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Misi Manning The Middle

Posted Jul 22, 2014

Misi found himself in the spotlight in the spring, the result of his switch from outside to middle linebacker.

Koa Misi quietly has gone about his business since he first joined the Dolphins a little more than four years ago.

He’s the type of player coaches love because he works hard, gets the job done and doesn’t draw attention to himself. In fact, he certainly seems like he would be perfectly fine if his name never was brought up by the media.

But, like it or not, Misi found himself in the spotlight in the spring, the result of his switch from outside to middle linebacker. Because the middle linebacker is considered the quarterback of the defense, this indeed was a major lineup switch for the Dolphins, probably the most significant they made in the spring.

In typical Misi fashion, he attacked the challenge with a lot of hard work and not necessarily a lot of words.

“I’ve always been open to anything,” Misi said. “Since I got here, I’ve been switching positions. I’m always open to try something new. If it works, it works. And if not, we’ll go back to the way things were.”

Indeed that was the plan, as explained by both Head Coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Moving Misi to the middle and putting 2013 free agent acquisition Dannell Ellerbe outside was described as an experiment, but that’s the way both players lined up throughout the spring.

Coyle said a big reason behind the switch was to give Misi a bigger role on defense.

“Koa has such a physical presence,” Coyle said. “When Koa hits you, you stay hit for a while. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used Koa as the example of, ‘This is how you compete each and every snap on defense.’ He’s got a great motor.

“Honestly, as we look back at last season, I felt that I didn’t keep him in the game as often as we could have because we were in that nickel defense on third down where he was out of the game some. We’ve got to get him more involved.”

In his fourth season with the Dolphins, Misi started 12 of the 15 games he played in 2013 and finished with 54 tackles and two sacks. He also had six tackles for loss, the highest total among Dolphins linebackers.

Misi got some snaps at defensive end in pass-rushing situations along with starting at outside linebacker in the Dolphins’ 4-3 for a second consecutive season. Before that, he lined up outside in the team’s 3-4 scheme.

When Coyle took over as defensive coordinator, he singled out Misi as the defensive player who faced the most difficult transition in going from the 3-4 to the 4-3.

Misi handled that switch well and he made sure this spring he did everything in his power it’s going to be another smooth transition if the switch to middle linebacker indeed becomes permanent.

Misi always has been one of the first players to arrive at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, but he made his appearance even earlier after he was informed of his position change.

“I don’t sleep much, I tell you that much,” Misi said during the latter stages of the offseason program. “Before, I was getting up at about 4:30 trying to get in here as early as I can; couple of mornings I was in here a little bit earlier than that. That was when we were first getting into things, but I was getting used to it a little bit more. Now I can get myself a little bit more rest and still be able to do my job.

“It’s been difficult, I’m not going to lie. But I’m getting more used to it. I was coming here earlier every morning and then I started getting used to the defense, starting getting it down a little bit, but I get here about 5:30 in the morning, get up around 5, just try to get a little more work in just so that I can know I’m doing when I’m out there on the field that I’m not thinking about what I’m having to do.”

It wasn’t just at the training facility that Misi was putting in extra time, though.

In the early part of the offseason, he even did some homework — with the help of his wife.

“I had my wife go to the store and buy me some cones; this is when we were first starting,” Misi explained. “I just had her look at the playbook and I’d make my calls and set up the formations. She would just make sure that I was doing everything right. I’d tell her what formation, and I’d tell her where everybody was lined up. She’d check me and if it was wrong, then she’d tell me. If not, then I was good. She’s been helping me out a little bit.”

It wasn’t all work for the Misis in the offseason, though, as they took trips to Hawaii and to the Virgin Islands.

Once the offseason program began, the biggest challenges for Misi in moving from outside to middle linebacker were being responsible for making the defensive calls and also adjusting to different angles.

“I’ve played defensive end, I’ve played outside linebacker (and) all of our reads were from the outside in,” Misi said. “I’m playing Mike (linebacker) now, I’m in the middle. I’m reading everything inside out. I’m dropping in the middle. Everything’s different. I’ve got a lot more calls to make. I’ve got a lot more reads. With work, it will get better.”

And if there’s one thing the Dolphins know about the man whose full name — get ready for this — is Nawaakoa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi, it’s that he’s not afraid of work.

It was one of the reasons the Dolphins signed him last September to a four-year contract extension that runs through the 2017 season.

“One of the things we’ve liked about him, that I’ve liked in particular, is when we do a year-end cut-up and we show examples how to take on a block, how to tackle properly, how to pursue the football, he shows up on a lot of those cut-ups,” Philbin said. “Football, as I like to tell the team, is not complicated. Defensively, we want to do those things. We want to see him do those things and we want to take a look at him from the interior, from the middle.

“We think he has great leadership qualities. We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the period of time that I’ve been here. He plays football the right way.”

Misi also has gone about things the right way during his time with the Dolphins, and the way he embraced the move to middle linebacker was just another example.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve always been open to playing different positions, playing where the coaches need me to play,” he said. “I was happy to make the move. We’ll see what happens.”
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