Nevada owned the ball, momentum and designs on remaining undefeated.
Hawaii’s Richard Torres possessed a key bit of insight gleaned from studying the minutiae of the Wolf Pack offense.
Ultimately, Torres’ attention to detail played a prominent role in Hawaii eventually securing a share of the Western Athletic Conference title.
In the closing moments of a midseason battle, Nevada threatened to steal out of Aloha Stadium with a comeback win. The Pack moved to the UH 35 when Torres spotted a tell as quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the shotgun snap.
“I knew from watching film Kaepernick liked to stare receivers down,” Torres said. “I saw him staring the receiver down, anticipated it and broke on it.”
Torres — who’d thwarted an earlier drive with an interception in the end zone — stepped into the receiver’s path and the ball ricocheted into free safety Mana Silva’s arms for a pick that effectively sealed a 27-21 UH win and Nevada’s lone loss of the season. Largely because of that game, both teams, along with Boise State, ended 2010 with a piece of the WAC crown.
The Warriors enter the new season as the WAC favorite, and Torres’ acumen and emphasis on preparation may be even more pronounced as UH’s lone returning starter in the secondary.
“They’ve seen how he works. They’re going to see his film study, they’re going to see his game-day approach,” UH associate coach Rich Miano said. “That’s going to rub off.”
Once an undersized walk on, Torres has proven himself a versatile member of the defense with starts at nickelback, free safety and strong safety.
At just 5 feet 8, Torres still gives up some height to most opponents, but Miano raves about the gains he’s made in strength, speed and quickness to more than hold his own on the field.
The physical conditioning augments his mental preparation, a trait rooted in his wrestling training when he’d learn a new move.
“I’d try to pay attention to details and just visualize myself doing it,” Torres said.
Torres applied much the same in mastering the Warriors’ defensive schemes. The payoff last year included two interceptions, five pass break-ups and two fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown.
Not to mention the play at the end of the Nevada game he didn’t get credit for statistically, yet illustrated his impact.
“I try to study as much as I can in my free time … so when I get on the field I can just react,” Torres said. “That way I can play a lot faster and just be in position to make plays.”
THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE
Defensive backs accounted for 14 of the Warriors’ 23 interceptions last season, which fell three short of the school’s single-season record.
Three starters have moved on, and of those who entered fall camp, only strong safety Richard Torres owned a pick in his UH career. But this year’s group isn’t exactly devoid of experience.
John Hardy-Tuliau started nine games at nickelback and steps in for Mana Silva, UH’s career interceptions leader, at free safety. Tank Hopkins, a spot starter in 2009, returns at cornerback after redshirting last year. Mike Edwards saw playing time as a true freshman at Tennessee in 2009 and adds speed to the secondary. Junior cornerback Kawika Ornellas also has six career starts.
Senior Kenny Estes, who has contributed primarily on special teams, has worked at free safety and nickelback. Freshman Mike Sellers has climbed the depth chart to contend for the fifth DB spot in nickel packages.