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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 29, 2007

Multi-blitz approach Warriors' calling card

Photo galleryUH football photo gallery

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i wideout Antwan Mahaley, right, tries to break loose from linebacker Micah Lau during a scrimmage last night at Aloha Stadium.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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As the University of Hawai'i football team's spring training concluded last night, a renewed defensive era began.

Greg McMackin, who was rehired as defensive coordinator three weeks ago, promised the Warriors "will be a blitzing team."

He added: "If you were to put our philosophy into words, it's an attacking, swarming defense that gang tackles and makes big plays with emotion."

McMackin, who was the Warriors' defensive coordinator in 1999, implemented most of his 4-3 defense by the end of Thursday's practice, the last teaching session of spring training. In training camp in August, McMackin will install the rest of the nickel package and teach the inside-the-15 schemes.

"We have smart, coachable players, and they learned everything quickly," McMackin said.

Most of all, the Warriors embraced McMackin's multi-blitz approach. The Warriors might blitz on every play, even if the intent is not to hunt the quarterback. McMackin's schemes also call for run-stopping blitzes.

"We're going to go 11 up and go after some people," McMackin said.

McMackin said he developed the philosophy when he was Miami's defensive coordinator in the 1990s.

"That came from Jimmy Johnson, trying to get the fastest guys on the field to make plays," McMackin said. "Size is the big thing for our two tackles, but everything else is speed. And our tackles can run, too. The main thing is coach (June) Jones allows us to blitz, which a lot of coaches don't."

McMackin said the defensive ends Karl Noa, Amani Purcell, David Veikune, Francis Maka and Victor Clore have been impressive in spring training.

"They're perfect in this package," McMackin said. "They can all run. They can pass rush. They're all around 250, 260 pounds."

McMackin said the top three linebackers Adam Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and Blaze Soares are both strong and agile. When the Warriors slide into the 3-3-5 Okie defense, in which a nickelback replaces a defensive tackle, the starting linebackers can remain in the lineup. In the Okie, one of the linebackers can move up to the defensive line to serve as a pass-rusher.

"It gives us an advantage when our linebackers don't have to leave the field," McMackin said.

McMackin also praised Jake Patek, who was the strong safety last year. Patek will play right safety in McMackin's defense.

"He's learned how to go to the football," McMackin said. "He's doing great."

McMackin said he will spend the next two weeks meeting one on one with each defensive player. "I want to get to know all of them a little better," he said.

He will return to the Mainland for a couple of weeks to take care of his homes in Texas and Las Vegas. Then McMackin will return to Hawai'i, most likely for a long time.

During his first UH stint, he bought a house in Hawai'i. He said he had planned to stay for a long time before Texas Tech offered him five times the amount he was earning at UH. At the time, his daughter and two grandchildren were living with him. Jones ordered McMackin to accept the Texas Tech offer. McMackin later was on the San Francisco 49ers' coaching staff.

"I'm going to be here as long as June is here," McMackin said. "I'm not going anywhere."

Asked what would happen if he were offered a lucrative deal from another school, McMackin said: "If something came up, I'm going to stay right here with June Jones.

"Fortunately (Texas Tech and the 49ers) did give me a lot of money, and now I'm not as concerned about money. Back then, I had to do that. Now I don't have to do that. I like it here. I love June Jones. I think he's the best coach in the country."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.