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2009 Hawaii Preview - Defense
Hawaii DE John Fonoti
Hawaii DE John Fonoti
Posted Jul 14, 2009 2009 Preview - Hawaii Defense

Hawaii Warriors

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Hawaii Preview | 2009 Hawaii Offense
- 2009 Hawaii Defense |
2009 Hawaii Depth Chart
2008 Hawaii Preview | 2007 Hawaii Preview | 2006 Hawaii Preview   

What you need to know: Head Greg McMackin’s 4-3 defense continues to work well, but now it’ll be put to the test with only two starters returning. While it might seem like a daunting task to lose so many key players, there are several good prospects about to shine with more playing time and more responsibility. R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane is about to be a new star at linebacker wile Blaze Soares returns from injury to be a key player at strongside linebacker. The defensive line will get into the backfield but it has to prove it can hold up against the run. The secondary has big-time upside and should be fine in time, but it could be a problem early on until the corners can show they can handle the work.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: John Foloti, 62
Sacks: John Fonoti, 3.5
Interceptions: Brashton Satele, 1

Star of the defense: Senior LB Brashton Satele
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Chris Black
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB R.J. Keisel-Kauhane
Best pro prospect: Satele
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Satele, 2) DE John Fonoti, 3) Keisel-Kauhane
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, pass rush
Weakness of the defense: Experience, corner

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Trying to take over for David Veikune and his nine sacks and 73 tackles on the left side will be Elliot Purcell, a 6-3, 250-pound junior who made just four tackles in his limited work. He’s a smart athlete who hasn’t been able to break through and become a factor yet, and while he’ll be part of a rotation, he has the burst to be a breakout performer.

Working on the right side will once again be John Fonoti, a decent all-around playmaker who finished fifth on the team with 62 tackles to go along with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. While he’s not all that big at 6-2 and 255 pounds, he’s tough and he has a good nose for getting into the backfield. Now he needs to be a better closer by using his tremendous speed to turn hurries into sacks.

Bringing the size on the inside is Vaughn Meatoga, a 6-2, 305-pound sophomore who got a little bit of playing time and even started against Utah State. He finished with ten tackles and showed good interior pass rushing ability in his limited work. While there are concerns across the line, Meatoga could be the new star.

6-2, 285-pound Tuika Tufaga will be a part of a rotation at left tackle after making eight tackles with a half a sack in a little bit of playing time. He’s a very quick, very promising senior who hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup but has the ability to be a decent, steady producer.

Projected Top Reserves: Working in tandem with Tufaga will be Rocky Savaiigaea who’ll add more size on the left side. At 6-2 and 330 pounds, he’s a huge body for the interior but he’s unproven playing in only one game last year and making one tackle. He’s not going to get into the backfield all that often; he’ll be in to stop the run.

Pushing for time on the left side will be Victor Clore, a linebacker-like 6-2, 250-pound senior who made two tackles in his limited time. He wasn’t able to get through the depth chart so far and now has to prove he can get to the quarterback like Elliott Purcell should be able to.
Watch Out For ... Fonoti and Purcell to be fine. There isn’t a Veikune up front, but the pass rush should still be decent with a good scheme and a coaching staff that likes to sell out and make sure quarterbacks get hit.
Strength: Pass rush. The pass rush has blown up over the last few years and was dominant last season. The Warriors came up with 36 sacks and were 16th in the nation in tackles for loss.
Weakness: Veteran starters. Fonoti is solid, but the tackles are iffy and there’s no replacing Veikune. This will be a good line, but it won’t be the killer of last year.
Outlook: The defense moved from a 3-4 to a 4-3 two years ago and the results were tremendous. The run defense was decent and the pass rush and playmaking in the backfield has been unstoppable. Now the line has to replace three starters with only John Fonoti coming back at right end. There will be a regular rotation, especially at tackle, with Elliott Purcell, Victor Clore, or even converted running back Jake Heun needing to come through on the left side in place of all-star pass rusher David Veikune. While the line will be a work in progress, it’s not going to be the glaring weakness it might appear to be on paper.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters
The loss of Solomon Elimimian and his 121 tackles might be tough, but there’s a star ready to break out in junior R.J. Kiesel Kauhane. He stepped in for three games as the starter at the Buck position and for a game at the strongside Stub to finish with 22 tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss. At 5-11 and 225 pounds, he’s an undersized linebacker who can fly on the outside and should be one of the team’s top three tacklers.

