2007 Hawaii Preview - Defense

Posted Jun 10, 2007

Preview 2007 Hawaii Warrior Defense


Hawaii Warriors

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Hawaii Preview | 2007 Hawaii Offense Preview 
- 2007 Hawaii Depth Chart
| 2006 CFN Hawaii Preview 

What you need to know:
With defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville gone, Greg McMackin will change the D from a 3-4 to a 4-3, even though the one weak spot, at least early on, is experience on the line. The linebackers will be excellent with good depth behind top tacklers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian, and they won't have to do  as much compared to last year with a more conservative, though not that much, overall defensive approach. Three starters return to a secondary that needs to be far tighter and far more clutch in big situations.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Adam Leonard, 114
Sacks: Several with 2
Interceptions: Gerard Lewis, 3

Star of the defense: Senior DT Michael Lafaele
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Karl Noa
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Desmond Thomas
Best pro prospect: Lafaele
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lafaele, 2) LB Solomon Elimimian, 3) LB Adam Leonard
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, experience in the back seven
Weakness of the defense: Proven defensive linemen

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
The line needs to replace most of the top players up front, but it gets a good tackle to work around in 6-0, 302-pound senior Michael Lafaele at tackle. The former offensive lineman has been great against the run with 32 tackles, and he can get into the backfield a bit with two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He's everything to the line that has several question marks, and he can't be out like he was in spring ball with a hand injury.

Replacing excellent pass rushing ends Melila Purcell and Ikaika Alama-Francis will be job one. 6-4, 230-pound senior Karl Noa saw a little bit of action making 15 tackles with a sack. while 6-3, 258-pound junior David Veikune, made 11 tackles and two sacks. Veikune, who started out his career at Colorado before going the JUCO route, is a good-sized pass rusher, while Noa is a smart player who needs to use his speed and quickness to make up for the lack of bulk.

In the new 4-3 scheme, the line needs a new tackle with 6-3, 328-pound junior Keala Watson getting the first look. With his size and bulk, he needs to shine right away after making seven tackles last year. He missed the 2004 season with a blood disorder, and came back to be a reserve on the nose. Now it's his job to lose.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for time on the end, along with Veikune, is senior Amani Purcell, a former linebacker who'll be used as a speed rusher. He has decent size at 6-3 and 257 pounds, and he'll be a key part of the rotation.

With the second tackle added, the defense needs more backups. 6-2, 285-pound junior Fale Laeli will start out behind Lafaele and will find plenty of action as an interior pass rusher. He could also be a big end if needed, but he'll have to battle with two top JUCO transfers for time.

6-4, 275-pound JUCO transfer
Joshua Leonard is a ridiculously strong speed rusher with all the measurables to instantly step in and shine. Joining him is 6-5, 250-pound Christopher Leatigaga, another good pass rusher who can get in the backfield and be a disruptive force.

Watch Out For ... the JUCO transfers. The Warriors need pass rushers, and Leonard and Leatigaga fill the bill. They won't step in and start right away, but they'll provide a huge push for time.
Strength: Tackle size. Hawaii always seems to find big local products who can take up space on the inside. Lafaele and Watson aren't just wide bodies, they can move.
Weakness: Proven pass rush. All Alama-Francis and Purcell did was combined for 13.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss. The Warrior defense isn't going to attack like it used to, which means the ends will have to get into the backfield on their own.
Outlook: The move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 will take advantage of the good size up front, but it means depth needs to be found in one of the team's most depleted areas. The run defense could get pushed around at times, and the pass rush wasn't always consistent, but now the front four should do more to slow down the better running teams with a more conservative approach. Even so, dangerous ends need to be unearthed right away.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters
The linebacking corps should be strong led be 6-0, 224-pound junior Solomon Elimimian in the middle after finishing second on the team with 89 tackles, 172 over the last two years, and two tackles for loss. He has defensive back speed and great open-field tackling ability with sideline-to-sideline range. With even more room to move in the new scheme, he could turn into an All-WAC star.

Also back in the corps is 6-0, 236-pound junior Adam Leonard, a good ball-hawker who led the way with 114 stops with four recovered fumbles. Originally considered for the middle, he turned into a star on the outside proving to be both strong against the pass and decent at getting into the backfield. He's not always a rock against the run, but he makes a ton of tackles.

Stepping in at the other outside spot will be 6-1, 224-pound sophomore Blaze Soares, who'll be looking to provide some semblance of stability after a steady rotation of players seeing time last year. Still a little raw, he got his feet wet with 14 tackles while showing good pass rushing ability with two sacks and four quarterback hurries. He won't be turned loose too often, but he'll be a disruptive force.

Projected Top Reserves: If the Warriors still used four linebackers, 213-pound senior Brad Kalilmoku would be a starter. While small, he has phenomenal speed for a linebacker and good hitting ability making 71 tackles in 2005 and 34 last year with two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. After being moved from linebacker to strong safety early last year, he'll stay in the front seven playing behind Leonard.

