SB FILE / NOVEMBER 2005
Punahou receiver Miah Ostrowski, who had 81 catches for 1,317 yards this season, is weighing an offer from Hawaii.
Academics key for recruits
'Tis the season to be jolly, for some recruiters more than others.
That frown you see on your friendly, neighborhood college football coach may be a sign that Santa hasn't just yet filled up the ol' stocking with goodies.
Hawaii high school players
» Kalani Aldrich, DE, Kamehameha-Hawaii to Washington
» Bryson Beirne, QB, Pac-Five to Arizona
» Savaii Eselu, TE, Moanalua to Oregon
» Kaneakua Friel, TE, Kamehameha to BYU
» Gary Nagy, DB, Kahuku to BYU
» Vaughn Meatoga, DL, Kamehameha to Hawaii
» Sione Tau, OL, Damien to Arizona
» Gabe Tuata, RB, Kealakehe to Hawaii
other University of Hawaii commitments
» Leon Jackson, RB, Nebraska
» Kevin Konrath, LB, Brother Rice (Chicago)
» Erik Robinson, S, Navarro (Texas) JC
Notes: DT Ray Hisatake (6-4, 320, College of San Mateo) was expected to commit to Hawaii as soon as today after completing his final visit at New Mexico. Hisatake told the Star-Bulletin last week that UH is "still No. 1" after a visit to San Jose State, but he wanted to complete his visits to make sure. He and Robinson get their AAs this semester and could sign Wednesday and start school at Manoa in January, depending on scholarship availability. ... Konrath said he enjoyed his Hawaii visit the weekend of the Oregon State game, and is all set to sign on LOI Day. "My host, Jake Patek, filled me in on everything and I had a great time," said Konrath, who had never been to the islands before. ... Jackson can play in the fall because he left Nebraska before school started this year.
The big smile you see on your nearby coach is probably because he's received a lot of substantial promises from potential college stars. There's a chance, more now than ever, that a few of his future gems were unearthed in the Hawaiian Islands.
Of the eight local players who have already given oral commitments to Division I universities, two are going to UH. Defensive lineman Vaughn Meatoga gave the Warriors his commitment in midseason, a good sign for a unit that continues to build after last year's heavy tilt toward recruiting on that side of the ball.
Kealakehe's all-purpose running back, Gabe Tuata, also gave Hawaii his seal of approval in midseason.
As always, Pac-10 schools, as well as Boise State, Colorado and others, are pounding the pavement across the state to reach out to the state's best -- and academically qualified -- senior players.
Therein lies the rub. Some of the state's best are scholar-athletes, while others are on the bubble or clearly heading to junior colleges.
One of the bubble players is defensive end Nai Fotu of state champion Kahuku. The 5-foot-11, 242-pound senior has offers from Arizona, Hawaii and Utah.
"He's a good kid," Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said.
Fotu was an underrated player at one point, but now, there are a whole lot of people on the Fotu bandwagon.
"For him, English is a second language. The colleges that want him have to get a waiver, then he has a good shot at getting eligible," Torres said.
Torres noted that Arizona and Utah have good educational support programs.
Fotu has long viewed Utah as his dream school, but a visit to Arizona by teammate Kaniela Tuipulotu could make a difference.
Tuipulotu, Kahuku's stalwart nose guard, has been heavily recruited.
"Kaniela was leaning toward some of these other schools. Utah and Tennessee were looking good to him, but Arizona made it a good battle," Torres said. "And Arizona needs (defensive) linemen."
The 6-1, 291-pound senior also has offers from Boise State, Hawaii and New Mexico State. Originally from Lahaina, Tuipulotu battled through ankle and foot injuries this year. He is on track to become a Division I qualifier. He needs to maintain a 3.0 grade-point average.
"I'm not worried about him," Torres said.
Here's a look at some of the players who remain coveted by recruiters as letter-of-intent day looms in early February:
He put on the work boots and hit the road with dad.
That's life for Matthew Masifilo, who could actually put in more action at construction sites than the gridiron before the holiday season is done. The Campbell senior was on the road yesterday morning, putting his 6-2, 265-pound frame to work. There will be no lying in bed all day for this teenager. A lot of labor, his first with dad since last summer, will go into the effort. The payoff? Nothing, though free lunch is always a plus.
"We probably have to dig up some foundation," said Masifilo, who has had a hectic schedule lately. With 13 scholarship offers in hand, he narrowed recent visits to four schools.
His final list is composed of Cal, Stanford and Washington. Oregon has been trimmed off.
"Oregon doesn't have an engineering school," he said. "I took the trip with Kalani (Aldrich of Kamehameha-Hawaii) and Savaii (Eselu of Moanalua)."
