D-line digs deep to make up for losses

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Heading into this year's fall camp the Rainbow Warriors defensive line had plenty of plenty of questions to answer. Following the 2016 season the 'Bows lost two of their biggest leaders upfront to graduation. Then, during the off-season, three more potential contributors saw their season end prematurely. But, Legi Suiaunoa says his d-line is making adjustments, not excuses.

"It doesn't change much in terms of expectations and what we need from that position," said Suiaunoa. "Teams that we play against, U Mass, they don't care about what happened to us up front. We just have to find guys - the acceleration of certain guys has got to be faster. Our defensive end group, there's a bunch of guys that played a lot of snaps. Meffy [Koloamatangi] comes back. Dave Manoa, Teva [Eldridge] played a lot of snaps, Zeno [Choi] played a lot of snaps."

"Whenever you lose experience like that it's always tough," added Eldridge. "But, we have a lot of young players that are capable of filling those spots and a couple of those young players had a lot of experience last year."

One of the hardest hits the defensive line took was more impactful psychologically than it ever could be on a depth chart. Just weeks before fall camp started the group lost a promising up and comer in Kalepo Naotala. The freshman suffered a spinal cord injury after a diving accident at Kapahulu groin. He's currently undergoing treatment at a center in Colorado that specializes in rehabilitating spinal cord injuries.

Then, not long after that Jamie Tago, another newcomer who was expected to make an impact, and Kaau Gifford, a veteran d-end who only missed one game last season, were dismissed from the program for violating team rules.

Now the unit is leaning on each other as they try to make up for those losses.

"Everybody has to come together, and gel together and be there for one another," said Eldridge. "[We] need to push each other to be better on the field, and just mentally be there.

According to the current roster, this year the d-line features just two players who recorded five or more starts last season. However, there were a handful of younger players up front who saw quite a few snaps last year. Suiaunoa says he's expecting that group to step up for the 'Bows defense.

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