Glanville's Big Bag Theory helps defense
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By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
On the first day of football training camp in August 2005, University of Hawai'i defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville introduced his close friend — a 6-foot, 200-plus-pound, buoy-shaped green bag — to the players.
"The first time I saw it," inside linebacker Adam Leonard recalled, "I thought, 'That's a big bag. I wonder what you use it for.' "
Indeed, the big bag was named the Big Bag, and it was used as a tackling and teaching tool. In the drill known as "hitting the Big Bag," a player braces against the opposite side while a defender tries to knock over the bag.
"One guy can't do it," Leonard said. "You need another guy to jump in and help knock it over. That's the way the bag is designed. It doesn't fall if one guy hits it. It teaches us that it's always good to have more guys in on the tackle. That's how we got our saying: 'There's always room for one more.' "
In position drills each practice, pairs of defenders take turn trying to hit the Big Bag.
"Ever since I've known Jerry, we've always had the Big Bag," head coach June Jones said. "The Big Bag represents an attitude and a belief in gang tackling. Jerry does a great job of getting that part of it done. He uses the Big Bag as a real person."
Glanville created Frankenstein's monster in 1974, his first year as a coach with the Detroit Lions. Glanville said he was told: "This is pro football. We don't do live hitting."
Glanville found a loophole. "They said 'no live hitting.' That didn't mean we couldn't hit something that wasn't alive," he theorized.
Glanville crafted the design for a large tackling bag. A manufacturer in Michigan built the first Big Bag.
Glanville ordered a new Big Bag every year.
"We used to put Big Bag in a golf cart," Glanville said. "We drove the cart onto the field to let Big Bag watch the game. For all of the work he does, we figured he deserved to go to the game."
After his last NFL job, with the Atlanta Falcons, Glanville went into broadcasting and race-car driving. During those years, Big Bag went into retirement.
In April 2005, Glanville was hired as UH's defensive coordinator. His first call was to the Michigan company.
"Sorry," Glanville was told, "We don't make it anymore. We only had one customer, and you went to TV."
Glanville called around, and found a company in Alabama. Glanville sent the designs.
"It has a heavy bottom, like a lot of people I used to know," Glanville said.
At the start of the 2005 training camp, Big Bag arrived. The players originally nicknamed it "Uriah," after former UH offensive lineman Uriah Moenoa.
"It's just Big Bag," Glanville stressed.
Glanville said the athletic department paid for Big Bag.
"I'm not sure of the cost, but I know the cost wasn't as much as the shipping," Glanville said.
He also does not know the contents of Big Bag.
"I'm guessing they filled it with the dirt from my office," Glanville said.
Glanville said the smaller bag, which is used for solo tackling, is "Big Bag's son. That's Little Stick."
Leonard said: "Big Bag really works. It's helps us a lot."
This season, 10 running backs and six quarterbacks have been forced from the game after absorbing UH hits.
Defensive right end Ikaika Alama-Francis yesterday resumed practicing, providing a boost for the injury-depleted defensive line.
Because of back spasms caused by a lumbar strain, Alama-Francis did not play in last Saturday's 68-10 victory over Idaho.
"I'm hopeful he can play" in Saturday's road game against Utah State, defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed."
In the Idaho game, backup defensive linemen Keala Watson (torn meniscus in right knee), Renolds Fruean (sprained right ankle) and Amani Purcell (sprained and hyperextended right knee) suffered injuries that will prevent them from playing against Utah State.
Yesterday, Laupepa Letuli, a converted offensive guard, and nose tackles Lawrence Wilson and Rocky Savaiigaea practiced as defensive ends.
"I like playing end," said Savaiigaea, a second-year freshman. "It's like playing d-tackle in high school. It's pretty cool."
Savaiigaea, who is 6 feet 3 and 315 pounds, can bench press 450 pounds.
Using nose tackles as ends, Reinebold said, "gives us the possibility of having three 300-pound guys on the field at one time to really hold the point."
Reinebold said Letuli made a quick adjustment during his first practice at defensive end.
"It's a lot easier when you have good examples," Reinebold said. "With Mel (Purcell) and Ikaika, he's got good role models in front of him. Every rep that he has helps him. Every rep he sees Mel and Ikaika do reinforces the message."
RETURN TO FIRST TEAM
Left outside linebacker Tyson Kafentzis and left cornerback A.J. Martinez were back practicing with the first-team defense yesterday.
But during 7-on-7 drills, Glanville noticed that Kafentzis began limping.
"I had to pull him out," Glanville said. "We'll see how he does the rest of the week."
Kafentzis had missed four games because of a hairline fracture in his right ankle. He returned for the Idaho game.
Rich Miano, who coaches the defensive backs, said Martinez is projected to start at left cornerback.
"He played a good game (against Idaho)," Miano said. "He'll start unless something happens and he doesn't have a good week of practice."
Martinez was a No. 1 cornerback from spring practice through the third game. But missed tackles against Boise State cost him a spot atop the cornerback rotation. Of Martinez's return to a starting role, Miano said, "He tackled well (against Idaho). If you tackle, you'll play. If you know what you're doing and you tackle, you have a good chance to play for the Warriors."
Martinez said he was not "discouraged" by his benching, but "I've been waiting and looking forward to my next opportunity."
He also said he is fully healed from a groin injury.
"I'm good, 100 percent," he said. "(The injury was) hard to get rid of. You think it's fine, then you wake up and it's sore as hell. It's a matter of rehab and resting, only we can't rest. We have games every week."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.