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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, September 25, 2003

Rice can't avoid island's beauty

 •  Owens 'surprised' by two-game suspension
Rice is ahead of the class when it comes to academics

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer


So much for the best laid plans of Rice and men.

In an attempt to prepare without distractions for Saturday's football game against host Hawai'i, Rice booked reservations at the Turtle Bay Resort. The thing is, that also is the venue for this weekend's 2003 Miss Hawaiian Tropic International United States Pageant.

"I think this is a plan from Hawai'i," said Rice coach Ken Hatfield, whose team arrived in town yesterday afternoon.

In a what-the-heck request, Hatfield asked hotel officials if the pageant would consider relocating. "I didn't want to change hotels," Hatfield said. "We've had good success there."

Rice is 2-0 in Hawai'i since it began staying at the Turtle Bay.

"It's a major distraction if (the contestants are) running around the hotel," quarterback Greg Henderson said. "We have to stay focused in what we have to do. If we can get through this, we can get through anything."

But linebacker Jeff Vanover said he is confident the Owls will not be distracted.

"We'll see how it plays out," he said. "For the most part, with the coaching staff and the players, we'll have our mind on the game. I don't think it'll be too much of a trouble."

Vanover then introduced a reporter to his fiancée.

Line dance: Overcoming a medical condition and position change, second-year freshman Tala Esera is competing for a starting job on the offensive line.

"Obviously, you can see his athleticism," line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "With his personality, I thought he'd fit better on offense. He's an intelligent guy. Smart guys buy into things when you teach technique. They listen. They don't make mistakes."

Cavanaugh said he had wanted Esera to move from the defensive line at the start of spring practice. "We needed defensive line depth, so we didn't move him," Cavanaugh said.

Esera missed the early portion of training camp because of a heart murmur.

"If the guy went through all of spring practice, even if he missed the beginning of training camp, he'd probably be starting for us," Cavanaugh said.

Esera, a 2002 Kahuku High graduate, said he had never played on the offensive line until last month. "I knew I could do it, because Coach Cav has a lot of trust in me, and I have trust in him," said Esera, who is competing at tackle.

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Esera gained 15 pounds since the spring. Because he is a late bloomer, "my first (lessons) on technique are from Coach Cav," he said. "Because I'm learning everything from him, I'm not developing bad habits. I'm getting the best coaching right now."

Right guard Uriah Moenoa compares Esera to former Warrior Wayne Hunter, who started 12 games at left tackle last year after moving from the defensive line. Hunter was the Seattle Seahawks' third-round draft choice in April.

"I like how he plays aggressively and listens to the coach," Moenoa said. "I think he's progressing almost as well as Wayne did."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.