Corey Paredes listened intently when past leaders of the Hawaii defense spoke.
When he arrived at Manoa, veterans such as Solomon Elimimian, Adam Leonard and Keala Watson represented the conscience of the unit. When they left, Blaze Soares and R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane helped fill that void.
Now the time has come for Paredes to find his own voice.
“Those were leaders on the team and gave me good role models,” Paredes said. “But I have to get into my own way of leading.”
Having progressed from a walk-on who shuttled between offense and defense in 2008 to the nation’s fourth-leading tackler last fall, Paredes was voted a defensive team captain, along with senior safety Richard Torres, during fall camp. But they won’t be alone in handling the added responsibility on a defense stocked with returnees.
“Our coaches want us to step up and be vocal about it and lead our defense,” Paredes said.
Paredes delivered an authoritative statement last season when he thrived in an expanded role in the Warriors defense. He recorded 151 tackles, the second-highest single-season total in school history, and contributed four interceptions and two forced fumbles to UH’s 38 takeaways, the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
He did so while playing the second half of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, an injury incurred while nearly pulling down a third interception in UH’s win at Utah State.
But for Paredes, playing through pain is just part of the job. With his shoulder wrapped, he posted 15 tackles and an interception against Idaho the week after suffering the injury and had double-digit stops twice more in the season.
“You’re not going to feel good after the game, no matter what. Even if you’re not injured you’re going to be sore. So I’ll push it as far as I can,” he said.
“It’s a good feeling after a hard-fought game. It’s a better feeling if you win.”
He had surgery after the season and sat out spring practice. He returned to fall camp as a central figure in the defensive scheme.
Listed as an outside linebacker last year, Paredes primarily played in the middle in the Warriors’ nickel packages most of the season. He entered this year’s camp as the middle linebacker in the base package as well.
But taking on greater responsibility had already been a theme for Paredes’ summer even before he reported for practice. Paredes and his wife welcomed a daughter, Sage, on July 4.
“It’s hard, but we love it,” Paredes said. “We don’t sleep as much, but I don’t really care.”
GROUND AND AIR SUPPORT
Technically, the Warriors’ base package calls for three linebackers. But they spent most of last season in nickel packages with Corey Paredes and Aaron Brown holding down the defense’s middle level.
Brown was suspended for the opener because of an off-field incident. He also was limited by a tight hamstring early in fall camp, but has a penchant for disrupting offenses when healthy. Brown tied for the team lead with five sacks among his 91⁄2 tackles for loss. A converted safety, Brown also intercepted three passes and returned two for touchdowns.
When the Warriors do put three linebackers on the field, sophomore Art Laurel’s mix of speed and power makes him a prime candidate for the “elephant” position. Freshman TJ Taimatuia has also seen time with the first unit in fall camp.
Sophomore George Daily-Lyles started two games as a redshirt freshman and will back up Paredes in the middle.