Another Purcell suits up for UH
Amani Purcell joins his older brother Melila at the Warriors' practice
The Hawaii football family tree added another branch yesterday -- possibly a very strong one.
Outside linebacker Amani Purcell joined practice yesterday, and coach June Jones said he thinks the brother of starting defensive end Melila Purcell can be ready to contribute in the Sept. 2 season-opening game at Alabama.
"Yes," Jones answered firmly when asked if Purcell can make the 60-player roster for the trip to Tuscaloosa.
Even if he doesn't crack the two-deep right away (sophomores C.J. Allen-Jones and Tyson Kafentzis are the tentative starters at outside linebacker), the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Penn State transfer could make the trip as a special teams player.
"I'm really happy. I've been waiting a long time to wear this jersey," Purcell said. "We'll see. At least I'm getting a chance to prove I belong on the (travel) roster."
He also said he's excited to finally get on the field with his brother -- as well as a handful of cousins who also play for the Warriors.
Melila Purcell said he and his brother are related to Brashton, Hercules and Samson Satele, Raphael Ieru, Nate Ilaoa, Fale Laeli, Reagan Mauia and Lawrence Wilson.
"Some of them, I meet the parents and they go through the family line and we find out we're related," Melila Purcell said. "There's blood in the system. It seems like it's more than half the team.
"Everybody's all happy about (Amani joining the team) now. Everybody was all worried when he was going to get to practice. There's nothing better than having your brother out there with you, and your cousins, too, backing you up."
Per NCAA rules, Amani Purcell can practice with just a helmet for two days, then helmet and shoulder pads for three days before wearing full pads.
More injuries: The news from practice yesterday wasn't all good, as the beleaguered training staff tended to two more injured players.
At the same time during the 3-hour morning session, sophomore receiver Dylan Linkner went down with a hamstring pull while running a pass route and senior linebacker Victor "Bully" Fergerstrom was being treated for back and hip injuries suffered during 1-on-1 drills.
The Warriors have suffered a rash of injuries the past week, but Jones isn't too worried that starters and key backups won't be available when the season starts.
"It's the norm. We're thankful we haven't had anything major, although that looked like a bad pull on Dylan today, the hamstring. That happens," Jones said.
Linkner, a walk-on who has had an impressive camp but is third on the depth chart, was hopeful he could recover quickly.
"I'm already able to put some weight on it," Linkner said after practice.
Fergerstrom's injury was scary, since he remained on the ground a full 10 minutes. But he walked off the field, and X-rays were negative. The experienced special teams player is day-to-day.
Backups shine: Starting inside linebacker Adam Leonard returned after dealing with a quadriceps strain, but that didn't stop backup Rustin Saole from shining in team drills with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
"We're getting to crunch time now. We've got a game in two weeks, so we have to get ready to perform in all three aspects of the game," said Saole, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound walk-on from Waipahu.
Saole said he'd planned to go to Oregon, but stayed in Hawaii to be near his grandmother, Tina Taulau. She died two years ago.
"I still play for her," he said. "She's my 12th man."
Freshman inside linebacker Blaze Soares is still out with a hamstring. He said he won't be back taking reps until Monday.
Free safety Leonard Peters (ankle) remained out yesterday, although he said he could play. True freshman Spencer Smith was out, also with an ankle. That left Dane Porlas with most of the reps, and he responded with solid play, including an interception.
Porlas is back from his own nagging leg injuries that kept him out of practice earlier in the week. He said remaining focused while he was on the sidelines is helping him now.
"Coach always says get your mental reps, so I'm always trying to make my reads like I'm in the game," said Porlas, whose fourth quarter interception against San Jose State helped seal a UH win last year. "I'm about right where I want to be."
He knows Bess: Slotback Davone Bess was out of the action for most of yesterday morning's practice, but he said he wasn't injured.
"Nothing, I'm just cooling off, trying to get my mental reps," said Bess, who received freshman All-America honors last year. "If this was my high school coach he'd be telling me stop being soft, stop being lazy and get your butt out there. But we've got somebody like Coach Jones who understands what we need.
"Everybody's trying to take care of their little nicks and nacks so they're ready for the game."