The one returning starter to the linebacking corps is Brashton Satele in the middle. He didn’t have to take on the role of most middle linebackers with Elimimian and Adam Leonard making all the plays. Satele as good 6-1, 255-pound size and decent experience making 53 tackles, a sack, and six tackles for loss. He can get into the backfield on a regular basis and is a tough run stopper in the middle. He’ll be one of the leaders of the defense  if he can get past a shoulder injury that bothered him in spring ball.

Trying to replace Adam Leonard and his 88 tackles at the Stub position is Blaze Soares, a projected starter in last year’s linebacking corps who was lost for the year with a torn calf muscle. Now he’s back and ready to be one of the team’s top defenders after making 27 tackles and six tackles for loss in 2007. At 6-1 and 235 pounds the junior has good size and is extremely quick. While he’ll be used as a pass rusher, he’ll also be nasty against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Satele in the middle will be junior Mana Lolotai, a 6-0, 240-pound junior who only made four tackles and is still unproven. He has the size and the strength to play on the strongside, and he’s quick enough to see a little bit of work on the weakside.

6-3, 225-pound Paipai Falemalu is a very fast, very promising option behind Soares on the strongside. Arguably the best recruit in Hawaii two years ago, he was a nice get for the program and has the tackling ability to grow into an all-star at some point in the next few years. It might take a year to find a home in the starting lineup, but he’ll be a factor.

Watch Out For ... Soares. Supposed to be a star two years ago, it never happened as he failed to become more than a backup. He was supposed to be a major playmaker last year but he got hurt. With all the big changes on the front seven, he’ll step in and be a major factor right away.
Strength: The system. Not to slight Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard after their great careers, but Hawaii always seems to find ways to get tremendous production out of its tough, quick, undersized linebackers. Falemalu and Lolotai fit the type while the starters should put up huge numbers.
Weakness: Proven depth. There wasn’t much room for anyone to crack the lineup last year with such a good starting three. There might be good potential across all three spots, but there isn’t much in the way of proven commodities to count on right away.
Outlook: It’s asking for way, way too much for the linebacking corps to be as good as it was last year, but it might not be too far off despite the loss of all-stars Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard, who combined for 209 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. Brashton Satele has the potential to be fantastic in the middle now that he’ll have more responsibility, while the return of Blaze Soares from injury will ease the losses. R.J. Keisel-Kauhane is good enough to go from an unknown to an all-star in a big hurry. There’s plenty of athleticism, plenty of toughness, and a lot to get excited about, even if it takes a few games for the corps to jell.
Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
All four starters have to be replaced with the biggest loss at corner where Jameel Dowling finished fourth on the team in tackles. He was used in a variety of roles, and now it’ll be up to Chris Black to try to be the new playmaker. The 5-10, 175-pound senior was a star JUCO transfer with great open-field tackling ability and a nose for the ball. However, he didn’t do anything last year and will have to show early on that he can handle being picked on.

Starting on the other side will be Jeramy Bryant, 5-10, 170-pound junior who made two tackles with an interception in his limited role. The JUCO transfer out of California broke up 17 passes in his two years at Los Angeles Harbor College. While he’s not all that big, he’s one of the team’s fastest players and he’s not going to be beaten deep.

Keao Monteilh led the team with five interceptions at free safety. 5-11, 200-pound junior Spencer Smith has been a nice special teamer and part-time defensive back making 12 tackles. While he has decent quickness, he’ll make his name as a tough hitter who could be an intimidating force.

