Hawaii adds QB to haul of recruits
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With a change in regime throwing the Hawaii football program into flux early last month, a few local high schoolers couldn't help but wonder what June Jones' departure meant for their college futures.
For some, like Damien senior Christian Vasconcellos, those concerns were allayed when Greg McMackin was appointed to succeed Jones and retained several members of the staff. Yesterday's signing ceremonies then provided closure to the process for many.
"I didn't know if they were going to bring in some new guy and start all over," said Vasconcellos, who committed to the Warriors last summer. "I was happy (when McMackin was hired). They kept in contact and told me, 'You don't need to worry about it. You're fine.' I was honored to hear that."
Vasconcellos, a defensive back, was among 18 high school and junior college players to submit their national letters of intent to UH yesterday, the first day of the signing period. Three more were still expected to arrive, but for the most part signing day went as expected for the Warriors.
"What was going through my head was just wearing that jersey and stepping onto the field," Vasconcellos said of the moment he signed his letter yesterday morning.
Along with those who committed earlier, the Warriors did get a late boost with the addition of quarterback Greg Alexander out of Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College to the list.
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Even before Hawaii coaches started calling, Greg Alexander had envisioned himself lining up in the shotgun in the Warriors backfield.
Hawaii's run-and-shoot system certainly appealed to Alexander, a prolific passer at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College. But it wasn't until the last few days that his path unexpectedly turned toward Manoa.
Despite a 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame and some impressive numbers -- including 76 touchdown passes in two seasons -- racked up in a competitive JC conference, Alexander's phone stayed relatively quiet deep into the recruiting season.
The Hawaii coaches learned of his situation in the last couple of weeks and a late push led to a commitment as the Warriors added a second quarterback to head coach Greg McMackin's first recruiting class.
"It felt great," Alexander said yesterday after sending in his national letter of intent. "I've been on cloud nine for a couple of days."
Alexander said he committed to UH on Monday and is looking forward to joining the competition to replace Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan. The Warriors also signed 6-4 quarterback Brent Rausch of College of the Desert yesterday.
Alexander's letter was among 18 received by the school yesterday, the first day players could make their commitments binding by signing letters of intent. Three more were still expected to arrive.
McMackin was scheduled to comment on his first class of recruits at a press conference this afternoon.
Hawaii High School commits to the University of Hawaii
» Haku Correa
, Damien, DE/OLB, 6-1, 240
» Paipai Falemalu
, Kahuku, LB, 6-4, 215
» Geordon Hanohano
, Saint Louis, DT, 6-2, 270
» Art Laurel
, Leilehua, LB, 6-1, 210
» Earvin Sione
, McKinley, QB/WR, 6-5, 190
» Alema Tachibana
, Kahuku, LB, 6-3, 220
» Tui Tuiasosopo
, Saint Louis, OL, 6-1, 292
» Christian Vasconcellos
, Damien, CB, 6-2
Mainland commits to the University of Hawaii
» Greg Alexander, Santa Rosa JC, QB, 6-5, 240
» Craig Bell, Cerritos College, WR, 6-1, 185,
» Chris Black, College of the Canyons, DB, 5-11, 170
» Dustin Blount, Compton College, WR, 5-8, 175
» Jeramy Bryant, Los Angeles Harbor College, DB, 5-9, 175
» Steve Christian, Kennedy (Sacramento, Calif.), CB, 5-11, 190
» Ryan Henry, West L.A. College, WR, 5-10 1/2 , 190
» Jake Heun, City College of San Francisco, FB, 6-2, 245
» Kainoa LaCount, College of the Canyons (from Kailua High), OL, 6-7, 290
» Brent Rausch, College of the Desert, QB, 6-4, 190
» Jovonte Taylor, Los Angeles Southwest College, WR, 5-9, 185
» Mike Tinoco, Saddleback College, WR, 6-2, 195
» Lewis Walker, Judge Memorial (Salt Lake City), CB, 6-0, 165
Hawaii High School commits to Mainland Schools
» Bruce Andrews, Kalaheo, WR/CB, 6-0, 185, to Navy
» J.J. Autele, Punahou, LB/DE, 6-2, 230, to San Diego State
» Kama Bailey, Damien, RB, 5-8, 175, to Idaho
» Lake Casco, Lahainaluna, RB, 5-9, 160, to Penn
» Ryan Eastman, Saint Louis, DT/NG, 6-0, 260, to Weber State
» Joshua Fernandez, Farrington, RB, 5-7, 170, to UNLV
» Michael Hoke, Kamehameha, QB, 6-2, 195, to Southern Utah
» Mykenna Ikehara, Kamehameha, OL, 6-3, 275, to Washington
» Daniel Ka'anana, Kamehameha, OL, 6-5, 280, to UNLV
» Benji Kemoeatu, Kahuku, OL, 6-3, 315, to Utah
» Isaiah Lavea, Kamehameha, OL, 6-3, 270, to Idaho
» Solomon Koehler, Castle, OL/DL, 6-2, 305, to Arizona
» Kahikolo Pescaia, Kamehameha, OL, 6-0, 240, to Navy
» Matt Shibata, Pac-Five, 5-11, 180, WR, to Naval Academy Prep School
» Robert Siavii, Leilehua, LB, 6-2, 200, to Idaho
» Charles Ekolu Soon III, Kamehameha, WR, 5-10, 170 pounds, to Army
» Sean Tesoro, Baldwin, OL, 6-3, 285, to UNLV
» Aaron Tipoti, Pac-Five/Word of Life, DE, 6-3, 250, to Cal
Eight local high school athletes were among those to sign. Saint Louis' Geordon Hanohano and Tui Tuiasosopo, Damien's Haku Correa and Christian Vasconcellos, Leilehua's Art Laurel and McKinley's Earvin Sione took part in a signing ceremony yesterday morning at Honolulu Hale. Kahuku linebackers Paipai Falemalu and Alema Tachibana signed their letters on campus.
