Hana Hou? Umm, No.
The Hawaii Warriors won’t duplicate last year’s success, but they’ll still be worth watching.
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The excitement on defense begins with the linebackers. Adam Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and Blaze Soares spearhead the finest group of linebackers in the WAC. Leonard briefly flirted with leaving school a year early to enter the NFL draft, but wisely chose to stay for his senior season. Elimimian was named “WAC Defensive Player of the Year” in a recent preseason media poll. When he comes back from injury, Soares may be one of the most fun players to watch, as he has three levels of hitting power: hard, harder and runaway freight train. Defensive coordinator Cal Lee is also excited about junior Brashton Satele, who will provide backup support in the middle.
The defensive line may be lacking in star quality, but it offers both experience and depth. Seniors Keala Watson, Fale Laeli and Josh Leonard will be in the rotation at the tackle spots, along with junior Rocky Savaiigaea. Right end John Fonoti is ready to improve on a productive sophomore campaign, when he notched three sacks and two forced fumbles. David Veikune, an All-WAC selection who led the team in sacks (seven) as a reserve, will man the left end spot.
Even with the loss of three starters, Hawaii’s secondary remains strong. Desmond Thomas and Keao Monteilh are solid at the safety positions, and Oregon transfer Jameel Dowling will compete with returnee JoPierre Davis for one cornerback spot. The other cornerback position will be filled by senior Ryan Mouton, who is expected to have a big year. The 5-10, 180-lb. Mouton has NFL ability, and it was his interception in the waning seconds of the UH-Washington game that preserved the Warriors’ Sugar Bowl bid.
The special teams should benefit from a more aggressive approach this season. In a radical departure from Jones’ let’s-just-make-sure-we-give-our-offense-a-chance-to-score philosophy, McMackin has promised to attack opposing punt units. Steady placekicker Dan Kelly returns for his senior campaign.
PHOTOS: COURTESY UH SPORTS MEDIA RELATIONS