Friday, August 20, 2004


Warriors’ defense
dinged up

The unit practiced without four
starters yesterday

The injuries continue to mount for the Hawaii football team. But most are of the nagging variety, and no starters are being counted out yet for the Sept. 4 season opener against Florida Atlantic at Aloha Stadium.

Four projected defensive starters were on the sidelines yesterday as junior end Mel Purcell and sophomore Kenny Patton joined tackle Lui Fuga and outside linebacker Paul Lutu-Carroll among the walking wounded.

X-rays yesterday were not conclusive, but Purcell probably has a stress fracture or, less likely, a broken bone in his left foot. He was on crutches during yesterday morning's workout, but he did spend some time pedaling on an exercise bike. He was to undergo an MRI today.

"The crutches are kind of precautionary. We don't think it's anything serious," UH coach June Jones said after the three-hour practice. "Hopefully he'll be back in three or four days. He's our best defensive lineman, so it's a concern from that standpoint. Hopefully it's not broken, which I don't think it is."

Purcell was optimistic.

"I'll be back by the first game," he said. "I could play today if I had to."

He said he hurt the top of his foot during practice Wednesday, but continued on. Yesterday morning it was painful if he put any weight on his big toe, he said.

Gina and Doug Ewalt looked at a football autographed by Jerry Rice at the Pigskin Pigout, a fund-raiser for the UH football team training table, at Murphy's Bar & Grill last night.

Patton, who missed nearly all of last season with a hamstring pull, felt a twinge in the muscle yesterday so he also sat out.

"He just had a tight hamstring and he has a history of it, so it's just precautionary," Jones said.

Fuga and Lutu-Carroll remained sidelined with knee injuries. Both are out with partial tears of the medial collateral ligament in the right knee. Such an injury does not normally require surgery, and both expect to be ready to play Sept. 4.

Purcell played behind Travis LaBoy and Houston Ala last year. He had 40 tackles in 11 games, including a career-high 12 against Texas-El Paso. That effort earned him WAC Player of the Week honors.

While Purcell is out, junior Kila Kamakawiwo'ole moves to No. 1 on the depth chart at left end.

"Everyone will rotate in, but Kila's a guy who all of a sudden would get a lot more reps," Jones said. "(Darrell) Tautofi's another guy, but he's got an arch problem. So we're looking at a lot of people."

Kamakawiwo'ole is also listed No. 2 behind Tony Akpan at right end.

"Kila could very easily start," defensive line coach Vantz Singletary said. "Right now he's been splitting the time at the starting position. He knows what we do, how we do it. He's been around. I'm very fond of him and the kids are. We have a lot of confidence in him. If he's the starting guy we're not going to miss a whole lot."

Kamakawiwo'ole is a 6-foot-2, 240-pound athlete who played defensive back and receiver in high school. He appeared in 11 games last year, mostly on special teams, and had three tackles.

"When I came in (from Kaimuki High School) I was 210. I came in a little heavy, so they moved me to linebacker, then I moved my way to defensive end. It's kind of a big transition," he said.

Also, backup sophomore defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis is recovering from back surgery and will likely miss the season opener.

Singletary, though, remains upbeat.

"Part of the game. I'm still smiling, playing Nintendo, having fun," he said.



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