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Defensive line coach Legi Suiaunoa runs through drills with freshman defensive end Andrew Harris during practice in August.

LOREN BENOIT, Missoulian

The Montana football program has lost its second defensive coach in less than a week.

Legi Suiaunoa, who coached the defensive line for the Grizzlies the past five years, has been hired away as a defensive assistant at Hawaii. Sports Illustrated first reported the move Saturday afternoon and the Warriors confirmed the hire Sunday.

Suiaunoa's departure comes just days after news broke that Montana defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak was headed to Bozeman to serve in the same capacity with the rival Bobcats. Both coached under former head man Mick Delaney and were retained when Bob Stitt was hired last December following Delaney's retirement.

Stitt kept three coaches total from Delaney's staff, the third being running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Justin Green.

Multiple messages for Suiaunoa were not immediately returned.

Suiaunoa, 37, is the latest hire by first-year Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich, a former Warriors quarterback and assistant coach who was hired in November after serving as Nevada's offensive coordinator the past four years.

"Legi is well respected as a defensive coach and recruiter in the coaching world," Rolovich said via the university's sports information department. "He connects so well with people because he is genuine.

"A Polynesian man who has stayed true to his cultural values and has represented his family very well throughout his career. His story is one that will resonate through our locker room and community. Parents will be lining up to have their sons mentored by him. We are very fortunate to have him."

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Suiaunoa came to Montana in 2011 after a year at Big Sky Conference foe Portland State, a fellow Football Championship Subdivision program, where he also coached the D-line. All his coaching experience prior to that came at the NCAA Division II level or lower.

Suiaunoa's move to Hawaii, a Mountain West Conference program, marks his first step into the upper-echelon Football Bowl Subdivision since a one-year stint as a graduate assistant in 2004 at Nevada, his alma mater.

The Oceanside, California native played linebacker there from 1998 to 2001 after a one-year stay at nearby Palomar College during the Comets' junior college national championship season in '97.

Suiaunoa's first coaching experience came back at Palomar -- the same JC that produced recent Griz star Jeremiah Kose, Suiaunoa's nephew who was a senior on this year's Montana team -- where he coached linebackers in 2003-04.

The coach led the defensive line and linebackers at D-II Western Washington from 2005 to 2008, at which point the school dropped its football program. Suiaunoa was quickly hired as defensive coordinator at NAIA Eastern Oregon before moving on to PSU and Montana.

In the past three years at UM, the Grizzlies' defense ranked in the top 10 nationally in sacks each season -- fifth in 2015 (3.31 per game), seventh in 2014 (3.20) and second in 2013 (3.73). Those under the coaching supervision of Suiaunoa recently have included record-setting Griz defensive ends Zack Wagenmann and Tyrone Holmes.

Along with the exit of its two most seasoned defensive coaches in Suiaunoa and Gregorak this offseason, the Griz defense is also graduating eight starters and 11 players overall.

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