Mana Silva is a 6-1, 220-pound big-hitting prospect who made ten tackles last season and could be a major playmaker at strong safety. The junior started out his career at Oregon State and had to sit out the 2007 season after transferring home to Hawaii. Now he should be one of the team’s leading tacklers.

Projected Top Reserves: Arguably the team’s top recruit this year was Aaron Brown, a 6-1, 215-pound junior who was a JUCO superstar making 59 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and six sacks last year for Saddleback CC in California. He could’ve had his pick of several Pac 10 schools, but he’ll come in and instantly become a major factor at one of the safety spots. 

Lametrius Davis needs to find a spot somewhere. The JUCO transfer has 4.4 speed and Pac 10 talent, and now he brings his skills to the Warriors after making 21 tackles and breaking up ten tackles for Butte CC in California. He was a key piece of the national title team.

6-0, 200-pound junior Kenny Estes has seen a little bit of time, mostly as a special teamer, and now he’ll work at strong safety behind Mana Silva. With tremendous speed he has the potential to work at free safety and could flourish in nickel and dime packages.

Watch Out For ... Aaron Brown. With his size, quickness and JUCO experience, Brown could step in and be one of the team’s top tacklers. All four spots are up for grabs and Brown will be too good to keep off the field.
Strength: Safeties. While the starters have to be replaced and there isn’t a lot of experience, Brown, Mana Silva, and Spencer Smith have good size and should be strong hitters from day one. There will be plenty of mistakes, but the safeties should shine with a little bit of time and will be a strength next year.
Weakness: Proven production. There’s none. Absolutely none. There might be some good prospects and excellent upside at all four positions, but there isn’t one player the secondary can 100% count on for certain.
Outlook: All four starters have to be replaced, and while there isn’t any appreciable experience returning and there’s no depth to count on, things might not be all that bad. There are excellent prospect like superstar JUCO transfer Aaron Bain and former Oregon State transfer Mana Silva. The corners are extremely green, but they can move. The secondary will be helped by a good pass rush and should get better as the season goes on, but there could be problems early on until the right starting foursome is found.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Dan Kelly was a long-time veteran kicker, but he only hit 10-of-20 in a disappointing season. Redshirt freshman Brett Symonds doesn’t have a huge leg and will have to show he can be consistent from 40 yards and in. He won’t hit any bombs.

Tim Grasso had a nice bounceback year punting the ball putting 21 inside the 20 and forcing 12 fair catches, but he’s replaceable. Juniors Spencer Smith and Kenny Estes will battle for the job. Smith will be in the mix for the starting free safety job, while Estes will be trying for the strong safety gig.

WR Malcolm Lane is an elite kickoff returner averaging 29.2 yards per try with two touchdowns in 2007 and 26.5 yards per try last year. Ryan Henry has tremendous speed and should be decent in place of Michael Washington as a punt returner. Hawaii was last in the nation in punt returns, so it won’t take much to add a little improvement.

Watch Out For ... this to potentially be the team’s downfall. There’s nothing to rely on in the kicking game and the punt return game has miles to go before it’s merely decent.
Strength: Lane. He’s an All-America caliber kickoff returner who’ll always give the Warriors excellent field position. Teams have to do everything possible to stay away from him.
Weakness: Everything but Lane. Hawaii doesn’t have its starting punter yet, Brett Symonds will be a serviceable placekicker, and the coverage teams have to be far better. The Warriors averaged an abysmal two yards per punt return.
Outlook: Uh oh. Malcolm Lane might be an elite kickoff returner, but he’s the only positive. The punting game needs to find a living, breathing punter, an untested kicker, Brett Symonds, will get the starting nod and he doesn’t have a big leg, and the worst punt return game in America needs a boost from Ryan Henry. If that wasn’t enough, the kickoff coverage team has to be better after averaging giving up 24.4 yards per try.
Rating: 4


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2009 Hawaii Preview - Depth Chart
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2009 Hawaii Preview - Offense
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2009 CFN Hawaii Preview
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