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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 27, 2008

UH won't be facing Tomey of old

 •  UH's goal: WAC repeat

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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When: 6:05 p.m. today

Where: Aloha Stadium

Radio: 1420 AM

TV: Pay-per-view, Ch. 255 (live); 10 a.m. tomorrow K5

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These days, you can't identify San Jose State head coach Dick Tomey by looking at his offensive playbook.

The Tomey of past coaching stints 10 years at Hawai'i, 14 at Arizona was relatively conservative on offense.

"Dick Tomey has really diversified offensively," said UH associate head coach Rich Miano, who was a Warrior safety under Tomey in the 1980s.

The Spartans, who play the Warriors tonight at Aloha Stadium, are a pot luck of this generation's trendy offensive schemes.

The Spartans can align in a spread formation (with one back or an empty backfield), or a pro set (two backs, two receivers and a tight end), or a king formation (two tight ends).

The quarterback can receive the snap from under center or in a shotgun.

In the spread formation, the Spartans use the West Coast principles of short, ball-control passes.

Against San Diego State, the Spartans rushed for 293 yards and five touchdowns. Against Stanford, they completed 23 of 26 passes with no interceptions.

Of the chameleon-like approach, Miano said: "I never thought you'd see that from Dick Tomey. That's the college game. You've seen elements in the NFL. He has really diversified his attack. It's pretty scary. And they've got talented, skilled athletes at quarterback and running back."

Here's a look at tonight's game::

SAN JOSE STATE OFFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

WR8 David Richmond 6-4 200 Sr.

LT66 John Konye 6-4 270 So.

LG72 Isaac Leatiota 6-4 295 So.

C70 Robbie Reed 6-3 290 So.

RG73 Ailao Eliapo 6-3 320 So.

RT59 Jon Moreno 6-4 280 Jr.

TE9 Jeff Clark 6-6 250 Sr.

WR3 Terrance Williams 6-5 225 Jr.

WR88 Jalal Beauchman 6-4 220 Jr.

QB7 Kyle Reed 6-3 215 Jr.

RB34 Yonus Davis 5-8 190 Sr.

Outlook: Even more remarkable than his dual athletic skills he runs 40 yards in 4.6 seconds and leads the nation in passing accuracy (79.38 percent) is Reed's ability to adapt. He did not throw a pass in his two years at California. He redshirted last season after transferring, then missed the Spartans' spring training because of a foot injury. After essentially a three-year layoff, he started this season's second game, completing his first 13 passes. For now, Reed is using the basic offensive package, mostly involving short passes. In last week's game against Stanford, he completed 23 of 26 passes. But none of his completions traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Eight were screens, seven were flat routes and three were slant patterns. Ten of the completions went to tight ends.

The tradeoff for a high-accuracy rate is sacks. The Spartans have yielded 17 in four games; they have been sacked on 12 percent of their pass plays. Against Stanford, five of the eight sacks were on first- and second-down plays.

But Reed's options are limited. The Spartans' best receiver, Kevin Jurovich, won't play because of mononucleosis. Richmond, a burner who has played only three years of organized football, has a team-high 23 catches, but none ending in the end zone. Jurovich has one of the Spartans' two scoring receptions this season.

Davis, who is tough enough to run between the tackles and quick enough to utilize the perimeters, is fifth among active Division I-A players with a career yards-per-rush average of 5.90. He is averaging 6.8 yards this season.

SAN JOSE STATE DEFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

DE17 Jeff Schweiger 6-5 280 Sr.

DT90 Jarron Gilbert 6-6 280 Sr.

DT96 Adonis Davis 6-2 295 Jr.

DE95 Carl Ihenacho 6-3 245 Jr.

LB2 Duke Ihenacho 6-1 200 So.

LB14 Travis Jones 6-1 220 Jr.

LB93 Justin Cole 6-3 240 Jr.

CB21 Coye Francies 6-1 185 Sr.

S8 Kyle Flynn 6-2 205 Sr.

S24 Devin Newsome 5-10 165 So.

