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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Warriors continue to beef up backfield

UH Warriors practice photo gallery

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Free safety Spencer Smith protects the ball as cornerback JoPierre Davis tries to strip it away during drills.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Laumoli

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Many discoveries are made accidentally, and that's how an under-sized and overly wide offensive lineman became the University of Hawai'i football team's next running back.

For the first day of full-pad, full-contact practice, the Warriors' defense needed someone to portray the opposing team's running back.

Either Jason Laumoli volunteered or he was volunteered but soon he was going against the first-team defense.

The thing is, defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville came away impressed with Laumoli's powerful running style.

"That short guy did a great job," Glanville said of 5-foot-11, 272-pound Laumoli. "He was excellent. We were supposed to pound him, and he ended up pounding us. I'm going to find his name, and recommend June move him to running back today."

UH head coach June Jones was a step ahead, declaring Laumoli as "my next Reagan Mauia."

Last season, Mauia was a 360-pound nose tackle. This season, he is a 285-pound running back, and the primary backup to Nate Ilaoa.

"(Laumoli) will be a great running back," Jones said. "This is a permanent move. He's a junior this year. After the seniors go, he's going to have a real shot to play."

Laumoli is the Warriors' latest plus-sized running back. Siave Seti, another converted nose tackle, also is in the mix. Ilaoa, who is considered the "speed" back, reported to training camp weighing 252.

Laumoli is a 2003 graduate of Leone High School in American Samoa. He played two seasons at Yuba College in California, earned an associate degree last December, and enrolled at UH this past January.

"I walked on over here," Laumoli said. "I wanted to come here in the first place (but) I wanted to get a taste of college ball. That's why I went to a two-year college first."

Laumoli had little chance of breaking into the depth chart on the offensive line this season.

"I watched him, and I could tell when he was playing on the O-line, he had the leverage," Jones said. "He was under-sized for a lineman, but he has great balance. I knew he could be a running back."

Like Mauia and Seti, Laumoli has been instructed to focus on straight-ahead power running.

"I'm having fun," he said. "Wherever they put me, I'm there, and I'll be happy."

JONES, PURCELL ON HOLD

Cornerback Keenan Jones and outside linebacker Amani Purcell still are awaiting clearance to join the Warriors.

Jones said he earned enough credits for an associate degree, an eligibility requirement for him to play for the Warriors this season.

"I'm here in Hawai'i, but I can't do anything yet with the team," said Jones, who arrived on Saturday night.

Purcell, who left Penn State last year, said he cleared his final academic hurdle, earning an "A" in a History 152 class at Kapi'olani Community College.

He must wait to be admitted to the school.

"Hopefully, it'll be by the end of the week," he said. "I'm pretty sure everything is OK, but you never know."

NEWCOMERS IN MIX

Coach June Jones said several first-year Warriors are competing to make the 60-player travel roster for the season-opening game against Alabama.

C.J. Hawthorne, who is listed as the top right cornerback, is all but assured a berth. And he'll contribute in other ways. He blocked a kick yesterday his third in the last three practices.

The other top first-year candidates are safeties Spencer Smith and Jacob Patek, punt returner Mitch Farney, wideout Malcolm Lane, cornerbacks Myron Newberry and Gerard Lewis, and linebackers Jared Lene and Blaze Soares. Keenan Jones and Amani Purcell also would be considered once their eligibility is certified.

"Everybody has a shot," June Jones said. "We're trying to get the younger guys caught up with the older guys so we can evaluate them."

Smith was at free safety, in place of starter Leonard Peters, for the two scrimmages and 7-on-7 drills involving the first- and second-string offenses. Dane Porlas and Desmond Thomas are considered to be Peters' immediate backups, but Smith also has been impressive.

"He's pretty close," Jones said. "He's going to be a very good safety for us. We're looking at him on special teams, as well."

Smith said: "I learn more and more with the reps I'm getting. I'm trying to get better each day. Even being on the sideline, taking mental reps, helps out a lot."

Smith, who was raised in Georgia, said his parents have made plans to attend the Alabama game.

"I've got Leonard's tickets for them," he said. "My parents are definitely going to go, no matter what. I hope I can earn a shot to go. If I don't make it, it wasn't meant to be. I'll strive on, and work to make the next travel unit."

Patek, who is competing against Brad Kalilimoku at strong safety, admittedly struggled during yesterday's early drills.

