On Guard


POSTED: Thursday, April 16, 2009

Raphael Ieru could look at the obstacles he's encountered and dwell on the time he lost.

Instead, he sees value in working through the trials.

A knee injury sidetracked him early in his Hawaii career and managing his weight became an issue at times over his four years with the Warriors. Now the senior is locked in a tight battle for a starting job on the offensive line, strengthened by the experience.





        Hawaii's starting right guards since Vince Manuwai finished his career in 2002:

» 2003: Phil Kauffman (one game), Uriah Moenoa (13 games)


» 2004: Uriah Moenoa (eight games), Brandon Eaton (five games)


» 2005: Brandon Eaton (12 games)


» 2006: John Estes (14 games)


» 2007: Larry Sauafea (13 games)


» 2008: Lafu Tuioti-Mariner (14 games)




“;You have to push yourself even harder,”; Ieru said. “;That's the beauty of it, at the same time you gain a work ethic.”;

The McKinley graduate is competing with junior Brysen Ginlack for the starting spot at right guard, and has maintained his place with the first team through the first nine practices of the spring.

“;It's still a really good battle there, but Ralph's living up to the challenge,”; offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said. “;Fundamentally he's doing really well. He's still holding it down. I suspect that position will go right through fall camp with a good competition with him and Bulla.”;

Ieru was a second-team all-state pick as a senior at McKinley and chose Hawaii over Arizona State in 2005. But he was hit from the side during a practice his freshman year and suffered a tear in his meniscus.

He battled his knee and his weight over the next few years, and reported at 320 pounds for the spring. Ieru - who entered the program at 365 as a freshman - would like to shed a few more by the fall while maintaining his strength.

“;You want to lose weight, but you want to lose the bad weight,”; Ieru said. “;This year we had great training in the offseason so I feel good. (The knee) hasn't been bothering me, so I just make sure I ice that bad boy every day.”;

Although Shaw is in his first season at UH, he can see a difference between the player he studied on tape and the performance Ieru has delivered this spring.

“;He's much quicker, he's got more staying power,”; Shaw said. “;His conditioning has allowed him to go 10, 15 plays if we need to and he's not getting tired and he's really running hard downfield.”;

Ieru's improved conditioning stems from watching his intake more carefully and an offseason regimen that included twice-a-day workouts with teammates Ray Hisatake, Clayton Laurel, Kahai Choy and Daniel Otineru. After a morning workout, the group would gather again in the afternoon for an extra dose of running, lifting or plyometrics.

“;We say the best time to work out is when you're tired,”; Ieru said. “;That's how you'll be able to fight through adversity.”;

Ginlack started five games at left guard last season and continues to push Ieru for the job occupied by Lafu Tuioti-Mariner last season. So far, he's been able to hold his position working between center John Estes and tackle Laupepa Letuli.

“;The thing about Ralph is he's a really smart guy and always knew what to do and the techniques,”; Estes said. “;He's really motivated and just really good to play next to because he just knows his stuff. ... I really trust him.”;