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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Purcell gets OK to play

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

University of Hawai'i defensive end Melila Purcell III said he has met the academic requirements to play as a fifth-year senior this fall. "It feels good," said Purcell, who is 6 feet 5 and 285 pounds. "I always wanted to come back to play one more year."

Purcell, who was raised in American Samoa, was academically ineligible as a freshman in 2002 because the NCAA Clearinghouse did not certify a high school class he passed as part of his core requirements.

The NCAA requires a partial-qualifier to sit out a season. After that, the player has three years to play three seasons. But partial qualifiers can earn a fifth year and fourth season if they earn 80 percent of the credits to graduate by their eighth semester in school. Purcell said he has met that requirement, enabling him to reunite with his brother, Amani Purcell, who transferred from Penn State last summer. Amani Purcell, who also plays defensive end, is enrolled at a Honolulu community community, and will be eligible to join the Warriors for training camp in August.

"I'm looking forward to being out there with him," Melila Purcell said.

Although he could have earned a bachelor's degree in August, he now plans a December graduation. "I want to get that degree," he said. "That's the main thing I'm here for."

UH coach June Jones said: "I'm happy for him. He knows this is an important year for him, too, on the football field. He'll get a chance to go to the next level with a good season."

Safety Leonard Peters, running back Nate Ilaoa and wideout Ian Sample are awaiting the results of their appeals to play as sixth-year seniors in the fall.

UH PLAYERS TEST CLEAN

Jones said none of his players has tested positive for steroids since he was hired as UH's head coach in December 1999.

He said each player is tested for illegal drugs before each training camp. If a player were using steroids, Jones said, it would "show up on the tests."

He also said the NCAA performs random drug tests. "They pull out of a hat 20 names every month and test guys," Jones said.

UH officials refuse to release the number of players who tested positive for illegal drugs. Running back Bryan Maneafaiga told The Advertiser in November he was suspended during the 2004 season after a positive drug test. Maneafaiga said he turned his life around, and now serves as the team's prayer leader.

But Jones said no Warrior was cited for using steroids, adding, "the scare the last three or four years has probably eliminated it in college, I would say, 100 percent."

But in the NFL, Jones said, "every edge that's possible, they're going to try to do. ... (The scare) dropped it down to the minimum, but I would say it's not eliminated."

PATTON STAYING AT WR

Despite a shortage of experienced cornerbacks for spring practice, which begins next week Tuesday, plans are still in place to move senior Kenny Patton to wide receiver.

Overcoming leg injuries, Patton was the Warriors' top corner last season. Turmarian Moreland, who started four games, completed his NCAA eligibility in December. Two others who started, Ryan Keomaka and Keao Monteilh, were dismissed recently because they failed to meet the team's academic standards. Jones said Keomaka and Monteilh might return in the fall, pending their academic progress.

Jones said Patton is better suited to play wideout. He will compete against Ross Dickerson, who has fully recovered from offseason foot surgery, on the right side.

"I see (Patton's) ability to jump and his athleticism and his hands," Jones said. "He's very smart. We probably should have moved him to the outside earlier. When we looked at his high school tape, I thought he would be a wideout for us. But we had a need at corner."

The move, Jones said, "is in fairness to the kid. He has a chance athletically to do some special things. I think it'll show up a whole lot more on offense."

Jones said Patton and slotback Davone Bess might be used as cornerbacks in certain third-down situations. Other than that, Jones said, Patton "is a receiver."

Jones said he believes the seven cornerback recruits should be able to compete for starting jobs in training camp.

"They've all played corner," Jones said. "If they were wideouts coming to play corner, then you'd worry about it. Four of them are JC players who have been corners their whole lives. I'm not worried."

Jones cited Shawndel Tucker, a junior college transfer who started in 1999, his first season at UH.

STRONG BENCH MARKS

Fourteen UH players, led by nose tackle Lawrence Wilson, bench-pressed at least 400 pounds yesterday, according to Mel deLaura, the team's assistant strength coach.

Wilson, who is 6 feet 1 and 295 pounds, benched a team-high 505 pounds.

"It was pretty heavy," Wilson said.

DeLaura said Wilson "worked his (rear) off. I don't believe people have natural strength like that. Nobody can come off the street and lift that much weight. They've got to be training. They've got to be working hard. He's always training and working hard."

Wilson is the sixth player to bench-press 500 pounds during Jones' UH tenure, following Vince Manuwai, Chris Brown, Chad Kalilimoku, Matt Faga and Lono Manners.

DeLaura said 205-pound Brad Kalilimoku, who is moving from inside linebacker to strong safety, bench-pressed 405 pounds, nearly twice his body weight.

Defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis, who started his UH career as a basketball player, lifted more than 400 pounds.

"When Ikaika came here, he was 195 pounds benching 225," deLaura said. "Now he's 270 bench-pressing 400 pounds. He's made a big improvement."

So, too, has Patton, who topped the skill-position players by benching 350 pounds.

DeLaura said third-string quarterback Inoke Funaki benched 335 pounds.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.