CB29 Christopher Owens 5-10 170 Sr.

Outlook: In a chicken-or-egg debate, the Spartans' defensive success is either a result of an aggressive front seven that eases the pressure on the secondary or the two shutdown corners who help out the pass rush. The defensive ends Schweiger and Carl Ihenacho get most of the publicity. Schweiger started his NCAA career at USC (he has a 2004 national championship ring). Of Ihenacho's team-high 27 tackles, seven have been in the backfield. In four games his season, he has matched his 2007 total of five sacks. Scouts marvel at not only Ihenacho's speed (4.63 seconds in the 40), but his improved "hips," football parlance for flexibility and technique.

One of the keys is Gilbert, who moved from defensive end in the middle of last season. Usually such a move leads to a drop in backfield tackles. But Gilbert, who often is aligned in the B gap (between the guard and tackle), is still causing chaos. Six of his 13 tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage, and he also has a pass breakup and quarterback hurry.

The Spartans have sampled the Warriors' strategy of creating speed at positions by shifting players. Duke Ihenacho is a former safety. Newsome was a cornerback, and Flynn moved from wideout. Then again, Francies (4.45 seconds over 40 yards), who started his career at Oregon State, and Owens (4.5 in the 40), a third-year starter, were born to play the corners. They are clingy bump-and-run defenders who free up other defenders to either blitz or cover the flats.

SAN JOSE STATE SPECIAL TEAMS

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

PK10 Jared Strubeck 5-8 182 Sr.

P/H35 Philip Zavala 6-1 200 Jr.

S51 Matt Wigley 6-2 230 Jr.

KR/PR15 Brandon Rutley 5-10 190 Fr.

Outlook: Few kickers have suffered more from rule changes than Strubeck. In recent years, the height limit of the tee has gone from 2 inches to 1 inch, and the kickoff start has withdrawn by 5 yards, to the 30. Strubeck's average deep kickoff reaches the opponent's 9. His short game is better. Eight of 13 onside kicks have been recovered during his career. Strubeck also is struggling with his placekicks, having missed 5 of 8 field-goal attempts. Plan B is no option. Against Nebraska, Will Johnson hit the upright on a PAT try and missed a field-goal attempt from 41 yards.

HAWAI'I OFFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

LWO1 Greg Salas 6-2 200 So.

LSB5 Michael Washington 5-9 170 Sr.

LT77 Aaron Kia 6-5 290 Jr.

LT50 Laupepa Letuli 6-4 320 Jr.

LG63 Brysen Ginlack 6-2 310 So.

LG74 Raphael Ieru 6-2 315 Jr.

C55 John Estes 6-2 295 Jr.

RG51. C. "Lafu" Tuitoi-Mariner 6-0 300 Sr.

RT78 Keoni Steinhoff 6-3 295 Sr.

RSB85 Aaron Bain 5-8 190 Sr.

RWO89 Malcolm Lane 6-1 180 Jr.

QB6 Tyler Graunke 6-0 185 Sr.

QB11 Inoke Funaki 5-11 190 Jr.

RB48 David Farmer 6-1 240 Sr.

RB4 Leon Wright-Jackson 6-1 215 Jr.

RB21 Kealoha Pilares 5-11 190 So.

Outlook: The pass pocket is not a fixed architectural structure. Its dimensions fluctuate, influenced by the defensive push, fatigue, momentum and, most of all, the synchronicity between the blockers and quarterback. Injuries have created a revolving situation at quarterback and on the offensive line for the Warriors, and, in turn, the passing attack has suffered in the first three games. Completions and post-catch yards are down, compared to the past few seasons, and the number of hits on the quarterback has increased. Against Oregon State, Graunke played 39 snaps, but was hit 14 times. He was hit on 13 of 27 pass plays; at least three of the hits culminated in the hand injury that forced him from the game and into two weeks of physical-therapy sessions. The Warriors spent the past two weeks trying to find ways to shield whoever starts at quarterback. Letuli, who is recovering from a slight tear in his left shoulder, is the team's best left tackle. But Kia, who is healthier, has been given most of the practice snaps.

