Warriors football don pads, deal hits
|Photo gallery: University of Hawai'i football practice|
|Video: Hard-hitting Warriors don pads for first time|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i football team put on the pads for the first time in training camp, then it put on the hits.
"It felt good to mix it up," defensive tackle Michael Lafaele said.
The drills featured snaps, crackles and, when the defensive backs got together, a lot of pops. It was during the one-on-one drills that defensive coordinator Greg McMackin decided freshman Le'Marcus Gibson, a safety, might receive extensive playing time this season.
"I really like Le'Marcus Gibson," McMackin said. "Did you see the tackling drills? He's pounding guys. I'm not afraid to use him. Remember Gil Byrd? I started him as a freshman (at San Jose State)."
Byrd went on to have an All-Pro career with the San Diego Chargers.
"That's good to hear," Gibson said of McMackin's praise. "I'm trying to do my hardest. I'm trying to make every play my best play. I've been into it in the meetings, trying to learn the defense. I don't want them to be scared to put me out there. I want to play like I'm an upperclassman."
The two-hour practice, held in the afternoon to accommodate players attending summer school, ended with a 32-play, hit-everybody-but-the-quarterback scrimmage.
Colt Brennan, sporting a new crew cut, was 10 of 17, but three of his passes were dropped. He was sacked twice — both times by Blaze Soares — on apparent quick whistles, and he scrambled out of trouble once.
"It was just good to get out there again," Brennan said. "You can only do so much during the summer workouts."
Left slotback Davone Bess had four catches, displaying both elusiveness and breakaway speed. Bess said he gained about nine pounds and now weighs 194. He also is healthy for the first time in two years.
"He looked good out there," Brennan said. "But so did all of my guys."
Bess said: "I feel good. A couple of people asked how I feel, and I tell them this is the best I've ever felt. I'm trying to work on maintaining my health and staying focused. That's the main thing."
Still, there were a few blown assignments on both offense and defense.
"A little rust," strong safety Jacob Patek said. "I'm rusty. We're trying to work out the kinks right now. That's what camp is for."
Of yesterday's practice, UH coach June Jones said: "Whenever you put the helmets and pads on, the guys turn it up a little bit. We've got to learn how to practice. We've got a lot of new guys, and we need to practice hard but try to be smart."
BRENNAN LOSES LOCKS
Much to his teammates' regret, Brennan shaved off his dreadlocks. He had grown them as a sign of unity. The four starting receivers — Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullins, C.J. Hawthorn and Jason Rivers — all sport dreadlocks.
"I had a photo shoot with Sports Illustrated (Sunday)," Brennan said. "My braids were all out in front because of my helmet. I couldn't find anyone to fix it in time. It was either take a picture for Sports Illustrated with the ugliest haircut in America or shave it off and try to have somewhat of a reasonable picture. I shaved it off. I miss it, though. All of the guys seem to really miss it. But the coaches are happy to see me back to a shaved head."
The Sporting News also is town for a story on Brennan and the Warriors. Last night, they took pictures of Brennan singing with '03, a musical group featuring teammates Lafaele, Timo Paepule, Rustin Saole, Larry Sauafea and Fale Laeli.
Asked about Brennan's singing talent, Lafaele said: "He's sort of like our manager."
FREE SAFETY UP IN AIR
The competition at free safety should continue for a while.
Entering training camp, according to McMackin, Desmond Thomas was No. 1 and Keao Monteilh was the top backup.
But McMackin said there will be several situations in which both will play. Monteilh is the No. 1 nickelback.
McMackin also said Erik Robinson, a transfer from Navarro Junior College in Texas, deserves an opportunity.
"When Erik learns the defense, he's shown he needs a shot at safety, too," McMackin said.
Robinson said: "I'm cool right now. I'm new and I'm learning the system. I don't want them to put me out there and I give up big plays. I want to learn everything. I'm trying to get better."
The biggest adjustment, Robinson said, is the number of defensive checks.
"We didn't have to make a lot of checks in junior college," he said. "I'm getting better. Coach (Rich Miano) is staying with me after practice, giving me tips. I'm going to strive to be better."
PURCELL RISES TO NO. 1
Amani Purcell has emerged as the No. 1 left end on defense.
It is a position Purcell played at Penn State as a freshman and sophomore. Purcell transferred from Penn State in 2005. At UH last season, he was used as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme. By the end of the season, he moved to defensive end.
This season the Warriors are attacking out of a 4-3 defense.
"It's a good defense," Purcell said. "I feel comfortable playing back down in the (three-point) stance."
Purcell said he weighed 245 at Penn State. He said he gained about 30 pounds since the end of last season and now weighs between 275 and 280 pounds.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.