Monteilh moving up
The true freshman is not
the only newcomer on the
two-deep for Hawaii's secondary
Keao Monteilh's impressive run from true freshman walk-on to a spot with the second team in the third game of his college career began when he was still in high school.
In the weeks after the conclusion of Hawaii's spring practice and before Monteilh's graduation from Saint Louis School, the then-senior would head over to the UH campus to take part in informal 7-on-7 drills with his future teammates.
"Abe (Elimimian) and Kenny (Patton, the current starters at cornerback) helped me out," Monteilh said. "They told me what to do, exactly. It's kind of like the team that we had at Saint Louis."
And here he is. Heading into Saturday night's home game against Tulsa (1-3), Monteilh has cracked Hawaii's two-deep lineup at cornerback.
He is not the only new name. While Ray Bass and Turmarian Moreland have backed up Elimimian and Patton, Omega Hogan has also drawn praise. Cameron Hollingsworth joins Monteilh on this week's two-deep.
The news is not as surprising as it might seem, UH secondary coach Rich Miano said. But it does show that those two have earned their chance to make an impression.
"All those guys are similar," Miano said. "We want to give these other guys an opportunity to see if they can play. Because you're not sure who the best guys are, you want to put the best guys on the field."
The difference, at least this week, was mental.
"Studying," Hollingsworth said. "Yeah, I did a lot of studying.
"The more you know, the faster you can play."
Miano put it a different way.
"From an ability standpoint they're all somewhat equal," he said. "Nobody's really better than one another. It's just, you want to put the guys on the field that are going to know what to do and hopefully do it."
The surprise is that a true freshman might already be ready to earn his coaches' trust with a Division I defensive scheme. But it seems that aside from the shock of Division I speed -- with everybody quicker, faster, stronger -- Monteilh's training at Saint Louis left him relatively prepared for college life.
"My coach, Eddie Klaneski, came from over here (Klaneski played at UH from 1994-97). He taught me everything I know," Monteilh said.
Miano also praised Klaneski and the other Crusader coaches. "And he's fundamentally sound," Miano said of Monteilh. "He's a smart football player and there's something to be said about that."
For Hollingsworth, a junior, the promotion is especially satisfying.
"I feel real good about it," he said. "But I feel I should have been there all along."
All involved know that the shuffle came about because -- for a week at least -- Monteilh and Hollingsworth were just a little bit better at embodying the UH defensive mantra: Alignment and assignment.
And that challenge is ongoing.
"If we're standing on the side and (Miano) doesn't think we're paying attention, he'll turn around and ask us 'What's the play?' " Monteilh said. "And I got caught in a couple of those. Some of the other players are in the back holding up all kine signals so I know what it is."
The long good-bye: UH defensive end Melila Purcell is trying to keep it out of his mind, the way he's tried to ever since he first heard the news.
But that is tougher than ever now, as his father, also named Melila, will be one of more than 2,000 members of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade to be honored in a farewell ceremony before Saturday's game.
The 29th -- including Purcell's father, a staff sergeant from American Samoa who is a 30-year veteran of the guard -- is scheduled to leave for Texas early next week for training to eventually deploy to yearlong duty in Iraq.
"It's getting harder for me every time it gets closer to the day, because me and him are very close," the younger Purcell said. "So it's kind of hard when someone leaves too early in your life and goes out to serve the world."
Purcell said he's even avoided talking to his father about the subject, as much as he can.
"I'm just trying not to think about it too much, because if I do think about it too much, I'll probably just throw everything away and just probably go back home and stay with my mom," he said. "Because she's all by herself."
Purcell will get to say good-bye this weekend before his father leaves for Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. And there should be at least one more reunion. The 29th Brigade is expected to get a break around Christmas before its final evaluation and combat certification. It will probably head for Iraq in March.
But though he is definitely committed for the rest of the season, the younger Purcell said his father's military duty might affect the son's college plans.
"We haven't really talked about it yet," Purcell said. "Probably before he leaves. I'm not sure yet what I want to do. Probably stay here for the next semester or probably go home just to take care of my mom."
Purcell doesn't yet know if his brother Amani, a freshman defensive end at Penn State, will make it to Hawaii this weekend to say good-bye.
Receivers already ran: Everyone ran wind sprints at the end of practice yesterday, except for Hawaii's receivers, who continued to work on pitching and catching. But then, those guys already run sprints all practice every practice.
"Our receivers run more than any group of receivers," Jones said Monday.