Tuioti-Mariner can cheer at last
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
During his football recruiting visit two years ago, Clarence "Lafu" Tuioti-Mariner went into the Aloha Stadium stands and began chanting, "Go UH! . . . Go UH!"
But injuries during his first two University of Hawai'i seasons left him with few good cheers — that is until last week, when he was moved from nose tackle to center.
"When the coaches gave me the good news, I told my family back home (in Riverside, Calif.)," he recalled. "My dad was happy."
Indeed, for Tuioti-Mariner, happiness is good health and a return to the offensive line.
"I was an offensive tackle in high school, when the coaches recruited me," he said. "I played a little defense, but that wasn't my position."
He redshirted in 2004, his first season at UH, after suffering torn ligaments in his left shoulder. Still, he practiced regularly, and was named the Warriors' Defensive Scout Player of the Year. "The injury didn't stop me," he said. "I practiced until I got that surgery."
Last season, the Warriors switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment, but his luck didn't change. He suffered an injury to his left knee during training camp. His pride was in worse condition.
"To tell you the truth," he said of his place on the depth chart, "I was at the bottom."
And there he remained until last week, when UH coach June Jones decided that Tuioti-Mariner was facing the wrong direction. Moving the yard from nose tackle to center turned Tuioti-Mariner's mood.
"I've got a lot of work to do, but I love it," he said. "It's been three years since I've been on the O-line. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, but I feel I'm at home."
At 6 feet and 280 pounds, Tuioti-Mariner is the smallest of the three centers, behind starter Samson Satele and freshman John Estes. "I've got a big heart," he said.
Jones said: "He's a tough guy. He's got good bounce (footwork). He'll be a good center."
Tuioti-Mariner said his left knee is "100 percent. I'm better physically."
He also has blocked efficiently. "The biggest thing is learning all of the calls," he said.
Tuioti-Mariner is the cousin of Tony Tuioti, a starting defensive tackle for the Warrior team that won the 1999 O'ahu Bowl.
Tuioti-Mariner is the latest nose tackle to change positions. Keala Watson, Fale Laeli and Rocky Savaiigaea are playing defensive end this spring. Renolds Fruean, who will move to defensive end, is working this spring and will rejoin the team in August. Reagan Mauia and Siave Seti have moved to running back.
Slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins, who was on crutches because of a pulled right hamstring, said it will be "four to six weeks before I can start running again."
The 15 days of UH's spring practice end Saturday.
"It (stinks) that it happened, but I'm just glad it happened in the spring rather than the fall," he said.
Kenny Patton, who moved from cornerback to right wideout this spring, did not compete yesterday because of an injury to his right quadriceps.
He said it is "questionable" whether he will resume practicing this spring.
Jones has said Patton will not be evaluated this spring while he learns the new position. As to which position he will play in the fall, Patton said, "it's up to coach Jones. Wherever I can help the team. If they need help at DB, I'll play DB. If they think I can catch long passes, I'll go to receiver."
TAYLOR BACK ON TEAM
Andre Taylor, who was placed on the inactive list last month because of academic and personal problems, rejoined the team yesterday. Taylor was the Warriors' top punt and kick returner last year. He moved from wideout to cornerback near the end of the 2005 season.
"I had to take care of some personal issues back home (in California)," he said. "Everything is good. My academics are good, too. I had to tighten up, get those grades up and take care of business."
The Warriors are not practicing special teams this spring. But assistant coach Jeff Reinebold, who is assisting with special teams, said Taylor remains in contention to return kicks.
KALILIMOKU ON FIELD
Brad Kalilimoku, who did not participate in seven consecutive practices over two weeks because of a pulled left hamstring, worked out at strong safety yesterday.
Kalilimoku started at linebacker during his first two UH seasons. Jones said Kalilimoku proved during the first four spring practices that he should be the top successor to Lono Manners, who completed his NCAA eligibility.
Kalilimoku was not able to run at full speed yesterday.
"I know he was being careful," defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said.
Most of yesterday's first-team work went to Michael Malala, who ascended to top strong safety in Kalilimoku's absence.
"You miss a week, you go to the back of the bus," Glanville said of Kalilimoku. "He didn't look like how he did when he left. Everybody is ahead of him. I'm ahead of him. You can't miss a week and not be able to run and then try to be where you were. It's not going to happen. The best thing is he's very conscientious. I didn't say unconscious. But he's about one-third as good as he normally is."
Kalilimoku said it feels as if there is a "knot" in his left hamstring. "You can't extend it," he said.
Kalilimoku said his off-season goal is to become more flexible. As a linebacker, he said, "it was all about lifting and getting stronger. Now I have to train differently. Change positions, change routines."
Kalilimoku, who is 5 feet 11, weighed 204 pounds last year. He has gained six pounds, and hopes to weigh 215 when he reports to training camp in August. He can bench-press more than 400 pounds and run 40 yards in 4.56 seconds.
Wideout Ross Dickerson, who is recovering from offseason ankle surgery, also practiced yesterday.
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.