2020 Hawaii Football Position Breakdown: Defensive Backs

Sports

September 29, 2020. HONOLULU, Defensive Back Eugene Ford (8 white) runs back a ball during football practice at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus.

Three key defensive backs are gone from last year’s 10-win squad. Rojesterman Farris IIIkem Okeke and Kalen Hicks combined for a whopping 140 games played during their UH careers. Not to worry though. Secondary coaches Abe Elimimian (cornerbacks) and Laiu Moeakiola (safeties) have a solid pool of returning playmakers. The program has also re-stocked via the FCS and junior college route with five talented transfers.  That combination of old and new should fuel a relentless, ball-hawking secondary in UH’s new War Dog defense.

Returnees

Secondary Ht WtCl  2019 Stats
 Cortez Davis (CB) 5-11180 Sr. 53 tkls,13 PBUs, 1 int
 Eugene Ford (S) 6-2210 Sr. 55 tkls, 4 PBUs
 Khoury Bethley (S) 5-10200 Jr. 83 tkls, 2 int
 Donovan Dalton (S) 6-4200 Jr. 16 tkls, 2 PBUs
 Akil Francisco (CB) 6-1170 Jr. 2 tkls, 1 PBU
 Noa Kamana (S) 6-0190 Jr. 12 tkls
 Leonard Lee (S) 6-0190 Jr. Redshirted
 Alaka’i Mashima (S) 5-11185 Jr. DNP
 James Green III (CB) 5-11175 So. 6 GP
 Steven Fiso (S) 6-2200 So. 3 tkls
 Kai Kaneshiro (S) 6-2180 So. 28 tkls, 3 int
 Kalamaku Kuewa (S) 6-0200 So. 11 GP
 Travon Killins (CB) 6-0175R-Fr.. Redshirted
 Tiger Peterson (S) 6-0200R-Fr. 1 tkl in 3 GP
 Michael Washington (CB) 6-0165R-Fr. 4 tkls in 3 GP

Newcomers

SecondaryHt WtClHometown (Last School)
 Quentin Frazier (S)6-1195Sr. San Diego, Calif. (Azusa Pacific)
 Sterlin Ortiz (S)5-10185Jr. Oklahoma City, Okla. (NE Oklahoma A&M)
 Jalen Perdue (CB)5-10175Jr. Lancaster, Calif. (Antelope Valley College)
 Logan Taylor (S)6-0175Jr. Harbor City, Calif. (El Camino College)
 Cameron Lockridge (CB)6-0180So. Tampa, Fla. (Reedley College)
 Asher Pilanca (CB)6-0175Fr. Mililani, O’ahu (Mililani HS)

2019 secondary members lostRojesterman Farris IIKalen HicksIkem OkekeZach Wilson

No-Fly Zone: Senior Cortez Davis is back after an impactful 2019 season. The junior college transfer slid into the starting cornerback role and racked up a team-best 13 break-ups. He also returned an interception for a touchdown to help seal a pivotal win at UNLV during UH’s run to the MW title game. Elimimian says: “Cortez has the ideal traits at the position: he’s fast, explosive, and quick. On top of that he’s got experience and has been a team guy for as long as I’ve known him. He had a lot of pass break-ups last year and now it’s about taking his game to the next level as far as takeaways. I believe Coach Graham has installed a defense that will make him that elite player.”



Replacing Roe: The Rainbow Warriors will need to replace four-year starter Rojesterman Farris II at the other the corner spot. Elimimian says the competition has been fierce. A slew of returnees — Michael WashingtonAkil FranciscoTravon Killins and James Green III  — are battling for that spot. Junior college transfers Jalen Perdue and  Cameron Lockridge — who Elimimian describes as smart, versatile and athletic — are also in the mix.  

A Premier Playmaker: With his ability to roam the entire field, junior safety Khoury Bethley is one of UH’s top defensive players. He led the team with 83 tackles in 2019 and had two interceptions in UH’s season-ending Hawai’i Bowl win over BYU.  Moeakiola says: “Khoury is a tough, bright kid. He’s always looking to improve his game, always hungry to learn. He’s a great teammate, dependable, and he’s viscous at the point of attack.”



Senior Leader: Safety Eugene Ford has started games since his freshman campaign and he’s now entering his senior season as one of the unquestioned leaders of the squad. Moeakiola says: “He’s been a bright spot for this defense and for this entire team. He’s self-disciplined, self-motivated, and leads by example. Eugene inspires everyone on this team to get better. Whenever you have that type of leadership on your team, you have a chance.”

Others to Watch:Kai Kaneshiro snagged a team-high three interceptions last season and gives UH another versatile piece in the secondary. Moeakiola says: “Kai has a big upside. We’re challenging him to continue to elevate his game and get better.” Graduate transfer Quentin Frazier should contend for playing time…Frazier was  a two time all-conference safety and Academic All-American at Azusa Pacific where he played for then-head coach Victor Santa Cruz, who is now UH’s defensive coordinator.

Coaches Notes: Elimimian is one of two holdovers (along with Jacob Yoro) from last year’s coaching staff…the former all-conference Rainbow Warrior, who enters his sixth season at UH, is also the program’s recruiting coordinator…Moeakiola was a two-time team captain and Pac-12 honorable mention linebacker while playing for Todd Graham at Arizona State.  

Elimimian’s Final Words: “We are going to be dialed in. Playing cornerback is one of the hardest jobs in college football. When the pressure is on, we got to be diamonds. All our guys have that mentality to play the position.”

Moeakiola’s Final Words: “We want to leave our imprint on the guys and maximize all the potential they have. On the football field, in the weight room, in academics and every facet in life. Because that’s being a champion.”

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