Sunday, February 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 4, 2001

Battle for state's top high school talent intensifies

UH recruits and The Advertiser top 12 isle prospects

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

For the University of Hawaii football coaches, recruiting always has been a game of both "Survivor" and "Temptation Island."

It is no different this year as Wednesday’s national signing date nears, with UH battling more than 20 other Division I football programs for commitments from Isle players.

Last year, the Warriors made a clean sweep, signing the top 10 local prospects. This year, they have received verbal commitments from four top-12 players and are a finalist for a fifth, running back Brian Daniels of Mililani High.

The dropoff is significant, but not unexpected. At this time last year, the Warriors were recruiting off a bowl-championship season; this time, they are coming off a 3-9 year.

What’s more, Wisconsin, Nevada and, even, Portland State have joined 20 others - including Nebraska, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Southern California, UCLA - in recruiting the Islands.

But like television networks and ratings, there are enough categories and needs in which football programs can claim victories. For the Warriors, they are content in the belief that they have fulfilled all of their recruiting needs.

This year’s UH wish list was this: Cornerbacks, offensive linemen, defensive ends and linebackers.

The theory is a team can never have enough offensive linemen; that pass-rushers are at a premium and, if they don’t work out as defensive ends, they can always become fast defensive tackles; that cornerbacks are the best athletes on defense.

The Warriors received commitments from two offensive linemen - an adequate number for a team that lost one starter and redshirted five last year.

With Tim Chang starting nine games as a freshman quarterback last year, the UH coaches were seeking a quarterback prospect who wouldn’t mind spending at least two years learning the run-and-shoot offense. Jeff Rhode, whose high school coach is former NFL quarterback Chris Miller, said he accepts that role.

The UH coaches also planned on signing one running back and no wide receivers. But those plans were scrapped when they received commitments from St. Louis School running back Pesefea Fiaseu Jr., the state’s offensive player of the year; Centennial High tailback Mike Bass, who was named ESPN’s Southern California high school player of the year; 240-pound fullback Josh Galeai, and Virginia wide receiver Nate Ilaoa, who was the Washington Post’s Metro-area player of the year.

The Warriors will fill their remaining five available scholarships in the next two days. UH already received 16 verbal commitments or signed scholarship agreements from high school seniors and junior college players. Two scholarships are reserved for players who committed last year but delayed enrolling in school until this year. Two other scholarships will go to defensive linemen Travis Laboy and Wayne Hunter, both of whom transferred from Division I programs last summer.

Overall, the Warriors appear to be pleased with their recruiting, a process that began last year when they started evaluating videotapes of more than 500 prospects from across the country and American Samoa.

The coaches used their ties - former UH player Vincent Sides delivered three El Camino College players - and their resourcefulness. UH assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh learned of Ilaoa from a football magazine cover.

Thursday, the process begins again.

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