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New defense excites Lafaele

New defense excites Hawai’i’s Lafaele

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

When Hawai’i changed it’s defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3, Michael Lafaele was probably the happiest guy in Honolulu.

In the 3-4, the nose tackle is double-teamed on nearly every play. A sadist probably invented the position, but it takes a masochist to play it. You have to like intense physical pounding on every play and like being punished.

You have to be content to play within the framework of the defense and put your individual goals and stats aside. You won’t get many sacks and probably not many tackles. The nose tackle sets things up for the linebackers.

The 6-foot-2, 302-pound Lafaele, a former offensive lineman, contributed 32 tackles, including a team-best 5 1/2 stops behind the line and two sacks for minus-13 yards last season.

“Mike has played very well for us the last two years,” said Hawai’i coach June Jones. “In Jerry Glanville’s (3-4) scheme Mike understood what he was asked to do. He’s a high intensity guy.

“Jerry’s scheme had the nose tackle controlling two gaps and playing the run. You have to get off the ball and finish. He’s good at that, too. It’s good for him that NFL scouts will have been able to see him do both (3-4 and 4-3).”

Time will tell how Lafaele fits with the 4-3, but after one spring in the new system, he likes it.

“I like the new defense,” Lafaele said. “In a 3-4, you have to play two gaps. In the 4-3, you only have to play one gap. I should have a lot more fun. It gives me a chance to make more plays at or behind the line.”

And that’s exactly what defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold expects from him.

“Mike is the undisputed leader of the defensive line,” Reinebold said. “He has great work ethic and is coming off a tremendous season. He will be the key to how we do up front.”

In Lafaele’s case, the better the guy in front of him, the better job he’ll do.

In 2005, Lafaele did a solid job against former Kamehameha standout Donovan Raiola of Wisconsin. He also held up well against Fresno State’s Kyle Young, another top center on the West Coast.

“All that hype (about guys), I take it personally,” Lafaele said. “That game against Wisconsin, I felt I did pretty good. That game I had four tackles, and two of them were behind the line. I enjoy playing up to that level.”

Lafaele isn’t all about football even though it does consume most of his time. He wears many hats. Besides taking a full load of classes, he’s also married with three children (girls ages 5 and 2 and a 1-year-old son).

It’s certainly a difficult juggling act, and Lafaele would probably love to clone himself so he could be in two places at once. He credits his wife, Teri, who keeps everything in some semblance of order.

“We met at a party the summer before my freshman year,” Lafaele said. “Things just fell into place. It’s very busy all the time. She works and I’m in class or on the field. Her parents help us out with a lot of things.”

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

THE LAFAELE FILE

Position: Defensive tackle

Year in school: Senior

Height/weight: 6-0/302 pounds

High school: Farrington