Davis labors to keep his job
|Video: Second day of UH football practice|
|Photo gallery: UH football practice|
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
Temper the "tough" in "tough love" and JoPierre Davis is your man, or, for the purposes of University of Hawai'i football spring practice, your No. 1 right cornerback.
The bruising junior from San Francisco came on strong toward the end of last season as a special teams player and backup cornerback. He finished the season with eight tackles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Davis knows much more will be expected of him this season with the departure of starters Myron Newberry and Gerard Lewis. He said his development under new head coach Greg McMackin has prepared him to meet the challenge.
"J.J. (June Jones) was my guy, but I felt that this was going to be my year and I knew they would put someone in who was good for us," Davis said. "Coach Mack knows how I play and I respect him so much because he'll talk you through things, not just yell at you. I feel Coach Mack for that."
But that doesn't mean that Davis hasn't been hard on himself. Still stinging from last season's sobering slapdown at the hands of Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Davis said he's worked himself into the best shape of his collegiate career in preparation for the upcoming season and, in particular, the Warriors' opening game against SEC power Florida.
"Going into (the Sugar Bowl), I'll be honest, I didn't expect the outcome," Davis said. "I thought we'd win. But I also knew spring practice was coming around quick and I put a lot of work in."
Davis said he's been forcing himself to eat throughout the day — not always as easy as it seems given a full schedule of classes — to keep up his weight. He's also continued to hit the weights and strengthen his core muscles, a weakness in years past.
"I know some dudes in the league, and they work it like a job," Davis said. "They just work their butts off and that's what it takes to get there."
McMackin, for one, thinks Davis has the potential to get there, as well.
A well-carved 6 feet and 200 pounds, Davis has good size for his position and has demonstrated impressive physicality and athleticism in his limited minutes. But Davis didn't truly progress as a Warrior until he fully bought in to what the team was trying to accomplish and how listening closely to his coaches, particularly defensive backs coach Rich Miano, could help elevate his game, McMackin said.
"He was young, a sophomore, and nobody really paid attention to him," McMackin said. "When we came in last spring, we saw that he had some physical ability. He tended to play street ball and we worked on getting him to do what it takes to be a good defensive back.
"The thing is, he bought in to it and he's gotten better and better," McMackin said. "I think he can be a big time corner. If he continues to listen to Rich, continues to do well in his academics and continues to grow as a person, he can be playing on Sundays."
Davis said the staff's growing confidence in his abilities, evident in his spring practice designation as the player to beat at the right corner position, has helped his focus and concentration.
"It's a whole different feeling," Davis said. "Last year, I was always worried about what other guys were doing. This year, I can focus on what I'm doing. I feel I've done the work. I've worked hard."
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Among the many things that drew a smile from McMackin at yesterday's morning practice was the sight of his defense getting some early reps with single and triple option play.
"This is just our second practice and this is something we normally won't do until the second or third week," McMackin said.
The team will have their first practice in pads today and McMackin expects a more intense atmosphere.
"We'll get some more team, seven-on-seven, and one-on-one stuff going so it'll be more competitive," he said.
EASY FOR ESTES
It may take fans of UH's recent pass-pass-and-pass-again offense some time to get used to next season's more balanced attack, but for first-team all-Western Athletic Conference center John Estes, initiating more of the offense under center only simplifies the job.
"It's easier," Estes said. "I don't worry about the snaps too much. You just throw it up there and the quarterback's got it. I don't really think about the snap. I'll just look down to make sure that the quarterback is underneath."
McMackin is starting the team under center to help players get used to the different style, but he said the team will play just as much in the shotgun formation.
"We want to help with our running game," McMackin said. "We want to run bootleg and play-action passes and be a little more well-rounded in our package."
Under new assistant coach Brian Smith, Estes and his O-line mates are being pushed to refine the techniques necessary to respond to dynamic game situations.
"Things are a little different," Estes said. "They're a little more refined, with Coach Smith coaching us. There's more (attention) on techniques. There are specific steps he wants us to take for every shade and for whatever the defense is in."
MAKA PREPPING, WAITING
Defensive lineman Francis Maka is still collecting information from his doctors to forward to the NCAA in support of his petition to be granted an extra year of eligibility due to medical hardship.
McMackin said that once the NCAA receives the material for review, Maka will be able to practice with the team.
Reach Michael Tsai at email@example.com.