Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Alama-Francis Starts Anew With a Clean Slate

Ikaika Alama-Francis' first two years with the Lions were a little intense, to say the least. The defensive end was the first defensive lineman drafted by coach Rod Marinelli, a defensive-line specialist.

Sure enough, the easygoing Hawaiian soon became a pet project of Marinelli's.

The excruciating details Marinelli preached to Alama-Francis in private sessions during practice and for extended periods after practice were enough to practically make him feel like the coach's son on a Little League team.

"Oh, definitely there's a lot of pressure when a coach is always on you," Alama-Francis said. "You always have to be on your toes. Sometimes it got to a point where it was like, 'Whoa.' Every time I was really thinking about things, what to do, what not to do and getting all that attention.

"It was good because he's one of the best D-line coaches out there. I was very blessed to be coached by him and (former defensive line coach) Joe Cullen. But things are different now. Everybody's trying to learn these things, and it's all squared up with teaching."

Now, Alama-Francis has started with a clean slate with the new coaching staff. With a new "get bigger and get stronger" edict for the team, Alama-Francis has gone from 275 pounds to 290 pounds and even joked that he's getting taller.

"Well, I'm wearing thicker cleats this year," he said. "I've gained about half an inch."

Alama-Francis has been lining up inside at times during practice, but he said there is no permanent role determination. It's just part of the process coaches go through to see where every player fits best.

"Everybody's coming along real well," he said. "They wanted a bigger defense, they wanted bigger guys, and we're trying to do that. We're coming together as a defense. I think we're doing really well. We're learning what the coaches are teaching us. I know it's a little bit different from last year, but it's the same thing: Get up the field, penetrate as a D-line and then the rest just falls into place."

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