By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
LANSING, Mich. — Soon after completing a practice sequestered by distance and time, the University of Hawai'i football team declared itself fit for tomorrow's road game against Michigan State.
"We had a good practice," UH coach June Jones said. "We have to tighten up a few things, and hopefully we'll look at the tape and correct (the problems) and be ready to roll."
To hinder MSU's spies, Jones scheduled last night's workout at Haslett High School's field, located 10 miles — and a detour — from MSU's East Lansing campus. The Warriors practiced until 10:30 p.m. Former UH lineman Derek Johnson provided security, chasing away everyone except team members, Haslett players and Hawai'i media.
"If you don't look like you belong, you're outta here," Johnson said.
The Warriors appeared refreshed, despite their hectic schedule. They had scrambled to finalize their 60-player travel roster Wednesday morning, leaving behind cornerback Turmarian Moreland but taking seven freshmen, including safety B.J. Fruean and defensive end John Fonoti.
Their commercial flight from Honolulu departed Wednesday afternoon. They traveled nonstop to Chicago — "it was so long, they showed three movies," Jones said — then took a charter flight to Detroit, arriving yesterday at 8 a.m.
The players slept through the afternoon, then were encouraged to walk around the nearby Lansing Mall. Safety Lono Manners — wearing a T-shirt that read "Mind Your Manners" — posed for cellphone pictures from an intrigued shopper. "We're from Hawai'i," Manners said, flashing a shaka sign.
After dinner, the players participated in a brisk practice during which the mercury dipped to the high 50s.
"We showed good concentration," Jones said.
Jones said defensive end Melila Purcell III, who did not participate in his third consecutive practice after suffering a sore left foot, is expected to play against Michigan State. Once again, Karl Noa practiced in place of Purcell at left end.
Nate Ilaoa, a slotback who earned Jones' scorn after reporting to training camp overweight, practiced at running back. Jones said Ilaoa appears to have fully healed from a strained hamstring.
"He's a good athlete," Jones said of Ilaoa, who weighs 230 pounds after dropping 20 pounds in the past four weeks. "He has running ability. He gives us an athletic guy back there."
The Warriors will practice in Spartan Stadium today, abandoning Jones' policy of not working out in the opposing team's stadium. But Jones said he wants the first-year players to go through a dress rehearsal.
"I wouldn't care if (former UH quarterback) Timmy Chang saw the stadium," Jones said. "He's seen every stadium. Some of the young players have never played in a big stadium."
Kicker Daniel Kelly said his high school football team never drew more than 250 fans.
Michigan State coach John L. Smith said he expects his team to honor its commitment to play UH at Aloha Stadium in 2007.
There were published reports speculating the Spartans would try to cancel, especially after they vocalized their complaints about the officiating in last season's meeting between the teams at Aloha Stadium.
"I'm sure we will play," Smith said. "It's on the schedule. The contract's been signed. All I know is I try to look at the schedule and who's the next opponent on there. If I don't do a good job, I won't even be here when that comes around. I don't worry about it."
PITCHING AND PUTTING
Not only is MSU starting quarterback Drew Stanton expected to compete for the Spartans' baseball team in the spring, he also has a knack for golf.
Last year, his first playing golf, he aced a par-3 hole at a course in Northern Michigan. "I used a wedge to hit it 135 yards," Stanton recalled. "After I hit it, the ball disappeared. I started running around the course. I had no idea where the ball was. We finally found it in the cup."
For his effort, he said, "I got a little plaque with a '1' and the ball on it. It's kind of cool."
RUNNING'S NO PROBLEM
After rushing for 140 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-14 rout of Kent State last week, Michigan State's Jehuu Caulcrick looked like he was born to run. Indeed, while growing up in Liberia's civil war, Caulcrick rarely slowed down.
"At the time," he said of his wonder years, "you're running for your life. It was scary. Every day you didn't know if you were going to lose your family or anything like that. It was stressful."
When he was 9, his family escaped from Liberia, eventually ending up in Findley Lake, N.Y.
Since then, calm has returned to the West African country. Caulcrick no longer fears for his relatives who live in Liberia. He said he hopes to visit, although that must wait until a break in his ascending college career.
As a third-string running back last season, Caulcrick gained 619 yards in 11 games. He was named to The Sporting News' Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Caulcrick's breakout effort against Kent State did little to change his personality. He still runs extra laps after practice and praises his linemen after each run, hardly living up to his first name, which translates loosely, he claims, to "problem child."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.