UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII FOOTBALL
Warriors looking for players to help right away
Hawaii will concentrate on recruiting from the junior college level to fill its immediate needs
Recruiting heavily from the junior college ranks is not always the best way to go, but Hawaii hopes getting players who can contribute right away will lead to another big season after last year's 11-3 mark.
The Warriors have six returning starters on offense (including Heisman candidate quarterback Colt Brennan) and eight on defense, so if UH can fill the openings with ready-to-play talent, a WAC championship and other goals are attainable.
That's why today, letter of intent day, will feature several players with just two years playing eligibility, coming up from the JCs.
"We felt we had immediate needs we had to address. This island doesn't produce corners, so you have to go off-island," UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said. "And it's very difficult to find high school kids at that position who fit your parameters. And you have to be willing to invest three years in them usually for them to be ready to play."
Ryan Mouton of Blinn College in Texas (the same school that produced starting safety Jake Patek) has shut-down corner potential at 5-feet-10 and 185 pounds. He won't be handed a starting job though, as starters Myron Newberry and Gerard Lewis return.
"With JC guys, if you choose the right ones, they can make an immediate impact, like Myron, Gerard and Jake did last year," Reinebold said.
Another JC, Erik Robinson (5-11, 195), will be in the mix to try to replace graduated safety Leonard Peters.
It is also hoped ends Josh Leonard (6-2, 285), Chris Leatigaga (6-5, 270) and nose tackle Ray Hisatake (6-4, 310) can contribute right away up front, since UH lost All-WAC ends Ikaika Alama-Francis and Melila Purcell, as well as Kahai LaCount and Renolds Fruean, who were in the rotation at tackle.
Hisatake and his San Mateo College teammate, outside linebacker Francis Maka (6-3, 245) are already enrolled at UH and will participate in spring practice.
The new player most likely to produce right away on offense could be running back Leon Jackson, a transfer from Nebraska.
"It takes time to develop an offensive lineman in our system," Reinebold said.
That's why the Warriors rarely recruit a transfer, JC or otherwise, for the offensive front. High school players like Drew Uperesa (6-2, 245) and Levi Legay (6-3, 270) don't have the experience, but they possess the frame and the potential.
"It's so much like the NFL Draft. You're trying to improve your team for the short-term and the long-term," Reinebold said.
"The guys you draft early have to help you right away, the guys you draft in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds are guys you hope can help you down the line."
It looks to be a solid class that could've been spectacular had the Warriors landed Plant (Tampa, Fla.) quarterback Robert Marve. Marve, who chose Miami over UH, could've been the successor to Brennan.
UH head coach June Jones will speak about the class at a news conference tomorrow.
Locally, letter-of-intent day includes at least three news conferences. One was held yesterday at Kamehameha Schools to announce about a dozen signees-to-be in various sports.
Early this morning, a bulk of the state's top football recruits were scheduled to sign their letters at Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance's annual event at Kapolei Hale.
Kahuku was scheduled to host its event around mid-morning. Among those signees will be All-State first-team defensive linemen Nai Fotu and Kaniela Tuipulotu. Fotu orally committed to Utah, but visited Arizona recently; Tuipulotu was expected to sign with the Wildcats today.
The biggest local question mark was Damien offensive lineman Sione Tau. Tau pledged to Arizona early in the process, but has been thinking about Colorado lately.
Beavers could land another:
Oregon State, which has mined the islands for vast talent the past few seasons, could land another gem.
Aiea slotback Lofa Liilii visited the Corvallis campus over the weekend and is now mulling a scholarship offer from the Beavers.
Liilii, an All-State second-team receiver, has an offer from only one other Division I school, Idaho.
"I feel thankful and real happy. I never thought I could get a full ride because I sat out half of the season with the injury. I thought everybody would look away already," the explosive slotback said.
Oregon State, he added, wants him to get on the playing field as a true freshman.
"I need time to talk to my family," he said, adding that unless something changes, he will likely sign with the Beavers today.
Hawaii did not make an offer to the 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior.
"I wanted to stay home. I have a lot of support here," he said. "But I never heard anything from them. I don't know how I'll perform in the cold."
Liilii said he needs to increase his SAT score by about 100 points to become an NCAA qualifier.
HAWAII HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS
» Solomona Aigamaua, DE, Saint Louis to California
» Kalani Aldrich, DE, Kamehameha-Hawaii to Washington
» Josh Andrews, LB, Mililani to Navy
» Bryson Beirne, QB, Pac-Five to Arizona
» Jojo Dixon, LB, Baldwin to Idaho
» Savaii Eselu, TE, Moanalua to California
» Sam Fehoko, DE, Farrington to Texas Tech
» Malone Fiso, DL, Kahuku to Weber State
» Nai Fotu, DL, Kahuku to Utah
» Kaneakua Friel, TE, Kamehameha to BYU
» Brandon Hardin, DB, Kamehameha to Oregon State
» Sifa Heimuli, LB, Kahuku to Weber State
» Brett Kan, QB, Punahou to Princeton
» Joshua Manupuna, DT, Kamehameha to Portland State
» Castro Masaniai, DL, Waipahu to Oregon State
» Matthew Masifilo, DE, Campbell to Stanford
» Michael Matamua, OL, Kapolei to San Diego State
» Marc Moody, LB, Saint Louis to Mississippi Valley State
» Gary Nagy, DB, Kahuku to BYU
» David Paaluhi, DE, Waianae to Oregon State
» Thor Salanoa, DE, Radford to Utah
» Aaron Santiago, SB, Kapolei to Navy
» Scott Smith, DE, Saint Louis to California
» Sione Tau, OL, Damien to Arizona
» Kaniela Tuipulotu, DT, Kahuku to Arizona
» Ana Tuiasasopo, OL, Saint Louis to New Mexico State
» Alex Tupulua, OL, Waianae to Weber State
» Jonah Venenciano, C-LS, Kamehameha to New Mexico State
LOCAL UH COMMITMENTS
» George Kauwalu, OLB/S, Waianae
» Levi Legay, OL, Kealakehe
» Elijah Lesu, S, Farrington
» John Manu-Olevao, OL, Kahuku
» Vaughn Meatoga, DL, Kamehameha
» Miah Ostrowski, SB, Punahou
» Gabe Tuata, SB, Kealakehe
» Drew Uperesa, OL, Punahou to Hawaii
OTHER UH COMMITMENTS
» Austin Hansen, OL, Valencia (Calif.) High School
» Ray Hisatake, DT, San Mateo (Calif.) JC
» Leon Jackson, RB, Nebraska
» Kevin Konrath, LB, Brother Rice (Chicago) High School
» Chris Leatigaga, DE, Foothills (Calif.) JC
» Matagisila Lefiti, OL, Mater Dei High School (Calif.)
» Josh Leonard, DE, Sierra (Calif.) JC
» Francis Maka, OLB, San Mateo (Calif.) JC
» Ryan Mouton, CB, Blinn (Texas) JC
» Korey Reynolds, DL, Hoover (Ala.) High School
» Erik Robinson, S, Navarro (Texas) JC