Mack: Fonoti probable for opener


POSTED: Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The cart motored off the field and behind a group of subdued players, taking with it the lone returning starter on the Hawaii defense.

Certainly not a scene head coach Greg McMackin or the UH players had envisioned three days before the season opener.

But it appears the frightening moment for senior defensive end John Fonoti was, in fact, just a scare.

Fonoti was carted from the field after hurting his left knee during an 11-on-11 period during practice yesterday morning.

But an MRI showed no structural damage to his knee, although a bruised patella will likely keep him out of today's practice. The prognosis was positive enough for McMackin to rate Fonoti's status as “;highly probable”; for Friday's season opener against Central Arkansas at Aloha Stadium.

“;It just depends on how he responds to treatment,”; McMackin said last night. “;We'll just see how the rehab goes.

“;I'm just thankful he wasn't seriously hurt.”;

In those uncertain moments after practice, Fonoti walked out of the locker room with a noticeable limp, optimistic about his chances of playing.

“;I'm good,”; Fonoti said. “;I'll be there Friday.”;

Fonoti had been resting some nagging injuries with the focus on being fresh for the Central Arkansas game. He returned to practice yesterday morning, back with the first unit on the right side of the defensive line.

He was hurt during an 11-on-11 period as the Warriors worked on third-down situations. Generally, the offensive and defensive linemen engage at the line but are urged to stay on their feet during such drills. But occasionally bodies fall in the tangle, as was the case yesterday when a teammate landed on Fonoti's knee during a running play.

“;Somebody slipped and fell down, and that happens in football,”; McMackin said.

UH began the season with two starters returning on defense. A dislocated left shoulder ended linebacker Brashton Satele's season during fall camp, leaving Fonoti as the lone full-time starter remaining from the 2008 team.

While Fonoti sat out the last few practices, Satele's younger brother, Liko Satele, moved into the starting group at defensive end.

Satele, a Word of Life graduate, practiced with the scout team after transferring from Lambuth University in Tennessee last year. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound sophomore entered fall camp third on the depth chart, but had moved up to second when the revised chart was released last week.

“;Liko Satele has been playing very well. He's got good size, he can run and he's been coming along,”; McMackin said.

Satele had aspirations of playing fullback at Lambuth after playing both ways for Pac-Five. But the chance to play with his brother drew him back home and to defense.

Satele said he feels prepared physically if called upon to play on Friday, and having Brashton around at home has aided in learning the schemes.

“;He helps me a lot, trying to make sure I know all the plays. Sometimes he'll quiz me on it,”; Liko Satele said. “;When we watch NFL games, we always point out stuff, try to watch our positions and try to get better.”;

Rausch next in line

Brent Rausch emerged from a tight competition to secure the backup quarterback job behind starter Greg Alexander, edging sophomore Bryant Moniz.

“;It was a tough call,”; McMackin said. “;(Quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich) has done a great job with the quarterbacks and Brent Rausch has competed and he really picked his game up. He's running the offense, he's got an excellent arm, good feel for the game. His experience in the offense has helped him, but he's worked very hard also.

“;I wouldn't be afraid to have Brent in the game at any time, and Moniz is real close to that also.”;

A starter in high school and junior college and third on the UH depth chart for most of last season, Rausch said being “;one snap away”; will be a new role for him.

“;Never done it before, but it'll be cool,”; he said. “;It'll just be getting my mind ready, the mind-set is a little bit different.”;

Short yardage

Cornerback Tank Hopkins returned to practice after missing most of the last week. “;I just hate sitting out of practice. I just need to get better every day. I felt good today,”; Hopkins said. ... Aloha Stadium officials encourage fans to arrive early to Friday's game to help alleviate rush hour traffic. The Lower Halawa Lot (gates 3 and 4) open at 1:30 p.m. All other lots open at 2:30. Alternate parking will be available at Radford High School, Kamehameha Drive-In and Leeward Community College.