After much speculation regarding the status of University of Hawaii defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa, head coach Nick Rolovich announced Friday that he has promoted Legi Suiaunoa to DC in the wake of Lempa's resignation.
"I don’t think this was an unhappiness deal for Lemp," Rolovich said. "I think this was an opportunity to get closer to his family. Being a new grandfather and spending Christmas with his grandchild really put some things in perspective for him, and it was something he wanted to be able to continue to do, and that’s a lot harder to do from over here.”
The university began accepting applications for the position on Monday, and Rolovich said the interest was 'incredible across the country', but ultimately keeping it internal was best for the players.
“I think stability is something we need in this program. All the guys that were on the staff gave a lot to this program last year. I like rewarding those guys because they earn your trust. There are some big names out there, but the guys that have your trust are the guys you want to go to battle with.”
Suiaunoa takes over the defense after one year in charge of the defensive line. He has one year of coordinator experience from Eastern Oregon in 2009, but says he's ready and confident in his ability to lead the defense.
“This is not something that I’ve just prepared for overnight because I got the job," said Suiaunoa. "Every year I’ve coached and been around coaches, you build a playbook in your mind and on paper. I know from when I was playing and when I first started to coach that I wanted to some day run a defense."
One of the advantages of promoting from within is that Suiaunoa is well-versed in what the current players can be asked to execute. When it comes to scheme, the Rainbow Warriors aren't going to try and reinvent the wheel.
“There’s going to be some difference in terms of what we’re going to do, but in terms of our philosophy and what we’re going to do defensively, that’s what’s going to stay the same," said Suiaunoa. "We want to be aggressive up front, we want to able to force a lot of issues and we want to be able to control the game.”
Remaining similar base-wise for the kids was important to Rolovich, but he added, "I don’t want Legi to call it like Lempa, I want Legi to call it like he would call it. That’s important as a coach. You don’t want to have to do something that you’re forced to do, you want to do something that you believe in.”
Suiaunoa will continue to coach the defensive line while special teams coordinator Mayur Chaudhari will coach the defensive ends, and offensive coordinator Brian Smith will handle the tight ends and running backs.
Rolovich said he will have more of a hand in coaching the offense in his second year.
The Rainbow Warriors will not push back the start of spring camp. Their first practice will be Monday, February 20.
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