2020 Hawaii Football Position Breakdown: Linebackers

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October 5, 2020. HONOLULU, NCAA football practice at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus.

The linebacker unit is one of the more experienced groups on the team with five different players boasting collegiate starting experience. It’s also a unit with some of the most exciting young talent. And with the return this season of a key player from injury, position coach Jacob Yoro will have no shortage of players to unleash in UH’s new “War Dog” defense.  

“This scheme is built for linebackers to make plays,” Yoro says. “The kids see that and they’re excited about it. We have a lot of playmakers in the unit and hopefully we’ll have the ability to cut them loose and get after opposing offenses this year.”

Returnees

 Linebackers Ht  Wt Cl  2019 Stats
 Payton Awaya 6-0 215 Sr. 3 GP on ST
 Tauivi Ho Ching 6-1 225 Sr. 5 tkls in 5 GP
 Jeremiah Pritchard 6-0 225 Sr. 45 tkls 3.5 TFL, 1 sk
 Penei Pavihi 6-3 245 Jr. DNP in 2019; 87 tkls in 2018
 Paul Scott 6-1 215 Jr. 20 tkls, 3.0 TFL, 1 INT
 Darius Muasau 6-1 230 So. 61tks, 3.0 TFL, 2 FR
 Isaiah Tufaga 6-1 225 So. FBS transfer, eligible in 2020
 Zach Bowers 6-0 225 R-Fr. Redshirted
 Kila Kamakawiwo’ole 6-0 225 R-Fr. Redshirted

2019 linebackers lostWesley FaagauSolomon MatautiaKana’i Picanco

A Game Changer Is Back: The big story at the position is the return of stud middle linebacker Penei Pavihi. The native of Pago Pago, American Samoa accounted for 87 total tackles as a sophomore in 2018 and was set to be the unquestioned leader of the defense in 2019. However a preseason injury shelved him for the entire year. Yoro says Pavihi has wroked hard to make his comeback and is now ready to go full tilt.  “Having Penei back in the mix with us is huge. With his size and athleticism, he’s someone we need to have on the field. You couple his play with the skill set of the other guys, and it’s really got us excited.”

Veteran Presence: Jeremiah Pritchard has started games since his true freshman campaign in 2016. The senior now enters his fifth season with the program with 34 career games under his belt and a knack for disrupting opponents. Meanwhile, redshirt junior Paul Scott enters his fourth year as a Rainbow Warrior. An elite athlete, the Oakland native has been a major contributor at both outside linebacker and special teams. Yoro says: “These are guys who’ve ‘been there and done that.’ They’ve been a part of tough times and they’ been a part of good times. It’s their responsibility now to lead the group and show what it’s about to play defense here at Hawai’i.”

Darius The Destroyer: As a true freshman last year, Darius Muasau was thrust into an expanded role. The Mililani native more than delivered. He was a breakout star on both defense and special teams by finishing with 61 tackles, good for third on the team. “Darius was a nice surprise for us last season,” Yoro says. “The experience he got out there last year, that’s paid so much dividends. We’re extremely excited with what he brings to the table. He’s extremely explosive, extremely smart, and he’s one of our fastest players on defense. Football is important to him.”

Homegrown Talent Returns: Former Saint Louis School standout Isaiah Tufaga returns home to suit up for the Rainbow Warriors. The La’ie native started three games for Oregon State in 2018 as a true freshman. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, the redshirt sophomore is ready to roam the Aloha Stadium turf again, as he once did as a Hawai’i prep all-star. “Isaiah is extremely smart, has a lot of savvy and picks up schemes easily,” Yoro says “He’s so hungry to get back out on the field.”

Watch Out For…: “Tauivi Ho Ching has had a good camp so far,” Yoro notes. “He wasn’t in the mix a whole lot last season; he was relegated to some special teams play. But he’s picked it up. He understands his career is now almost coming to an end, so it’s lit a fire.”

Samoa’s Finest: UH boast eight players from American Samoa. Three of them come from the linebacking corp: Tauivi Ho Ching (Nu’uuli), Penei Pavihi (Pago Pago), and Jeremiah Pritchard (Leone). 

Coach Yoro’s Last Word: “The guys are buying into what we’re trying to accomplish on defense. They understand what it takes to be great and they’re pushing themselves to chase greatness. Every day we’re getting better and working hard. We expect to be a good unit.”

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