Hawaii Scouting Report: Defense
The Warriors (unlike other UH athletic teams, I'm told Hawaii's football team doesn't like being referred to as the Rainbows or the Rainbow Warriors) rank 59th in the nation in total defense but excel in the red zone and limiting opposing offenses on third down.
It's a defensive unit that is spearheaded by its linebacking corps. Solomon Elimimian, was was named the WAC's co-defensive player of the year, and Adam Leonard are both considered NFL prospects. Elimimian broke Hawaii's 36-year-old career tackles record this season.
Hawaii is ranked 21st in sacks and averages 2.6 per game. Left end David Veikune started slow but has nine sacks in his last five games, which means Sam Young will have his hands full. Right end John Fonoti may be the toughest player on defense but lacks discipline, or so I'm told.
When the Warriors blitz it's usually Ryan Mouton who is sent. Mouton is the best athlete on the team. He plays cornerback, free safety, nickelback and even slot back on offense on occasion. He runs a 4.3 40-yard dash. He returns kicks and may even return punts in this game. Hawaii is ranked last in the nation in punt returns with a paltry 2-yard average. Mouton might be used in an attempt to boost that flagging unit.
Mouton played in the regular season finale with a high ankle sprain but should be fully healed in time for the Christmas Eve matchup against Notre Dame.
It was longtime college-and-NFL defensive coordinator Greg McMackin who replaced June Jones after last season, so it stands to reason that Hawaii's defense will be prepared and well-coached. McMackin spent a lot of time under Dennis Erickson, first at the University of Miami and later while serving as Erickson's defensive coordinator/associate head coach or the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
Momentum could also be a factor --- and I'm not talking momentum in the game but season-long momentum. The Warriors lost three of their first four and four of their first seven. Settling on quarterback Greg Alexander helped solidify the offense and the team. An easier second half schedule also helped. The result was Hawaii winning six of their final eight heading into the season-ending game against Cincinnati. McMackin's team should've won that one, as well. It allowed Cincinnati --- the Big East champs --- to score 19 unanswered and lost 29-24.
The point is this: Hawaii got better as the season went along while Notre Dame, losers of five of its last seven, got worse.
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