University of Hawaii linebacker Benneton "Benny" Fonua is no longer on the outside — not in his position alignment, not in his importance to the defense.
"He’s doing a good job for us," coach Norm Chow said of Fonua.
Fonua was one of the prized signings of the 2012 recruiting class, Chow’s first as UH head coach. Fonua was the state’s defensive player of the year as a Kahuku High senior in 2011.
But Fonua was seldomly used as a middle linebacker in 2012 and strongside linebacker in 2013. After Kevin Clune was hired as defensive coordinator in January, the Rainbow Warriors switched to a four-linebacker alignment. Fonua was moved to inside linebacker.
Of the switch, Fonua said, "I was very happy. It gives us more space so we can move around and make tackles and make plays. That’s what it’s all about — making plays."
Clune said: "He’s a good, tough run-stopper. He dived into the new system and is doing a good job there. We want to see him keep improving."
Fonua said he has trimmed 15 pounds this offseason, and now weighs 235. He credited strength/conditioning coordinator Gary Beemer. "I followed his nutrition plan and ran a lot," Fonua said.
Fonua said he never was discouraged about a lack of playing time, nor did he consider transferring.
"It’s my choice, and I want to be here," he said. "I want to make a difference here."
He said it also helped to play special teams under coordinator Chris "Demo" Demarest.
"He can be very vicious at times," Fonua said, smiling. "But that’s the game. He makes us learn. The way Coach Demo puts it is crystal clear. We just go out and hit and play."
Faalologo moves to ‘D’
Penitito Faalologo has been moved from fullback to defensive lineman.
Faalologo, who is 5-foot-11 and more than 250 pounds, had been projected to dent defenses as a power blocker. But he was inconsistent in catching swing passes, and it was decided his relentless energy would be better suited as a defensive lineman.
"It’s really hard to go from offense for five (spring) practices to a sixth practice (at defensive line) and ‘here we go,’" Clune said. "He got a lot of reps today. We’ll see on film how he did. There weren’t any glaring errors, I know that."
Vele catching on
Faalologo’s move opens the way for Justin Vele, who is listed as a tight end but plays the hybrid F position as a fullback and H-back.
Vele, a former linebacker, is a skilled blocker. In spring practices, he has shown soft hands as a receiver.
"The one aspect is you go out and run routes and catch balls," Vele said. "I’ve been working a lot with the receivers. I feel I have more knowledge. Like Coach Chris (Naeole, who coordinates the offensive line) said, ‘the more you know, the freer you get to play.’ "