Wounded Warriors welcomed week off
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By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Running back Nate Ilaoa, who is recovering from a deep bruise in his left heel, participated in running drills during the University of Hawai'i football team's practice yesterday.
The Warriors, whose last game was Dec. 2, did not practice last week. Ilaoa did not participate in Monday's practice.
"I rested it a lot," Ilaoa said. "Getting off of it for a week was a real key."
Ilaoa said an MRI did not show any significant damage. "It's all good," Ilaoa said as the team prepares for the Dec. 24 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl against Arizona State.
Nose tackle Kahai LaCount also did not experience any difficulty during 7-on-7 drills. LaCount missed the past three games because of a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
LaCount, who is a starter in the Warriors' jumbo scheme, is scheduled to earn a bachelor's degree in May. An incorrect graduation date was printed in Tuesday's Advertiser.
Defensive end Laupepa Letuli also competed in 7-on-7 drills yesterday. Letuli missed the past four games after undergoing a second arthroscopic surgery to repair a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
"I think we'll be in pretty good shape for the bowl game," head coach June Jones said.
For the players, the only concern was getting back their wind following a week's break.
"Just being out a week makes it tough to get back into top condition," free safety Leonard Peters said. "Monday was really hard, but it was OK after that. I'm back in shape."
Nose tackle Michael Lafaele said: "I think the running is hard, but mentally we're ready."
He said the time off allowed his broken finger and sore right heel to heal. He said he no longer needs to wear a cast on his finger.
"The break was really good for me," Lafaele said. "I wish it was longer so I could spend more time with my family."
Ross Dickerson, meanwhile, used the time off to complete school work. He earns his degree on Sunday.
"I'm excited to get on with the next part of my life," Dickerson said. "If a (pro football opportunity) comes, it comes. I'll enjoy it. If not, I have a Plan B and C."
It was fitting that in the corner of the soccer field, where the Warriors worked out yesterday, future punters were evaluated.
Kurt Milne, a fifth-year senior, completes his UH career following the Hawai'i Bowl. There is no apparent successor, said Mouse Davis, who coordinates the special teams. "It's a toss-up," Davis said, noting the candidates are freshmen Briton Forester and Kenji Hollaway, and sophomore placekicker Daniel Kelly.
Forester was used on extra-point kicks this season. Hollaway is redshirting.
"Kenji was behind, then he came on, then he got ahead," Davis said. In UH's two practices this week "Brit's come back."
In practices Monday and yesterday, Kelly punted.
"He could be a good punter if he spent some time on it," Davis said. "He has to work at it a little more. Right now he spends his whole time kicking. He'll be a good punter because he has a good leg snap, the same thing that makes him a good kicker."
The competition expands when Matt Mielke joins the team in January. Mielke, who is 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds, is enrolled at UH as a part-time student.
"I watched the Warriors for years," said Mielke, who was raised on the Mainland. "My dream is play college football. This is a great program to do it."
Under NCAA rules, players who don't join the team until January are allowed to practice after the fall semester ends. UH's semester ends tomorrow, meaning Mielke can work out with the Warriors Saturday morning.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.