebacker George Daily-Lyles said he's worked hard to become "stronger, bigger, faster."
  • GEORGE F. LEE / 2010
    Bryant Moniz, who led the nation in passing last season, says he's gained 7 pounds and weighs 212, surpassing his goal to come into camp at 210.
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Ten minutes, maybe 12.

That would be the longest stretch between incoming calls to Hawaii football coach Greg McMackin’s iPhone.

But McMackin does not mind. Each call is a boost of optimism. His ringtone is Bob Marley’s "Three Little Birds," whose signature lines are: "Don’t worry ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right …"

And, as always, McMackin remains hopeful as the Warriors open spring training tomorrow, with the first practice set for Wednesday morning.

"This spring is a crucial spring for us," said McMackin, who is 23-18 in three seasons as UH’s head coach. "If you look at our team, we have a lot of talent, but we don’t have a lot of experience. The guys we lost had an outstanding season. But we have guys who have been getting reps and are talented, and in some ways, we’re excited about our young players. They’re ready to go."

When McMackin was hired as June Jones’ successor three weeks before the NCAA signing day in 2008, he inherited an offense with two returning starters — the same number back for the coming season.

"It’s different this time," said McMackin, noting that quarterback Bryant Moniz remains as the steersman of a four-wide attack that led the nation in passing in 2010.

And while the defense, which was No. 1 nationally in takeaways with 38, must replace three starters in the secondary, McMackin is confident those vacancies have been addressed through recruiting.

McMackin also brought back Dick Tomey, a former UH head coach, as coordinator of the special teams. Tomey is expected to bring a more aggressive approach, starting with expanding the number of candidates for the coverage units. Other changes will be the end of directional punts, as well as the fair-catch signal being a mandatory part of punt returns.

McMackin has been willing to make changes during his UH tenure. Last year, the offense aligned in the "kiko," the Warriors’ version of the pistol formation. Despite devoting 10 minutes to run-blocking each practice, Alex Green became the Warriors’ first 1,000-yard rusher since the four-wide passing attack was implemented in 1999. And the defense began to force turnovers when it switched to, essentially, a nickel coverage as a base scheme.

"I believe life is a bunch of adjustments," McMackin said. "If something is working, you go with it. If something isn’t working, you make adjustments. Your decision has to be what’s best for the program. That’s what I always keep in mind: What’s best for the program? What’s best for the players?"

Indeed, McMackin proved that when he relinquished his defensive play-calling duties to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda last year. That allowed McMackin to spend more time overseeing the entire program.

"It was a decision I made that I felt was better for the program and the players," McMackin said. "I knew Dave could handle it."

Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich also has play-calling autonomy during games.

Below are the position-by-position looks entering spring training:

 

Offense

QUARTERBACKS

» Shane Austin, David Graves, Bryant Moniz, Corey Nielsen, Cayman Shutter, Kevin Spain
» Outlook: In Rolovich’s office, the wall board was scrawled with phrases seemingly culled from an ad man’s slogan list. The phrases were the names of trick plays that were unspent because of the success of the Warriors’ basic schemes. The development of Moniz, who mastered all of the offense’s throws, including what was a troublesome streak route, helped the Warriors lead the nation in passing (394.25 yards a game) and touchdown throws (42). Playing behind a rebuilt offensive line, the Warriors surrendered 249 yards in sacks, but offset that with scrambles totaling 348 yards. Moniz averaged 1.28 broken tackles per scramble. Austin and Graves, who was used on special teams last year, will battle it out for the No. 2 job.
» Spotlight: Moniz, who went on scholarship in August, is focusing more on training this offseason. He gained 7 pounds since January, and now weighs 212. "My goal was 210 for the season, so I already surpassed that," said Moniz, who complements his workouts with boxing sessions. Moniz has spent hours watching football videos; his cousins set up a projector that allows him to watch videos in high definition. In the final series of a blowout victory last year, Moniz called the plays from the sideline.

 

RUNNING BACKS

» Jamie-Ray Abad, Joey Cadiz, Joey Iosefa, Sterling Jackson, John Lister, Hogan Rosehill
» Outlook: Last year’s top two running backs (Alex Green, Chizzy Dimude) finished their UH careers, and a third (Jordan Monico) was relocated to linebacker. Jackson, who was impressive in practices and the two scout scrimmages while redshirting in 2010, enters as the No. 1 back. He was a junior college All-American in 2009. Iosefa, a converted linebacker who redshirted last year, will get a lot of work. And Rosehill, who underwent ACL surgery in October, is available to practice in three weeks.
» Spotlight: Jackson, who was raised in Georgia, wanted to play in paradise so much he agreed to pay his own tuition and school expenses this academic year. On the field, Jackson also has a knack for finding daylight. "He’s a tough runner with speed," McMackin said. How tough? He scored a touchdown in a scrimmage despite a broken right thumb that would require surgery. "Everything is good now," said Jackson, who goes on scholarship in August.