Junior C.J. Allen-Jones was a strong reserve making 15 tackles, and now he has to use his tremendous speed to do even more. He's bulked up over the last few years, getting up to 224 pounds, and should be more of a factor in the rotation with Soares.

The team's biggest linebacker is 6-2, 255-pound senior Timo Paepule in the middle. Versatile enough to play inside or out, he broke out as a nice backup making 17 stops. He'll start out playing behind Elimimian.

Watch Out For ... this to somewhat quietly be among the most productive linebacking corps in the WAC. It's not as good as Boise State's or Nevada's, but it'll put up plenty of big stats.
Strength: Options. With the change from the 3-4 to the 4-3, there are plenty of linebackers to go around. There will be a great rotation at all three spots.
Weakness: Pass defense. Under Jerry Glanville, the linebackers were used more to attack and try to get into the backfield. Now they have to do more against the short to midrange passing games.
Outlook: The strength of the defense, the linebacking corps has Elimimian and Leonard to revolve around, and several good players who can fill in from time to time and create several different looks. The linebackers can get faster with Kalilimoku or Allen-Jones, of get bigger with Paepule. It's not a stretch to call this the program's best linebacking corps under June Jones.
Rating: 6.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
There are plenty of veterans in the secondary with three starters returning. Now everyone has to be better, starting with senior strong safety Jacob Patek, a former JUCO transfer who stepped in right away and finished fifth on the team with 55 tackles. He can hit, but he has to do far more when the ball is in the air and has to use his hitting ability to make even more big plays.

The one newcomer to the starting mix is 6-3, 171-pound junior Desmond Thomas, who has the unenviable task of taking over for Leonard Peters. Thomas made four tackles in a limited role, but with 4.5 speed and good open-field tackling ability, he should quickly become one of the defense's top stat sheet fillers. Most importantly, he has to be the dangerous pass defender Peters was.

The corners are beatable, but experienced. Seniors Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry aren't big (Lewis at 5-9 and 168 pounds and Newberry at 5-8 and 164 pounds) but they're very quick. Newberry, a former JUCO transfer with 4.3 speed, and now he has to use his athleticism to be more of a shutdown corner after making 32 tackles with two sacks. Lewis, also a former JUCO transfer, did more against the pass with three interceptions and five broken up passes with 33 tackles. Both have to be more consistent and tighten up considerably in the red zone.

Projected Top Reserves: There needs to be a better rotation at corner, and that means 5-10, 173-pound senior Ryan Keomaka has to play a bigger role behind Lewis after making 17 tackles and two interceptions. He's not nearly as fast as Lewis, but he's a bit bigger.

Junior Dane Porlas never got to see much of the field last year, doing most of his work on special teams with eight tackles, and now he should be a key backup at both safety spots. Able to play either strong or free safety, he'll be more involved.

Pushing for time at corner will be
Ryan Mouton, a star JUCO transfer who was clocked at 4.28 in the 40 and has good ball skills. At 5-10 and 185 pounds, he brings more size than the starting corners.

Watch Out For ... Thomas. Peters was a star in the defensive backfield making tackle after tackle. Thomas won't be that kind of a hitter, but the defense needs him to become a good pass defender.
Strength: Experience and speed. Everyone in the secondary can fly, and while the corners aren't all that big, they aren't going to be beaten deep because of speed. Technique and biting on moves, that's a different story.
Weakness: Toughness. The corners can get pushed around by bigger receivers and they have problems in key situations. Patek is physical, but he's the only one in the secondary anyone has to worry about getting tagged by.
Outlook: Many teams had to chuck the ball just to keep up with the Hawaii offense, but the secondary didn't do much to slow things down giving up 29 touchdown passes and ten games with 225 yards or more. With all the experience, there has to be more big plays, more broken up passes, and more consistency all across the board.
Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
After a great year hitting 13 of 17 field goals, including a 52-yard bomb against Purdue, junior Dan Kelly will also take over the punting duties from Kurt Milne, who averaged a mere 38 yards per kick. The return game could use far more pop with Myron Newberry back after only averaging 5.9 yards per punt return and Malcolm Lane taking over as the main kickoff returner with Ross Dickerson gone.

Watch Out For ... Kelly to have few problems double-dipping. Hawaii doesn't punt, with just 17 in 14 games last year. Handling everything won't take away from the field goal duties.
Strength: Kelly. He has range and consistency, despite missing two tough kicks in the three point loss to Oregon State. He can clean up anything the high-octane offense can't take care of.
Weakness: Coverage units. The defense needs all the help it can get, and the coverage teams have to be far tighter on kickoff returns, after allowing 21.8 yards per try.
Outlook: Hawaii has been mediocre in almost all areas for years, but it gets good placekickers. Kelly is a bright spot, and now everyone else has to be better.
Rating: 6.5


Related Stories
2007 Hawaii Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 10, 2007
2007 Hawaii Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 10, 2007
2007 Hawaii Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 10, 2007

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