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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Backyard battle for Warriors

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

 •  Damien recruit calls big play on signing day

Mike Cavanaugh, a former University of Hawai'i assistant football coach, was working the crowd like a veteran politician, shaking hands, slapping backs and hugging people as he walked down the hallway.

The scene was the UH athletic department, of all places, and Cavanaugh was in an orange Oregon State football shirt, no less.

If you want a snapshot of just how brazen Mainland recruiters have become in recruiting local shores, Cavanaugh's visit last month into the Warriors' lair was as good an example as any.

Apparently, the trip helped lay the groundwork for dividends, too, as the Beavers were a big winner here, signing six local high school recruits yesterday on national letter of intent day.

With the Beavers' haul, Mainland schools signed 24 players yesterday, believed to most taken out of state on signing day by Division I recruiters and up four from last year.

"There's definitely more interest in Hawai'i football players from all over the country, not just the West Coast," said Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association. Over the course of the past few months, Amemiya said his office has had inquiries from Tennessee, Florida and Notre Dame among others.

Clearly the word on Hawai'i talent has gotten out. The question is whether the hometown Warriors are becoming victims of their own and other Hawai'i-bred players' success?

But it isn't just the prospects who committed to Pac-10 schools yesterday that should raise a red flag here. It is also the emerging players, the often less-headlined prospects, UH has been successful at developing over the years.

The Warriors have always lost a handful to the Pac-10. After all, some are bound to go away and UH can't possibly take all the Division I talent in the state because of an NCAA-limit of 25 initial scholarships a year.

The fear is that in the wider net being cast by the increasing number of Mainland schools coming in there might be the next Chad Owens or Ashley Lelie. That some of the players who walked on at UH in the past on the way to becoming stars might end up at, say, New Mexico State or Utah State, two schools new to recruiting here.

When Hawai'i wasn't as thoroughly picked over by recruiters the Warriors faced less competition for emerging players who would gladly walk on or take a so-called "grayshirt" deal in which they agree to show up at semester break or beyond.

Now we're seeing players who have been tendered "grayshirt" offers or walk-on invites get immediate offers elsewhere. The kind that entice them to gamble on getting on the field sooner elsewhere.

Time will tell if the players who have been UH's bread and butter will end up feeding other schools at the Warriors' expense.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.