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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Warriors' Fuga still out with knee injury

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Defensive tackle Lui Fuga said he will need at least another 11 days before he is ready to resume practicing with the University of Hawai'i football team.

Fuga, a sixth-year senior projected to start at defensive left tackle, suffered a partial tear to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during Saturday's practice.

He had insisted he would practice as early as today. But after yesterday's practice, he said, "I have to give it more rest. I want to make sure it's fully healed and it's strong. I don't want to rush back."

Partial MCL tears can heal without surgery. "That's a good thing," Fuga said. "I have to rest it, but still try to stay in shape."

Kahai LaCount, who moved from the offensive line in spring practice, has replaced Fuga on the first-team defense.

Paul Lutu-Carroll, a fifth-year senior listed as the No. 1 weakside linebacker, also is recovering from a partially torn MCL in his right knee. Lutu-Carroll, who is wearing a knee brace, estimated a recovery time frame similar to Fuga's.

Yesterday, Tanuvasa Moe, who was UH's long-snapper last season, was the weakside linebacker on the first team. It was the first time he played the position. He competed at strong-side linebacker in spring practice and middle linebacker in the first eight days of training camp. At Saint Louis School, Moe was used as a rover, a hybrid of linebacker and defensive back.

"I don't know if this is a permanent move," said Moe, a fourth-year junior. "I'm going wherever they put me."

Moe said he enjoys the open-field freedom given to weakside linebackers. The strongside linebacker usually plays near the line of scrimmage, across from the tight end.

"I love it on the weak side," he said. "I get to do more things. I'm not just trapped on the line."

UH coach June Jones said: "He can play all of the linebacker positions. He's smart enough to do that."

Jones also did not rule out using Moe as the long-snapper. Bryce Runge, whose only job is to long snap, is listed as the starter.

"If (Moe) is the best snapper, he'll snap," Jones said.

Lincoln Manutai, who played weakside linebacker in spring practice, is awaiting academic clearance to play this season. Manutai did not practice yesterday.

Alama-Francis vows to return Sept. 13

Defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis said he expects to resume practicing by Sept. 13, the Monday before UH's second game.

Alama-Francis underwent back surgery two weeks ago to repair a herniated disk. The injury dates to when he was a member of the UH basketball team in 2002-03.

"The problem got really bad," he said. "My disk was really badly herniated. I was losing feeling in my right leg. It was hard for me to push off, and it was affecting my bladder."

He said six doctors recommended surgery.

He is using the time off to gain weight. Being placed on scholarship recently, he said, "is great. I get more meals."

Ma'afala grateful for Jones' assistance

Albert "Abu" Ma'afala, a defensive tackle who recently transferred to California, yesterday thanked Jones for his help in securing a football scholarship from Cal coach Jeff Tedford.

"Coach Jones is a good man," Ma'afala said. "I knew Coach Jones would give me a break. He would do that for any guy."

Jones said: "Abu is a super kid. That's why I told (Tedford) to take him. I'm not going to penalize a kid if he thinks he has to go. I tried to help him."

Ma'afala received a release from his UH football scholarship last month. At the time, school officials cited "family reasons" for the departure.

"It wasn't family reasons," Ma'afala said.

Although he would not disclose the "personal" circumstances that led to his decision, Ma'afala said, "I didn't leave the team. There was some stuff that happened, and I was left with an ultimatum to make a decision that ultimately left me having a scholarship to Cal. Everything happened so fast."

He said he had no other football opportunities available when he left UH. "There was a big risk," he said. "Thank God it ended up the way it did."

Ma'afala said he contacted Tedford, who then called Jones.

"There were a lot of questions surrounding my leaving and stuff," Ma'afala said. "When a guy transfers in the middle of his career, people wonder why. Usually it's because of something bad."

Jones told Tedford: "I thought (Ma'afala) was going through some personal things. What you see is what you're going to get, and if I were you, I would give him a scholarship and bring him in."

Ma'afala approached Jones after yesterday's practice. They embraced, then Jones told him: "Just work hard. If you do what you need to do, you'll end up in the NFL one day."

"I just wanted to thank him and see the boys," Ma'afala said. "I'm going to miss these guys so much. I've got to do what I've got to do to make myself better."

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