 

RECEIVERS

» Wideouts: Joe Avery, Darius Bright, Cecil Doe, Jett Jasper, Bennett Nicola, Royce Pollard, Hans Reppuhn, Mark Silverstein, Billy Ray Stutzmann
» Slotbacks: Samson Anguay, Dwight "D.J." Armbrust, Terence Bell, Justin Clapp, Donnie King, Corey Lau, Miah Ostrowski, Corey Paclebar, Allen Sampson, Kana Silva
» Outlook: The Warriors look to reload after losing their three best post-catch runners (wideout Rodney Bradley, and slots Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares). Pollard, the right wideout, is the lone returning starter. Bright, a 6-foot-5 junior who redshirted last season, and Stutzmann, who started two games as a freshman, will practice at both wideout and slotback. Doe, a downfield threat, is a mid-year transfer. The top slotback candidate is Ostrowski, who moonlights as a point guard on the UH basketball team. He will rejoin the football Warriors after the basketball season ends. Until then, the speedy Sampson and Bell will get a lot reps.
» Spotlight: Bell, who participated in Nevada’s training camp in 2009, was ineligible for the first 10 UH games last season while his transfer was being reviewed. He spent a lot of time in the archives, studying videos of slotbacks in the four-wide offense. Former UH slotback Ryan Grice-Mullen, now playing in the Canadian Football League, offered tips. "He taught me not only how to run a route, but the idea behind it," Bell said. "He gave me a lot of good advice." In the 20-yard dash, Bell ran 2.61 seconds, the fastest among the receivers. "I’ve got only one year to play," Bell said. "I’m going to make the most of it."

 

LINEMEN

» Tackles: Austin Hansen, Clayton Laurel, Levi Legay, Jordan Loeffler, Waylon Lolotai, Chauncy Winchester-Makainai, Blake Muir, Sean Shigematsu
» Guards: Scott Collins, Clint Daniel, Ben Dew, Andrew Faaumu, Dave Lefotu, Brett Leonard, Elmer Lim III, Frank Loyd, Casey Purdy, Drew Uperesa
» Center: Kody Afusia, Kahai Choy, Matagisila Lefiti, London Sapolu
» Outlook: All of the blockers who started in the Hawaii Bowl have completed their UH eligibility. Hansen, the starting left tackle during the 2010 regular season, did not play in the bowl because of an NCAA-imposed suspension. He is allowed to participate in spring practice while appealing the NCAA for reinstatement. UH officials and coaches declined to discuss Hansen’s violation, citing privacy laws. Laurel gets the first shot to compete at blind-side tackle; freshman Jordan Loeffler is next in line. Lefiti, who recovered from foot surgery to earn a platoon role last season, will open at center. Leonard will be at left guard. Then they will switch. And switch again. The plan is for the two to rotate at center and guard through spring training. Lefotu, a freshman, has drawn raves, and will get to audition at right guard. Winchester-Makainai, who can play at all five line spots, and Legay are the top choices at right tackle. But look for Shigematsu, another freshman, to get significant reps there.
» Spotlight: Unfortunately for Laurel, he can’t catch a break. Two years ago, it was a broken leg that sabotaged his chance to seize a starting job. Last year, his application was denied because of a broken wrist. "It’s kind of frustrating," said Laurel, who has resumed intensive weight training. He will get most of the reps at left tackle this spring. "I had my chances," he said. "I’m trying to focus and make sure I don’t get injured. I’m working hard for that starting spot."

 

Defense

LINEMEN

» Ends: Siaki Cravens, Desmond Dean, Dustin Elisara, Paipai Falemalu, Marcus Malepeai, Liko Satele, Alema Tachibana, Alasi Toilolo, Beau Yap
» Tackles: Haku Correa, Ikaika Cavaco-Amoy, Calen Friel, Geordon Hanohano, Siasau Matagiesi, Josh Manupuna, Zach Masch, Vaughn Meatoga, Sam Ohai, Moses Samia, Kaniela Tuipulotu
» Outlook: The men in the middle (Meatoga and Tuipulotu) have been in the forefront this offseason. Two days ago, they organized a full practice. Last season, they also established themselves up front, each often having two-gap responsibilities, freeing the defensive ends and linebacker to swoop in for tackles. Correa played well in a limited role, and Masch relished being a third-down specialist. Manupuna, a standout last spring, was on the inactive list in 2010 after several of his credits did not transfer from Portland State. He’s back in camp. In three weeks, Friel, a grayshirt from Kailua High, should be ready after recovering from a knee injury. Satele and Falemalu will open as the No. 1 defensive ends, although they will be pushed by freshmen Malepeai, Yap and Dean. The coaches felt Malepeai was good enough to play last year before deciding it would be better to redshirt him.
» Spotlight: Using former All-Pro Chad Brown as a model, it was hoped Falemalu could rotate between stand-up defensive end and outside linebacker. That plan was aborted early, and Falemalu become a rush end, recording five sacks. This spring, he is seeking to expand his resume. "I’m trying to be more of a stout run defender, so I can be an every-down defensive end," Falemalu said. "I want to be a complete defensive end. That’s my goal this year." What makes Falemalu an effective pass rusher — the ability to shed blocks — is not always applicable in run defense. He is working on his hand placements and reading the block and the runner. "I’m trying not to force everything," he said.