The pass protection should improve with the return of Farmer, who has not played since suffering a partially torn MCL during training camp. In the shotgun, where the back is positioned to the side of the quarterback, Farmer is skilled in cross-over blocks aligning on the left side and picking up the pass-rusher attacking from the right. "I think it's a tenacity thing," Farmer said of his blocking. "It's just getting in there and having the will to protect the quarterback. I'm worried about not letting down the other 10 guys on the field. My job is blocking that one guy so he doesn't get to (the quarterback)." Farmer, in fact, also has a part-time job. "He made a run the other day that made him look like Larry Csonka," head coach Greg McMackin said. "I'm excited about Dave Farmer. He brings an addition to our package. We haven't had that big running back all season."

Wright-Jackson (sore left arch) is back, and running back Daniel Libre (sprained right ankle) might be available. That would allow Pilares the flexibility of being a running back or receiver. Pilares has caught 70 percent of the passes thrown in his direction this season.

HAWAI'I DEFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

LE94 David Veikune 6-3 265 Sr.

LT93 Keala Watson 6-3 320 Sr.

RT99 Josh Leonard 6-3 305 Sr.

RE58 John Fonoti 6-2 255 Jr.

LLB44 Adam Leonard 6-0 235 Sr.

MLB13 Brashton Satele 6-1 255 Jr.

RLB17 Solomon Elimimian 6-0 225 Sr.

LCB/NB2 Ryan Mouton 5-10 175 Sr.

FS35 Keao Monteilh 5-11 200 Sr.

SS7 Erik Robinson 5-10 200 Sr.

NS24 Desmond Thomas 6-2 170 Sr.

RCB23 Calvin Roberts 5-11 175 Sr.

NCB3 Jameel Dowling 6-3 200 Sr.

Outlook: Veikune, Fonoti and Josh Leonard played more than 93 percent of the defensive snaps against Oregon State. They won't be asked to be ironmen this week, especially against the Spartans' multiple sets. The defensive line receives a boost from the return of defensive tackles Rocky Savaiigaea, who has not played this season because of a triceps injury, and Fale Laeli, who has endured tendinitis in his right knee and then a tweaked right ankle. Including Vaughn Meatoga and Tuika Tufaga, the Warriors can rotate six at the two tackle positions.

The Warriors have emphasized defensive play-making the past two weeks. In three games, they have forced only two turnovers both on interceptions. Of greater importance are the struggles on third down. The goal is to hold opponents' conversions to under 33 percent; this year, they are at 40 percent.

HAWAI'I SPECIAL TEAMS

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

PK86 Dan Kelly 6-3 225 Sr.

P/H49 Tim Grasso 5-11 210 Sr.

S57 Jake Ingram 6-4 235 Sr.

KR2 Ryan Mouton 5-10 175 Sr.

KR79 Malcolm Lane 6-1 180 Jr.

KR7 Jovonte Taylor 5-9 185 Jr.

PR5 Michael Washington 5-9 170 Sr.

PR85 Aaron Bain 5-8 190 Sr.

HH19 Richard Torres 5-7 165 Fr.

HH31 Spencer Smith 5-11 200 So.

Outlook: The Warriors have reshuffled the kickoff coverage, installing Torres and Smith as the head-hunters, a seek-the-returner position previously known as "gunner" or "hawk." The idea was to energize the special-team units. But none of that matters unless Kelly breaks out of his inconsistent play on kickoffs. Of his 11 kickoffs this season, five have resulted in touchbacks. But the other six are landing, on average, at the 18. "We need the better field position, period," said Kelly, who has worked the past two weeks on his placements and hang time. The goal is a hang time of at least 4 seconds, although the time can go down the deeper the ball is kicked. UH's modest goal is to make sure the opponent starts a drive inside the 35. "I set our goal a little higher," Kelly said. "Anything outside the 25 is considered a failure for me."

Visit Tsai's blog at http://hawaiiwarriorbeat.com.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.