Warriors' defense has big task
By Stephen Tsai
The picture of the Wisconsin football team is this: the front line is in the back row.
The Badgers' average starting offensive lineman is 6 feet 5 1/2 and 317 pounds.
Admission forms likely come with "you must be this tall to enter" minimums.
"They're like the New York football Giants," Hawai'i associate head coach Rich Miano said. "They have height and weight requirements. If you play the offensive line, it seems you have to be 6-4."
Bucky Badger, the mascot, would qualify. He is listed as 6 feet 10 and 285 pounds.
Or as a UH player once said of a team from Wisconsin's conference: "They don't call it the Little Ten."
Miano is familiar with the Warriors' opponent tonight.
Two of his brothers are Wisconsin alumni — Rick earned a PhD in nuclear engineering, Steve earned a master's in industrial engineering.
Miano is close friends with former Pro Bowl receiver Al Toon, a Wisconsin graduate. Both were selected by the New York Jets in the 1985 National Football League draft. Toon's son, Nick, is the Badgers' top receiver.
"I'm sure my brothers will have mixed emotions," Miano said, "but they'll definitely root for us. It's family over alumni."
Here's a look at each team:
Pos.—Player Ht. Wt. Cl.
WR—1 Nick Toon 6-3 212 So.
TE—89 Garrett Graham 6-3 250 Sr.
LT—68 Gabe Carimi 6-7 325 Jr.
LG—74 John Moffitt 6-5 320 Jr.
C—66 Peter Konz 6-5 315 Fr.
RG—70 Kevin Zeitler 6-4 317 So.
RT—78 Jake Bscherer 6-7 310 Jr.
TE—84 Lance Kendricks 6-4 236 Jr.
WR—6 Isaac Anderson 5-10 177 Jr.
QB—16 Scott Tolzien 6-3 205 So.
RB—32 John Clay 6-1 248 So.
Outlook: It is typical Big Ten football that a running back stands out behind an imposing offensive line. The feats of Clay are well-documented: 10.6 seconds over 100 meters as a high school senior; the nation's eighth-ranked recruiting prospect in 2007 (according to Tom Lemming); 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. In 11 games this season, Clay has rushed for 1,224 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. What's more, 24.1 percent of his rushes result in first downs, including a conversion of 64 percent on third down. He has 25 rushes of at least 10 yards, and nine exceeding 20 yards. Clay, who gained nearly 30 pounds since enrolling at Wisconsin, does not wear down. He averages 6.39 yards per carry in the fourth quarter; in the first three quarters, his average is 4.78 yards.
Most of Clay's runs follow left-side blockers Carimi and Moffitt. Both excel in tandem wipeouts, in which they will tag-team a defender. And when defenses cram the tackle box — the imaginary rectangle near the line of scrimmage — that opens the way for play-action passes. Graham is a tough blocker, sure-handed receiver and a downfield threat (4.64 seconds over 40 yards). Toon, like his father, is accomplished on out patterns. He also is clutch: 88 percent of his third-down catches have resulted in first downs. Of his son's success, Al Toon said: "He understands the fundamentals of the position, and he believes the basics are important. So he is working very hard, putting in extra time, and it has translated into tangible and measurable success."
Pos.—Player Ht. Wt. Cl.
DE—50 O'Brien Schofield 6-3 248 Sr.
DT—45 Dan Moore 6-2 283 Sr.
DT—79 Jeff Stehle 6-6 310 Sr.
DE—99 JJ. Watt 6-6 287 So.
SLB—44 Chris Borland 5-11 235 Fr.
MLB—15 Culmer St. Jean 6-0 233 Jr.
WLB—47 Jaevery McFadden 6-2 230 Sr.
CB—29 Niles Brinkley 5-10 188 Jr.
SS—2 Jay Valai 5-9 201 Jr.
FS—21 Chris Maragos 6-0 198 Sr.
CB—10 Devin Smith 5-11 180 So.
Outlook: The Badgers' defense is a football detective's migraine. There are no traits, no patterns. Against Purdue and Northwestern — teams that utilize the same four-wide concepts as the Warriors — the Badgers went with different strategies. Against Purdue, the Badgers mostly used a 4-3 defense, with the safeties in a two-deep zone. Sometimes the corners dropped back to create a four-across prevent coverage.
But against Northwestern, the Badgers used three different schemes in the first three plays. They opened with a five-man front, with Borland covering the right slotback. On the next play, St. Jean dropped back, to free-safety level, to form a three-deep zone. On the third play, the Badgers went to a 4-4. Borland, the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year, can play defensive end, middle linebacker and strong safety. Schofield can slide over to play nose guard in the nickel defense. When the Badgers go wide — leaving no lineman in front of the center or A gaps (between the center and guard) — St. Jean can step up to cover audibled runs up the middle. Even when a player is aligned in a specific area, such as Stehle shaded slightly across the center, it doesn't mean he will stay put. Stehle is deceptively good at looping to the perimeter, from where he will storm the backfield.