Though Masifilo is allowed a fifth visit by NCAA rule, that's not in his plan. Oregon State has been encouraging Masifilo to make the trip.
"Coach Cav (Beavers offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh) really wants me to play center for them, but I'm set on these three," he said.
Masifilo's list of courting schools reads like a who's who of West Coast football. In addition to the aforementioned schools, they are: Arizona, Boise State, Hawaii, Houston, Nevada, San Diego State, UNLV and Utah.
Their interest remains high even though he suffered a dislocated elbow in the third game of the season.
"We gained 20 yards on the play. I blocked my guy and the tackle had to pull around, and he hit his guy down to the ground before I did. It was a freak accident," said Masifilo, who has made a nearly full recovery.
"I went through rehab for two months. It's 99 percent now and I'm training every day," he said.
As for the final three, Masifilo is going to bide his time.
"What they have on the table is pretty close to each other. With Cal, you can't go wrong football-wise. They're at the top of the nation now," he said.
"Washington, they're in the middle of a turnaround now. The opportunity there is great, and in the Seattle area, there's a lot of things going on. I'm just waiting to see who the (new) coach at Stanford is, first," Masifilo said.
Cal and Washington project him as a defensive lineman, though he played most of his career on offense at Campbell. "A lot of people are telling me O-line is my shot at the NFL, but I don't care about that right now. I want to play someplace I enjoy, and I enjoy both O-line and D-line," he said.
Masifilo, who runs a 4.8 40-yard dash and has a 28-inch vertical leap, has another number worth noting. His GPA has bumped up from 3.95 to 4.0 this semester.
"I have one more test on Monday. Hopefully, that'll get my GPA up a little more," he said.
» Kapolei's Michael Matamua has offers from Hawaii, Oregon State, New Mexico State, UNLV and Utah, among others. San Diego State, however, may be making the most inroads with the 6-4, 280-pound tackle.
"They're big on him. He's an athletic tackle," Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said.
Matamua suffered a broken left hand early in the season and returned as a guard.
"He broke it during preseason drills and was pretty much on the shelf. He came back with a club cast. We didn't put him out at tackle because he was unable to punch," Hernandez said.
Matamua's hand healed enough to allow a switch back to tackle for Kapolei's final four games.
"He did real well," Hernandez said.
Matamua runs a 5.1 40 and reps 225 pounds 19 times on the bench press. The recruiting process could get a bit more crowded. Colorado and BYU are attempting to arrange visits.
» Kahuku's John Manu-Olevao turned the head of many recruiters. The 6-3, 298-pound senior is not likely to become a D-I qualifier, according to Torres. Division I-AA Weber State, with former Baldwin coach Chad Kauhaahaa, is interested in bringing Manu-Olevao to the school.
» For most of the season, Baldwin offensive lineman Kealakai Maiava was focused on a state championship. In the back of his mind, though, was a potential scholarship offer from one of the top college programs in the nation.
Then, everything unraveled, and the 6-2, 290-pound blocker is in a waiting game.
"It's kind of stressful. You never know what's gonna happen. You think it's going one way, and then it's not. Kinda like with Boise State," Maiava said. "I was kinda counting on them. Of all the coaches, Coach Tui was the main one."
Bronco assistant coach Viliami Tuivai built a connection with the lineman. "He was in touch with me every week. They were going to trip me. Then they told me they gave the scholarship to someone else," Maiava said. "He said he was sorry."
For now, he has offers from I-AA schools Weber State, Portland State and San Diego.
Fresno State and San Diego State are interested, though Fresno wants him as a defensive tackle.
Arizona may be inching toward an offer. Assistant coach Mike Tuiasosopo visited the Maiava home in Wailuku.
"He wants me. He's gotta take it to the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach," said Maiava, who has a 3.2 GPA and is already a Division I qualifier.
His performance against eventual state champion Kahuku in the state semifinals opened some eyes. Still, Maiava's road hasn't been paved as well as it was for older brother Kaluka, a former Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year who now plays linebacker at USC.
"I thought it was gonna be easy like with Kaluka's time," said their father, Scott Mahoney.
» Of the eight commits so far, only one is a pure offensive lineman. Sione Tau, who has towered over most of his classmates at Damien since the day he set foot on campus, gave Arizona his commitment in late November.
The 6-6, 285-pound two-sport athlete was a focal point for many visiting coaches on their trips to Hawaii. He was offered scholarships by Cal, Hawaii, New Mexico State, Oregon State, San Diego State and Utah.
» Tons of linemen are weighing their possibilities. A few more of them are Joshua Manupuna of Kamehameha, Alex Tupulua of Waianae, and Ana Tuiasosopo and Tui Tuiasosopo of Saint Louis.
Kamehameha's Kaneakua Friel committed to BYU early in the season.