"It was like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed," Patek said. "I wasn't in the groove at all. Coach Jeff (Reinebold) got me straightened out for the rest of the day."

Kalilimoku was on the first team for the two scrimmages. But Patek made the most of his turn. During the first scrimmage, Patek made two big plays, including one in which he chased down a receiver and stripped away the football.

"Patek is doing very well," Jones said. "He's a football player."

Patek, who was raised in Texas, has worked hard to develop into a safety. He tried out for the Blinn Junior College baseball team, but was rejected. He then joined Blinn's football team as a non-scholarship player. He developed into an all-league outside linebacker.

This summer, he enrolled in the Fast Twitch Camp, conducted next to the Dallas Cowboys' Valley Ranch complex in Irving, Texas.

"Terrell Owens was there," Patek said. "He was doing a Sports Illustrated shoot. He didn't have a shirt on. He was showing off all of his muscles. I didn't talk to him. I didn't want to bother him. People were all over him."

Patek said he paid $400 for 12 45-minute sessions at the camp.

The courses were designed "to work on all of your fast-twitch muscles," Patek said. "There's no weightlifting. We didn't work with free weights. It was hydraulic resistance. You pump it as fast you can, and it breaks down the fast-twitch muscles, and it helps you become faster, quicker and makes you more explosive."

Patek, who is 6 feet and 200 pounds, said he was timed running 40 yards in 4.43 seconds.

"That was hand-timed," he said. "On electric, it was probably 4.5."

Patek is a distant relative of former major league shortstop Freddie Patek. They met several times at family reunions.

"He (played) before my time," Patek said. "I heard a lot about him. It's pretty cool. That's how everybody knows the name Patek."

UH INTO RECYCLING

Yesterday was the first time the Warriors wore black pants for a home practice.

In these austere times, the Warriors are forced to practice with old game-worn pants. Through last season, they wore the white or green pants with rainbow stripes the sort they wore in games before changing the color scheme in 2000.

But those pants are tattered, and yesterday the equipment managers recycled the black pants UH wore in 2000 and 2001.

"It took five years to finally recycle (the black pants)," Jones said.

As part of a deal with Nike, the Warriors receive 50 new black pants each year. The 50 from last year combined with this year's 50 is enough to clothe this year's team, and allow the Warriors to wear the old black Reebok pants for practices.

Jones said he hopes by next year, the Warriors will be able to practice with the game-worn dark green helmets.

"That's why we still have the white helmets (for practices)," Jones said. "We don't have enough green helmets for the whole team."

On road trips, the Warriors practice in the silver helmets they wear in games.

NOTES AND UPDATES

  • Running back Nate Ilaoa did not practice yesterday because of a sore big toe on his right foot. The injury was caused when a teammate stepped on his foot during Saturday's practice.

    Mouse Davis, who tutors the running backs, said the injury is not related to the turf toe Ilaoa suffered last year.

    "It's a different deal," Davis said. "He's been icing it. He'll be fine."

    Jones said: "If we had to play a game today, he would play."

  • Starting center Samson Satele resumed practicing yesterday. He was held out of four workouts because of a sore right Achilles tendon.

    "It's like regular," Satele said. "I'm a little rusty, but I'm good. There's no pain."

  • Malcom Lane, a freshman wideout from Germany, said his assigned jersey was not a comfortable fit. So he grabbed a blank jersey, then used a Sharpie to write No. 89 on the front. "I think it looks nice," said Lane, who has recovered from a groin injury.

  • Left cornerback A.J. Martinez did not practice because of a groin injury. He is expected to return today. Kenny Patton, last year's starting cornerback, replaced Martinez.

  • Defensive end Fale Laeli also skipped his fourth consecutive practice because of a concussion. It is not known when he will be available to practice.

  • Wide receiver "Tua" Mahaley made two impressive catches during the scrimmages.

    Mahaley's birth name is Antwan, but he received the name "Tua" from the father of offensive lineman Laupepa Letuli.

    Mahaley said he will go by "Tua" in Hawai'i and "Antwan" when he is home in Carson, Calif.

    Mahaley is not discouraged, despite being assigned to the scout team.

    "I have to work my butt off on the scout team so I can go back on the offensive side," he said.

  • Glanville said the defense ran the same drills as it did on the first day of training camp. "We threw out everything we had done, and started with our first practice," he said. "It was the same defense. We didn't make mental errors. When you don't make mental errors, you're doing pretty good."

    Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.