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Veteran Linebackers Coach to Reboot Defense in 2018 - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

Veteran Linebackers Coach to Reboot Defense in 2018

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After a week off for Spring Break, the U-H football team resumed spring practices this morning.

Rainbow Warriors' defensive staff is working to re-boot a unit that finished in the bottom 12 percent in the nation last season in total defense. 

Assistant head coach and linebackers coach Mark Banker jumped on board in January, his second tour in Manoa since working under coach Bob Wagner in 1995. The veteran coach hopes to take full advantage of over three decades of experience and the return of senior linebacker, Jahlani Tavai. 

It's the last chapter of my college career but I'm just excited to get to work with the guys," says Tavai. 

Tavai started all twelve games last season. He led the team with 124 total tackles, ranking 10th nationally.

"Big thing out of him to look for is leadership as well as taking care of himself first. But, leadership in the group. He's done a good job of that. He's a great example to the younger players and does a good job of preparing and does a great job coming out here and competing," says Coach Banker. 

Banker's no stranger to the local football scene. He has strong ties to players and their families, making him a home run hire.

"This place has always been near and dear to my heart. Even when i wasn't coaching here, schools i was at, i was fortunate to be back here for the last 14-15 years recruiting," he says.

Most recently at Nebraska, he led a defense that finished No. 9  in run defense in 2015. 

"Number-one thing is our run defense here hasn't been very good. And we need to be able to do that. In defensive football, it all starts with a run game. You've got to be able to make a team left handed. You gotta take away the run. And then from there, get them into long-yardage situations and a great job with either pressure, coverage and a combination of both."

"You throw a great person and you know all the football knowledge, it's pretty much what you want as a football player. Someone who's gonna teach me and make me as good as i can be and also make me a better man and give me a great example for that," says head coach Nick Rolovich. 

Under the wing of a new coach, Tavai -- currently the program's eighth all-time in tackles -- has some unfinished business to take care of.

"I'm trying my best to understand his little details so I can perfect my craft and try to help the rest of the defense."