CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Keala Watson will not have as much weight to throw around this season after losing 40 pounds over the summer.
Worth the weight
What happens when linemen born and raised in Hawaii take rice, poi and anything else with carbohydrates out of their diets altogether?
Apparently, they experience some Atkins Diet-induced crankiness. But they also get better at football.
Two of the biggest losers (weight-wise) are tackles Keala Watson and Rocky Savaiigaea, who have slimmed down a good 40 pounds each over the summer.
"I felt grouchy, you could feel it hit you," said Savaiigaea, who went from 336 in the spring to 298 at the start of fall camp. "It was like a food withdrawal."
"Oh yeah, it was brutal," said Watson, a 295-pound junior from Nanakuli. He checked in at 335 going into the summer.
It's all part of a master plan to get the linemen attuned to Greg McMackin's new 4-3 defensive scheme this season, which requires the bangers to rely as much on quickness as strength.
So coach June Jones challenged the linemen (mostly defensive, with some O-linemen mixed in) to keep to the Atkins plan over the whole summer -- eliminating all carb intake -- while maintaining their strict workout regimen of running with trainer Mel deLaura.
"You need bigger bodies in (last year's) two-gap system," defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold explained. "In the one-gap (4-3) system, you gotta be up the field, you gotta be able to run. Those guys did a great job of pushing themselves away from the rice and the poi this summer, and eating better. In the long run, it's better for them health-wise."
That may sound all well and good, but the lack of carbs hit Watson and Savaiigaea hard for the first two weeks on the plan. They could only drink water; no energy drinks, no soda, no juice.
"All of us, even like me and 'Ala had headaches," said Savaiigaea, an Aiea High School graduate. "It was something I never felt; I'd never been so tired. I would sleep and I'd still be tired when I get up. It was just like, a real big change."
Savaiigaea's mother put the rest of the family on the Atkins plan to support her son. That, combined with regular pickup basketball games, helped the sophomore get through the adjustment period.
Watson, expected to start this season, didn't want to let the rest of the linemen down.
"It was hard to get away from the variety of food that we're used to eating, here in Hawaii," he said, "and to find the energy to come out here (to the practice field). But it was good that a lot of us were on it, so that we just kept pushing each other, and seeing each other every day, asking each other how we were doing and just motivating each other to keep going and lose the weight."
Now there is the dilemma of learning to play without relying solely on brute force.
"I'm used to throwing my weight around, but now I don't have as much weight to play with so I plan on using other techniques," Watson said. "It's just lower pad level and coming off the ball quicker."
Since those initial struggles, their diligence has paid dividends. They're both now at or near their ideal weight for the new role of their position.
"The conditioning is like a walk in the park now," Watson said. "I'm not carrying 40 pounds of extra luggage around. It's a lot easier to go over plays and a lot easier to remember your assignments when you're not huffing and puffing."