UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII FOOTBALL
Some isle recruits get away, but UH gets its share
Warriors build both lines with their latest class
The official list of commitments was still being assembled yesterday, but the Hawaii football team secured its share of talent on signing day, addressing immediate needs while building for the future.
As of yesterday afternoon, Hawaii had received signed letters of intent from offensive linemen Austin Hansen of Valencia (Calif.) High School and John Manu-Olevao of Kahuku and defensive linemen Christopher Leatigaga of Foothills (Calif.) Junior College, Josh Leonard of Sierra (Calif.) Junior College, and Vaughn Meatoga of Kamehameha.
Also signing scholarship agreements were two players each from Kealakehe and Punahou who will grayshirt next season and enroll in school next spring -- Kealakehe offensive lineman Levi Legay and slotback Gabe Tuata, and Punahou receiver Jeremiah Ostrowski and offensive lineman Drew Uperesa.
"I feel like I've accomplished something," said Ostrowski, the Star-Bulletin's offensive player of the year.
More letters were expected to arrive at the UH football office by the time head coach June Jones was to officially announce this year's recruiting class at a press conference scheduled for 9 a.m. today.
Among those still expected to submit letters of intent were defensive lineman Korey Reynolds of Hoover (Ala.) High, linebacker Kevin Konrath of Brother Rice (Chicago) High, running back Leon Jackson, a transfer from Nebraska, offensive lineman Matagisila Lefiti of Mater Dei (Calif.) High, and Texas junior college defensive backs Ryan Mouton (Blinn) and Erik Robinson (Navarro).
Defensive lineman Ray Hisatake and linebacker Francis Maka are enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice.
Although signing day is the major highlight on the football recruiting calendar, the signing period actually runs through April 1.
Wide receiver/defensive back Elijah Lesu of Farrington also signed a letter of intent with UH yesterday at the PIAA press conference at Kapolei Hale.
Lesu is projected as a defensive back with Hawaii. He is close to qualifying academically, he added, pending an upcoming SAT.
"It feels good. I'd rather play defense. I'd rather hit than take the hit," said Lesu, who was recruited by UH assistant coach George Lumpkin.
Legay was one of Stanford's targets early in the season, but he jumped at the chance to play for UH.
"I'm real excited about going to UH," he said. "I could've pursued (Stanford), but Hawaii is a really good program with great coaches."
Tuata, a speedy, shifty runner who could end up playing slotback at UH, assessed his teammate's ability.
"You're asking me how good he is? He's good. He's a fast learner and he listens," Tuata said.
Meatoga gave Hawaii his commitment early in the season and sealed the promise in writing yesterday.
"I'm relieved. All the hard work paid off," the Kamehameha defensive tackle said.
Meatoga showed up at both the PIAA signing and the press conference at Kamehameha Schools on Tuesday.
"After getting to know some of the (UH) players, I know where I have to be at with my skills and strength on the field," he said.
Hawaii wasn't his only choice early in the process.
"In the beginning, I wanted to get off the island," he said of summer camps on the mainland, including Utah. "But I talked with some guys like Vaka Manupuna."
Manupuna, a former Saint Louis standout, played at Colorado and is now with the Washington Redskins.
"He said, if he could do it again, he'd stay home because his parents would've seen more of his games. For me, my parents would have to save money to fly (to the mainland)," Meatoga said.
"Especially with the talent we got in Hawaii, we could be a Top 25 team every year."
Manu-Olevao (6-foot-3, 298-pounds) missed some playing time late in the season due to academic discipline and is now hustling to get qualified for Division I football.
"All I gotta do is work hard. I'm taking extra (online) classes to get my core GPA up," he said. "I just gotta try my hardest."
The former Waiakea student said his backup plan is to grayshirt or attend a junior college.
Star-Bulletin reporter Jason Kaneshiro contributed to this story