Malala making
serious run at
first team

The Hawaii safety, a basketball
convert, played special teams
for the Warriors last season

There's something about the Hawaii football team that attracts former basketball players.

UH Football One of the Warriors' latest refugees from the hardwood is safety Mike Malala, who attended Hawaii-Hilo for two years with the idea of playing basketball for the Vulcans.

Defensive ends Ikaika Alama-Francis and Tony Akpan and receiver Brandon Matano all began their UH athletic careers on the Rainbow Warrior basketball team.

Malala transferred to Manoa last year and found his way to the UH football team. He's worked out with the first team the past two days at spring practice.

"He played well on special teams last year. He's a real hard worker and he's dedicated himself to the game," coach June Jones said of Malala.

Malala was born in Hawaii and spent most of his early childhood in Kapahulu. He went to high school in Silverdale, Wash., where he was a standout in both football and basketball.

If the 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore can learn new defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville's schemes well enough, he could get some serious playing time in the fall.

"It's going pretty good," Malala said of his first spring camp. "Everyone's getting a fair chance, and I've definitely enjoyed playing with the first team the past couple of days."

His scout team experience last fall helped him to learn on the fly.

"Every week we ran the other team's defense, so I've learned how to adjust quickly," he said. "I was away from football for two years, but I feel comfortable again."

RB competition heats up: Senior Nate Ilaoa and junior Bryan Maneafaiga have moved ahead of the pack at running back, Jones said.

"I think Nate and Bryan are a step above the rest," the coach said. "But we're holding them both out of contact because of shoulder (sprains)."

Both participated in seven-on-seven drills yesterday, though, and Ilaoa took some reps at his former position of slotback. Jones said they could play together in the fall.

"I feel good. If I stay focused, there's no limit," Maneafaiga said.

Maneafaiga rushed four times for 19 yards and one touchdown in limited action last season. All his carries came in one game, against Nevada.

Ilaoa missed all of last season recovering from a knee injury.

Purcell returns: Starting defensive end Mel Purcell returned to practice yesterday, but did not participate as he awaits medical clearance following a concussion diagnosis last week.

Purcell collapsed during pass-rush drills and was taken to a hospital by ambulance.

"It feels good to be back on the field, but I felt out of place not doing anything," he said. "I just tried to take some mental reps."

Purcell said he hasn't experienced headaches, dizziness or blackouts.

"The way I feel, I feel like I'm going in (today to practice)," Purcell said.

Photo opportunities Saturday: Fans will be allowed to take photos with and get autographs from players after Saturday's practice.

The following players will be available at 10 a.m.: Jason Ferguson, Ross Dickerson, Brandon Eaton, Derek Fa'avi, Samson Satele, Tala Esera, Mel Purcell, Tanuvasa Moe, Kenny Patton, Lono Manners, Leonard Peters, Kila Kamakawiwo'ole, Jack Rolovich, Kainoa Akina and Landon Kafentzis.

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