UH loads up on defense
|||Damien recruit calls big play on signing day|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
In a staff meeting in November, University of Hawai'i football coach June Jones made a promise that led his assistant coaches to later ask themselves, "Did he really say that?"
Jones, the architect of the modern four-wide passing offense, pledged to devote most of the recruiting efforts to the defense, particularly the secondary.
"I said we're going to get four or five corners," Jones recalled.
Jones delivered on that promise yesterday, the first day football recruits may sign NCAA letters of intent. Of the 26 UH commitments, 19 are defensive players, including 11 defensive backs. UH received written commitments from six cornerbacks.
"He made a deal, and he never veered off of that," UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said in a telephone interview from his home in Georgia. "When he made that promise, I sat back and grinned. You should see the smile on my face right now."
This was the second consecutive year that Jones, in his eighth recruiting class at UH, spent the majority of scholarships on defensive players.
"I'll get greedy next year," Jones said. "I felt pretty confident about the young guys we have on offense. We have a lot of good redshirt freshmen on the offensive line. We've got a lot of good young receivers, and our quarterbacks are young. I felt we had a need for corners, and I wanted to address that need."
Glanville said UH is following the strategy of successful National Football League teams. Glanville and Jones were NFL head coaches.
"You don't get better if you don't strengthen a weakness," Glanville said. "In pro football, a lot of teams with five good offensive linemen, go out and draft another one. Why do that? You have to fix flat tires. June was committed to fixing flat tires."
Jones said he believed the Warriors had enough depth and talent in the front seven of their 3-4 defensive alignment. But he wanted to increase the competition at the corners, allowing the Warriors to play man-to-man pass coverages. Single coverage on the receivers, it is argued, will free up more blitzers — a key tactic in the 3-4 scheme.
"The only thing we needed to take a level up was the back end of the defense," Jones said. "We do have some young players who played a little bit (last season). Getting some JC corners (in recruiting) will make us better."
To be sure, there were some antsy moments. Lucious Henderson, a speedy cornerback from McCollum High School in Texas, had verbally committed to UH during his recruiting visit two weeks ago.
But yesterday, Henderson had some concerns, and held off sending a faxed copy of his signed letter of intent. The NCAA considers a faxed copy as a legally binding agreement.
After several telephone discussions with two UH coaches, Henderson sent the fax late yesterday morning.
"Everything's good," Henderson told The Advertiser.
Cornerback Gerard "G-Lew" Lewis of Tyler Junior College in Texas signed a scholarship agreement, a deal that binds UH — but not Lewis — to a scholarship for the 2006 season.
NCAA rules limit a recruit to signing only one letter of intent each year. Lewis had signed with Eastern New Mexico, a Division II school, in December. Although he received a release from that agreement, which was eventually voided by the NCAA, he is not allowed to sign a letter with UH. As a result, the Warriors were not permitted to announce Lewis' signing yesterday, and the coaches cannot comment publicly on Lewis until he enrolls in school in August.
The other cornerbacks are Myron Newberry of Trinity Valley College in Texas, Chris "Pacman" Camacho of Citrus College in California, Keenan Jones of Compton (Calif.) College, and Greg Salas of Chino (Calif.) High School.
Henderson and Salas each doubled as receivers in high school, but both will compete as cornerbacks in training camp.
Spencer Smith of Kell High School in Georgia and Jacob Patek of Blinn College in Texas should provide immediate competition at safety. Patek was a 2005 Preseason Junior College All-America linebacker.
"I look forward to getting a shot at safety," said Patek, who can run 40 yards in 4.41 seconds. Patek turned down offers from Texas A&M and Kansas.
"Getting Leonard back," Jones said of safety Leonard Peters, who is seeking a medical hardship that will allow him to play as a sixth-year senior, "will be a real plus."
In all, 19 UH recruits signed letters of intent yesterday.
Four others — offensive linemen Brysen Ginlack and Adrian Thomas, and wideouts Rick Taylor and C.J. Hawthorne — already are enrolled in UH this semester.
Defensive back Kenny Estes of Waimea High School will sign his letter during a school assembly tomorrow.
Moanalua High School coach Arnold Martinez said safety Stanford Leti and linebacker Quinton Tang are waiting for test results before signing. Martinez said both players remain committed to playing for the Warriors.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, Jones said, "I would rate (the recruiting class) as an 8 or 9, based on our needs. We needed to address our corners, and we addressed that very strongly."
Jones will comment on each recruit during today's news conference. NCAA rules restrict him to one such announcement.
"The NFL draft and college recruiting are the same," Glanville said. "The signings are all on paper. You never know how they'll end up. ... The kids we're bringing in, we hope they'll end up being as good as we think they are. No matter how good they are, they have to get better. That's the same for the players we have in the program right now. The quickest way for a team to improve is from within."
Glanville said the key "for Hawai'i is our weight program and quickness program. For the next few months, the most important person is Mel (deLaura, the team's conditioning coach)."
Glanville said each of the recruits will receive offseason training guidelines.
"Maybe we're not getting the same recruits as they get in the big conferences, like the Pac-10," Glanville said. "A school at our level has to improve the kids we have. We might not recruit like the schools in the big conferences. But we want them to improve so that by the time they're juniors, they'll be the type of players the Pac-10 schools wished they had.
"We want our players to work hard to get bigger and faster so they'll look like the people they're playing against."
For now, recruits such as Georgia's Smith are enjoying the moment. Smith said for the past four years, he picked UH when he played the NCAA football video game. "I'm looking forward to really playing for Hawai'i," he said.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.