WISCONSIN SPECIAL TEAMS
Outlook: Gilreath's 2,232 career kickoff return yards rank third in Big Ten history. The speedy Gilreath is capable of running 40 yards in under 4.4 seconds. Welch has made 14 of 20 field-goal attempts, but two of his misses were from beyond 50 yards. He has converted a 57-yarder.
Pos.—Player Ht. Wt. Cl.
K—18 Philip Welch 6-3 200 So.
LS—62 Kyle Wojta 6-3 231 So.
H—21 Chris Maragos 6-0 198 Sr.
P—98 Brad Nortman 6-3 209 So.
KR—6 Isaac Anderson 5-10 177 Jr.
KR/PR—85 David Gilreath 5-11 170 Jr.
Outlook: In reach of two UH single-season records, Salas has not reached out to Moniz for special favors. "Nah, he's not like that," Moniz said. Salas needs five catches to tie Davone Bess' 108 receptions in 2007, and 154 receiving yards to match Ashley Lelie's 1,713 in 2001. "The most important thing is the team and winning," Salas said. "I haven't done anything. I don't have any records." Salas was the No. 1 left wideout last year before making the switch inside. Thing is, most slots in four-wide offenses usually are a few inches shorter than 6-foot-2 Salas. In preparing for the switch, he studied how slots ran routes and how bigger wideouts used their size to position for catches. "I tried to combine the two, and it worked out well," Salas said. The first key is to identify the coverage by the nearest linebacker. As for receiving, Salas relies on the noose technique in which the thumbs and index fingers touch to create an O shape. The technique enables receivers to use only their hands, not chests or forearms, to make catches. It also helps Salas remain in stride, which, in turn has helped his post-catch running. This season, his yards-after-catch average is 9.83. His yards-after-hit average is 4.64. As a wideout "last year, you're hemmed up on the sideline," he said. "You can't really go anywhere. Now you can catch the ball in the middle of the field. You can go either way. That's helped me with running after the catch."
The Warriors also have found success with the screens or swing passes to the running back. Last week's 14-yard touchdown pass to Green was set up when Moniz looked to the left before throwing to the right flat. By then, right wideout Jovonte Taylor induced the cornerback to vacate the area in front of Green. Green has caught all 10 passes thrown in his direction. His YAC is 10.80. Chizzy Dimude, who will have an expanded role, has a YAC of 13.25, and breaks about one tackle per play.
Pos.—Player Ht. Wt. Cl.
LE—90 Elliott Purcell 6-3 255 Jr.
LT—49 Tuika Tufaga 6-2 285 Sr.
RT—95 Vaughn Meatoga 6-2 290 So.
RE—58 Fetaiagogo Fonoti 6-2 255 Sr.
OLB—53 Blaze Soares 6-1 245 Sr.
MLB—5 Jake Heun 6-2 235 Jr.
OLB—59 R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane 5-11 225 Sr.
LCB—2 Lametrius Davis 6-0 190 Jr.
FS—43 Mana Silva 6-1 203 Jr.
NB/FS—19 Richard Torres 5-8 175 So.
SS—9 Spencer Smith 5-11 205 Jr.
RCB—18 Jeramy Bryant 5-10 180 Jr.
Outlook: Tufaga, who joined UH as a walk-on following a two-year church mission, has been the Warriors' best defensive lineman this year. His success is traced to his strength (455-pound bench press) and his ability to play "low." In the trenches, leverage is the equalizer, and Tufaga is difficult to block. So, too, is Meatoga, who has healed from an ankle injury.
Last week, the Warriors went with a 4-4 to counter Navy's spread-option offense. The scheme, in which Silva and Smith were the outside linebackers, excluded Heun, who did not play a snap. Wisconsin's power game is an ideal fit for Heun. It also allows Soares to roam. Last week's experiment showed that Silva, who was nicknamed "Detour" as a high school quarterback, has developed into an aggressive open-field tackler. Somehow the Warriors will craft a role for Torres, who made the best hustle play last week. After being cut-block to the turf, he popped up and then tried to chase down a ball-carrier several yards away.
HAWAI'I SPECIAL TEAMS
Pos.—Player Ht. Wt. Cl.
K—20 Scott Enos 5-9 180 Jr.
LS—45 Luke Ingram 6-5 230 Fr.
H—11 Inoke Funaki 5-11 205 Sr.
P—31 Alex Dunnachie 6-3 235 Fr.
KR—7 Jovonte Taylor 5-9 170 Jr.
KR—21 Kealoha Pilares 5-11 200 Jr.
PR—88 Ryan Henry 5-9 170 Jr.
Outlook: One sign of improvement is the return of the blue pads. During field-goal drills this week, defenders held up blue pads, heightening the obstacle for Enos. His kicks were able to clear the pads, an indication that his weakness — low kicks — had been cured. "He's doing better," special-team coordinator Chris Tormey said of Enos. "He's been pretty consistent inside the 40." Enos has made eight of 11 kicks from within that distance.
Lately, Henry has been calling for a lot of fair catches. That's fine with Tormey. "He saves us a lot of yards by not letting the ball bounce," Tormey said. "He gets to a lot of balls." Henry's baseball background has been helpful. As a catcher, he had to chase down pop-ups.