Nature of the 'beast' resonates in Brown
• Photo gallery: UH football practice Wednesday
BY Stephen Tsai
Maybe it was Animal instincts, but there was a certainty that Hawai'i football player Aaron Brown would develop into a snarling linebacker.
"He's a beast," middle linebacker Jake "Animal" Heun said of the former strong safety. "He's jacked out of his mind (on the field). I think he's going to be good. He's going to kill some people this year. He runs around. He's like a heat-seeking missile out there."
Brown, who transferred from Saddleback Community College last July, was a seemingly quiet-spoken strong safety when he arrived on the Mānoa campus. He then moved to linebacker, although his time there was short-circuited after he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury before the start of the 2009 season.
Now healthy, Brown has emerged as a fierce strongside linebacker. He is on the first unit in all of the Warriors' defensive schemes.
"He makes plays," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "He's still learning the defense, and he's learning his role within the defense."
During the past Saturday's scrimmage on Kaua'i, Brown made two sacks and forced a fumble.
"He's a real good blitzer, and he's good in pass coverage," Aranda said. "He's getting better versus the run."
Aranda said Brown, who is listed at 6 feet 1 and 205 pounds, was moved from strong safety because of a lack of depth at linebacker and because "of his instincts. He's physical. He can strike. He has the skills."
Brown was admittedly frustrated by the injury to his right hamstring.
"Especially the way I play," he said. "I play full speed, balls to the wall. You really can't do that when you have a hindering hamstring injury."
While recovering, he focused on improving his overall strength. Brown now can bench press 340 pounds and power clean 265 pounds. He also kept in shape with early-morning hikes. He regularly climbs Stairway to Heaven and Koko Crater. The reward is the top-of-paradise view.
"I'm in Hawai'i, I want to enjoy Hawai'i," Brown said.
These days, his most enjoyable moments have been disrupting the Warriors' four-wide offense during spring training.
"You definitely have to have a different mentality going into linebacker," Brown said of his more vocal personality. "It's in everybody. I found my inner beast."
As for his improved play, Brown said, "It's all from vision. You see your key, you get your read steps. Everything just falls into place after that."
Heun said: "Because he was a safety before, he has a good feel for timing it out. Now that he's all yoked out, he's throwing his weight around."
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES
The shuffle continues on the offensive line.
For yesterday's practice, Adrian Thomas moved from right guard to right tackle, and Brysen Ginlack was elevated to right guard.
The switch was necessitated because right tackle Kainoa LaCount, whose left knee was in a medical brace, did not practice yesterday. LaCount had been taking reps in place of Laupepa Letuli, who is on light duty while awaiting word on his appeal for a medical hardship that will allow him to play as a sixth-year senior in 2010.
"The technique and setting is different (at tackle)," said Thomas, who started two games at right tackle last season.
Thomas suffered from painful back spasms in the final four weeks of the 2009 season. He said he regained his health through a vigorous rehabilitation program that relied largely on core and stretching exercises.
The disk problem, he said, "caused numbness and stuff (last year). It feels pretty good so far."
UMU'S IN A RUSH
The Warriors' best pass-rusher, defensive right end Paipai Falemalu, has been limited because of what he termed a "little ding" to his right shoulder.
"It's nothing major," said Falemalu, who is held out of contact drills as a precaution.
Kamalu Umu has moved from left end to Falemalu's spot on the right side during team drills.
"Umu is really playing well," Aranda said. "He's making plays. He's very conscientious, like an Aaron Brown. We'll try to create one-on-one (situations) for him."
Umu said he is more comfortable on the left side, where his right hand is on the ground in a three-point stance. On the right side, his left hand is down.
"I'm more explosive out of my stance (on the left side)," Umu said. "But I'll be able to adjust."
Umu has a condition in his right shoulder that makes it uncomfortable to thrust his right arm upward. He said the condition makes it difficult to bench press, but does not affect his on-field play.
"I can do everything I need to do," Umu said.