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Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

U H _ F O O T B A L L

Rusty Tinoisamoa
loosening up
at linebacker
for Warriors

After a year of ineligibility,
UH sophomore Pisa Tinoisamoa
shows his prowess on defense

By Paul Arnett

The longest year of Pisa Tinoisamoa's life wasn't after his senior season in high school when trouble followed him around like a lost puppy.

The University of Hawaii linebacker paid for his felony convictions that spring in a San Diego-area detention center and firmly believed that good times were waiting for him upon his arrival in paradise in the summer of 1999.

But such was not the case after the NCAA Clearinghouse ruled that a prep math credit couldn't be counted, dropping him into nonqualifier status. Tinoisamoa remained in school last year, making sure his academic standing didn't come into play in the 2000 campaign.

It was a difficult year, the first not being involved in football on a daily basis. He tried to stay in shape with visits to the weight room, but his efforts weren't regular enough.

As a result, Tinoisamoa reported to fall camp slow and heavy with his football instincts as rusty as the Tin Man's ax. In UH's defensive system, the middle linebacker must be able to take on a block and make plays inside the tackles. He must also flow to the perimeter on pitch plays and drop back quickly in pass coverages.

"It's one of the most difficult positions in our defense and it's just taking him time to adjust to it," UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "He was rusty. That happens when you're out of football for nearly two years."

Tinoisamoa was awarded his first collegiate start two weeks ago against the University of Tulsa. It was an inauspicious beginning for the cousin of All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau. So much so, regular starter Rinda Brooks played the entire second half.

Even against Texas Christian the following week, Tinoisamoa looked slow to the hole. He just didn't appear ready for the daily rigors of Division I football.

But thanks to studying film and a continued weight-loss program, Tinoisamoa seems to be finding his way. Granted, Southern Methodist's offensive line isn't among the best in America. Still, in only one half of work, Tinoisamoa filled in admirably for the injured Brooks, finishing with 10 tackles, including three quarterback sacks.

"I finally got to get out there and show what I can do," said Tinoisamoa, who was named the WAC defensive player of the week for his efforts. "It was a real big game for me, and for the team, too. Coaches and all. Everyone contributed to this win."

The 30-15 victory over SMU was the first in five tries for the Warriors. They travel to Rice University this weekend, the third trip to Texas in five weeks.

Whether Tinoisamoa gets the start depends on the health of Brooks, who is a Houston resident and has looked forward to this game all season. UH head coach June Jones said yesterday he would have to wait and see before making the announcement.

"It was nice for Pisa to get that award," Jones said. "We hope it's the first of many. He made some plays for us, including that big one near the end of the game with the sack and a fumble.

"He's gotten better every time he has played. Having the year off and making the step from high school to college, he's getting more comfortable back in there.

"We knew that he had great instincts. He seems to be a football player. He likes the game. And he'll get better and better as he plays more. Whether he starts depends on Rinda's health."

Tinoisamoa will see a lot of playing time, regardless. Lempa likes to keep fresh bodies on the field and is willing to move players in and out of there to get that desired effect.

"It feels good just to be on a team again after having to sit on the sidelines last year and only being able to watch us win," Tinoisamoa said.

2000 UH Football Special

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