 

BACKS

» Corners: Steven Christian, Marcus Cooley, John Hardy-Tuliau, Tank Hopkins, Dee Maggitt, Kawika Ornellas, Michael Sellers, Terry Wilson
» Safeties: Kamalani Alo, Guy Amina, Gus Cunningham, Rykin Enos, Kenny Estes, Josh Gist, Jordan Gomes, Mina Gould, Leroy Lutu, Kauakea Olds, Bubba Poueu-Luna, Richard Torres, Marcus Umu
» Outlook: A No. 1 safety and both starting cornerbacks completed their eligibility, but the choreographer of the secondary, Torres, is back. Since arriving as a walk-on in 2008, Torres has gained more than 30 pounds and chipped two-tenths of a second off his 40 time, which is now about 4.5 seconds. Estes is the top contender for the other safety job, Gomes, who is recovering from knee surgery, won’t compete in contact drills this spring. And Poueu-Luna will miss the first three weeks of spring practices because of a broken left foot. Brandon Leslie, a highly regarded safety, joins the Warriors this summer. Hopkins, who redshirted last season to recover from a pelvic injury, will claim one of the corner jobs. Hardy-Tuliau, who started at nickel back as a freshman in 2010, will practice at cornerback this spring. This summer, Mike Edwards, who played eight games at Tennessee in 2009, will join the cornerback mix.
» Spotlight: As a junior college transfer in 2009, Hopkins played despite a painful pelvic injury. Last year, after it was decided he would redshirt, he learned that it was more painful not to play. "First game (of 2010), I cried in the locker room," Hopkins said. But he admitted that the sabbatical was helpful. From the sidelines, he gained a new perspective of the defense. And he healed. "I wasn’t 100 percent until the end of January," he said. In team testing, Hopkins ran the fastest 20-yard dash (2.6 seconds) among the Warriors. At the end of each voluntary workout the past month, a one-on-one competition was staged. The line of scrimmage is the 5. The win went to the player who makes the touchdown catch or pass breakup. The winner stayed on the field to face the next challenger. Hopkins set the record for most consecutive victories as a defender (eight) and receiver (nine).

 

SPECIALISTS

» Kickers: Tyler Haddon, Kyle Niiro
» Punter: Alex Dunnachie
» Long-snapper: Luke Ingram
» Outlook: Haddon, who is on scholarship, will be challenged by Niiro this spring and another walk-on in the summer for the job as successor to Scott Enos. There is some consideration that Dunnachie might be used for kickoffs. At least Dunnachie can boom away on punts. He no longer will be required to directional kick.
» Spotlight: It wasn’t until the regular-season finale that safety Kamalani Alo was granted his wish of playing on the kickoff-coverage unit. Alo made two tackles against UNLV. "It’s the Kahuku mentality," he said of his desire to play on special teams. "The opening kickoff at Kahuku is always nuts. The Kahuku fans are great. They do the tomahawk. The feeling of running down on the opening kickoff always felt good. It made me want to do it in college as well." This spring, more of the reserves will be summoned for special duty.

 

Practice Schedule

» Tomorrow, the Warriors open their fourth spring training under head coach Greg McMackin. The first practice is Wednesday morning.

March 7
Team meeting

March 9
Practice No. 1 (sweats), 7-9 a.m.

March 11
Practice No. 2 (sweats). 4:30-6:30 p.m. Coaches social, 6:30 p.m.

» Coaches social: This Friday in the UH athletic complex dance studio, the UH staff will have a talk-story social with coaches of all football levels. The open setting will allow guests to move freely among discussions. Boards and video equipment will be available for demonstrations. "It’s whatever flows," McMackin said. Refreshments and pupus are included in the $20 fee. For details, call 956-6508.

March 12
Practice No. 3 (pads), 8-10 a.m.

March 14
Practice No. 4 (pads), 7-9 a.m.

March 16
Practice No. 5 (pads), 7-9 a.m.

March 18
Practice No. 6 (pads), 7-9 a.m.

March 28
Practice No. 7 (pads),
4-6 p.m.

March 30
Practice No. 8 (pads),
7-9 a.m.

April 2
Practice No. 9 (pads),
8-10 a.m.

April 4
Practice No. 10 (pads),
4-6 p.m.

April 6
Practice No. 11 (sweats),
7-9 a.m.

April 9
Hilo scrimmage, TBD.

April 11
Practice No. 13 (pads),
4-6 p.m.

April 13
Practice No. 14 (pads),
7-9 a.m.

» Big Island scrimmage: The Warriors will travel to Hilo for a scrimmage and clinic April 9. Although plans have not been finalized, the event is expected to be held mid-day on the Kamehameha-Hawaii campus. The event will be free and open to the public.

April 15
Warrior Bowl, 7 p.m.

» Junior Day: Players recommended by their high school coaches are invited to tour the Manoa campus April 16. Part of the itinerary includes meeting with UH’s academic counselors, coaches and former players.

» Warrior Bowl: The annual full-contact intrasquad scrimmage is set for April 15 at UH’s Ching Athletic Complex. .

 

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