Moanalua's Savaii Eselu committed to Oregon last month.
This season was thick with talent at this position. Miah Ostrowski of Punahou was phenomenal with 81 receptions for 1,317 yards and nine touchdowns. He is considering an offer from Hawaii, one of the few local high-school pass-catchers ever to get one. His first love is basketball, and he is also considering an offer from Montana State.
Lofa Liilii of Aiea overcame an ankle injury to post big numbers late in the season. He wowed watchers at summer camps on the mainland and drew interest from a few BCS-conference schools.
Jordan Ho-Ching (Pac-Five/Maryknoll), Kyle Blair (Radford) and Elijah Lesu (Farrington) were scintillating this year, but all are waiting on possible offers. Ho-Ching also excelled as a running back and kick returner. He caught 44 passes for 673 yards, while running for 414 yards on 51 attempts (8 yards per carry).
Blair, who has 4.5 speed in the 40, caught 32 passes for 651 yards (20.3 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns in the tough OIA Red West.
Lesu had 44 catches for 736 yards (16.7 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns for the Governors. He also returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.
Gabriel Tuata committed to UH in early November, Kealakehe's first-ever scholarship football player for the Warriors. The shifty 5-7, 170-pound senior also had interest from Boise State.
A number of backs had outstanding seasons. Jordan Torres of Mililani ran for 1,509 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns. Micah Abreu-Laybon of Leilehua ran for 926 yards (5.3 per attempt) and caught 34 passes for 405 yards and three more scores.
Kaiser's Isaac Saffery amassed 1,324 yards (8.5 per carry) and 17 touchdowns.
Another intriguing runner is Shannon Kamakaokalani of King Kekaulike. The 5-4, 140-pound senior led the MIL in rushing and also returned kicks.
Kahuku's senior back, Lehi Aumua, has received interest from Hawaii, Utah and Western Oregon.
Punahou's Brett Kan has committed to play at Princeton, which has a similar run-and-shoot offense. Kan threw for 2,566 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Buffanblu this year.
Bryant Moniz of Leilehua, who threw for 1,662 yards, 20 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, has some feelers from Idaho, Utah and UNLV. Utah, though, is interested in the 6-1, 180-pound senior as a safety.
Pac-Five's Bryson Beirne committed to Arizona last summer, the first player in the state to commit.
Arguably the most stacked position in the state this year.
Farrington's Sam Fehoko, who recently was named Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year, is contemplating offers from 11 schools. Arizona, BYU, Hawaii, Houston, New Mexico State, Oklahoma, San Diego State, TCU, Utah, UNLV and Weber State have all made offers, and he is due for a few visits in the upcoming weeks.
The 6-1, 220-pound senior has a 3.6 GPA and is already a Division I qualifier.
Scott Smith (6-6, 240) has offers from Hawaii and Oregon. Smith also plays basketball for Delbert Tengan, who is also the football coach at Saint Louis.
A number of other D-ends, like Solomona Aigamaua (Saint Louis), Andrew Noga (Farrington), Viliami Haunga (Leilehua) and Thor Salanoa (Radford), could be on the D-I radar by LOI day.
Waianae's David Paaluhi, who had an outstanding year after transferring from Kamehameha, is a late bloomer. Because he did not play during his first three years at Kamehameha, he's just starting to record a signal on recruiting radars. Hawaii has expressed interest in the tough 6-foot, 215-pound senior.
Kamehameha-Hawaii's Kalani Aldrich (6-6, 242) gave a commitment to Washington this month. He also had offers from Hawaii, New Mexico State, Oklahoma and UNLV.
Jacob Barit of Saint Louis had an offer from Utah early in the season.
Waianae standout George Kauwalu will play at a junior college next year, as will another Searider stopper, Chad Duran.
Other closely watched 'backers include Josh Andrews of Mililani and George Tafuna and Joseph Heimuli of Kahuku.
Brandon Hardin of Kamehameha drew a lot of interest from recruiters late in the season. The tall senior played cornerback for the Warriors, but could project as a safety at the next level.
His teammate, Andrew Godinet, and Travis Daniels of Radford could also draw more interest. Daniels has a 33-inch vertical and recorded a 4.12 time in the pro agility drill at last summer's PIAA/Scout.com combine.
Rykin Enos of Kamehameha and Preston Ayala of Waianae were some of the top playmakers in the state as safeties.
Gary Nagy of Kahuku has already committed to BYU.
Lanakila Ynigues of Kealakehe regularly sent kickoffs into the end zone this year. Dane Fernandez of Baldwin was involved with more game-tying and winning field goals than anyone in the state.
Kody Adams of Iolani and River Kim of Punahou were also steady place-kickers.