Four of the local signees have family ties to the program.
Laurel's brother, Clayton, was a freshman offensive lineman with the Warriors last season. Falemalu's uncles, Louis and Walter Santiago, played for the program in the 1980s.
Tuiasosopo follows his father, Ana, as a UH defensive lineman and carried a Warrior Club plaque his dad earned as a UH player on stage during the ceremony.
"My sons never knew I played for UH, I didn't have any evidence. I didn't have plaques or any pictures of me at UH," Ana Tuiasosopo said. "So on Sunday he found (the plaque) in the garage and he goes 'I'm meant to stay home, that's a sign.' "
Correa, whose brother Laanui played for UH, said he was leaning toward going to the mainland after June Jones left for SMU, and it wasn't until late Tuesday night that be decided to stick with the Warriors.
"When (Jones) told me he was leaving I was disappointed, that's why I wanted to go away," said Correa, who also had interest from San Diego State and Arizona. "But I prayed about it and realized I needed to stay home."
The commitments from Falemalu and Tachibana broke new ground for a rebuilt bridge between local powerhouse Kahuku and the University of Hawaii.
While the two entities never officially cut ties in recent years, the recent fall season and ensuing offseason marked renewed contact. That face-to-face connection, which did not exist on the Kahuku campus in the 2006 season, netted two outstanding Red Raiders linebackers.
Falemalu and Tachibana -- both academic qualifiers -- left no doubt about their loyalty during yesterday's mid-morning press conference at Kahuku's Thomas Walker Gym.
At 6-3 and 225 pounds -- he's gained 10 pounds since football season -- Falemalu was a Star-Bulletin All-State first-team linebacker. Tachibana, at 6-3 and 200 pounds, paired with Falemalu to give Kahuku one of the fastest duos at linebacker in the state.
Falemalu's speed is no accident. He is a five-event trackster: 100, 110 hurdles, 4x100 relay, discus and shot put. Tachibana runs in the 100 and 4x100.
Both have 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Falemalu picked UH over Cal, Oregon State and Washington.
Tachibana hopes to gain 15 to 20 pounds by fall camp, where UH will switch him to defensive end. Both players turned down other offers to stay home, even though their parents wanted them to play college football on the continent. Tachibana spurned Utah by choosing the Warriors.
"I always wanted to play for UH," Tachibana said. "I'm happy."
Falemalu said his uncles "gave me input. But in the end, they said it's up to me."
McMackin's visit to Kahuku made a world of difference.
"Mack came here before we went on our trip (to UH)," Falemalu said. "They showed how much they care."
Sione, a multi-skilled standout at McKinley, also signed his letter to play for the Warriors. The 6-5, 190-pound quarterback will switch to wide receiver in Hawaii's run-and-shoot system.
The Warriors turned to junior colleges to further replenish the depth chart at receiver. Receivers Craig Bell, Ryan Henry, Jovonte Taylor and Mike Tinoco will enter the program as juniors. UH also bolstered the secondary with letters from transfer Jeramy Bryant and freshmen Steven Christian and Lewis Walker.
Alexander followed the Warriors through their 12-1 season and Sugar Bowl appearance and figures to feel at home in UH's run-and-shoot system after running a similar attack at Santa Rosa.
"We ran all four and five wide receivers, it was all shotgun and we threw it about 60 times a game," he said.
Alexander said the lack of offers had him "scratching my head for a while" until he heard from new UH quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich -- who had seen him play from the opposing sideline as an assistant at City College of San Francisco the last two years -- over the weekend. He sent the coaches a game tape and spoke to McMackin on Monday, when he committed to the program.
Santa Rosa coach Keith Simons said the Division I coaches who came around just weren't looking for quarterbacks this year. In fact, UH coaches were inquiring about a Santa Rosa receiver when Alexander's situation came up.
"I just told him to stay positive and there couldn't have been a better situation for Greg and for Hawaii," Simons said of the outcome of the sometimes frustrating process. "If this were a normal year with a lot of people looking for quarterbacks, he would have been gone long ago."
The Warriors may get another quarterback in the fall, as Leilehua graduate Bryant Moniz is planning to try out as a walk-on. Moniz, an All-State pick in 2006, played at Fresno City College and threw for 2,286 yards and 18 touchdowns in his freshman season.