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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fonoti's game uncovered

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Because of a birth certificate error, UH slotback Ryan Grice-Mullen's name is really "Ryan Grice-Mullins." To his teammates, he will always be "Mogamoga," Samoan for cockroach.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Of all of the entries, one performance stood out at the little-known University of Hawai'i Football Film Festival.

"We did a breakdown of our kickoff coverage, and it was like the 'John Fonoti Show,' " said Jeff Reinebold, who helps oversee the Warriors' special teams. "He made some hellacious plays last year that only a great player makes. They're not plays that every kid on the field is going to make."

During a booster-club meeting last year, Jones opened by showing a video of a kick coverage in which Fonoti knocked down a Boise State blocker and sprinted to tackle the kick-returner. Over and over, Jones showed the video. Slow motion. Regular speed. Slow motion again.

"He was a dominator on kickoff coverage," Jones said. "He was the guy every team singled out they had to block when they came to play us."

Fonoti's aggressiveness helped him ascend the depth chart at outside linebacker. In the final month of the 2005 season, he was the immediate backup to weakside linebacker Kila Kamakawiwo'ole.

This spring practice, Fonoti is on the first team.

Asked about Fonoti's promotion, defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said: "The other guy graduated, and (Fonoti) was No. 2. When graduation takes No. 1, you sort of move up. ... He deserved to move up, anyway. He's a hitter. He's very physical. He's light years ahead of where he was last year."

The 2005 Farrington High graduate endured a false-start to his college career. He missed all of training camp while awaiting certification from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

When he finally was declared eligible, most of the roles were assigned. "John came to us late," Reinebold said. "We already were way involved in our punt protection. He was a backup in that regard. But we had an opening on kickoff coverage."

Fonoti said: "That was the only way to get on the field. Coach Glanville told me to 'go down there and break some wedges.' "

Fonoti was aligned at "4," positioned inside the hash marks, and was assigned to break through the wedge of blockers. By mid-season, opponents used a two-step approach, sending a blocker toward Fonoti and following that with a trailing backside blocker.

"He's seen a lot, and he's going to see more," Reinebold said. "The better you are, the more challenging blocking schemes you're going to see."

Fonoti's role on special teams will depend on his development as an outside linebacker. He admittedly struggled last season. "I didn't get the plays that quick," he said. "I had to really get my head in the books this year."

Reinebold said: "He wasn't always in the right place at the right time (as a linebacker) last year. Now you watch him and he knows where to be and what to do. Today, Jerry (Glanville) tried to trick him three different times with, 'What do you do here?' He had the right answer every single time."

With his size (6 feet 3, 233 pounds) and speed (40 yards in 4.58 seconds), Fonoti also will be used on the strong side, where he will face the tight end.

GRICE-MULLEN'S NAME DOESN'T BUG TEAMMATES

If everything goes according to plan, the slotback known as Ryan Grice-Mullen will be the player to be named later.

He said his surname is really "Grice-Mullins," as it was on his original social security card. Because of a clerical error, his name was spelled "Grice-Mullen" on his birth certificate.

The mistake was not realized until he applied for a driver's license at age 16. "They wouldn't give me my license because my name didn't match," he said.

Told it would take between six months and a year to change the name on his birth certificate, he opted to undergo the 20-minute procedure of changing the name on his social security card to "Grice-Mullen."

"I wanted to get my license, and it was easier to change my social security," he said.

But now he wants to go back to his real name. He said he will seek to change it legally when he returns to California this summer.

Told of Grice-Mullen's (or Grice-Mullins') situation, slotback Davone Bess said, "That doesn't matter to us. We call him 'Mogamoga.' That's cockroach in Samoan. Look at him. He looks like a cockroach."

WASHINGTON'S AT HOME IN MOVE BACK TO SLOT

Michael Washington, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said he welcomes his move from left wideout to slotback.

"It's amazing," he said. "That's where I played in high school. That's where I expected to play last year. But coach Jones said he needed me on the outside. I wasn't complaining, but inside is my thing. Slot is way better."

Cornerbacks usually defend the wideouts. In UH's four-wide offense, nickelbacks and outside linebackers face the slotbacks.

"You can get by a linebacker with quickness and speed," Washington said. "Beyond that, it's all cool."

That was demonstrated yesterday, when Grice-Mullen (or Grice-Mullins) caught a pass on a slant route and, after outracing a linebacker to the corner, yelled, "See ya!"

"You have to be quick and shifty and smart to play slot," said Bess, a Freshman All-American last year. "(Washington) is all of those things."

SATELE, PURCELL III STILL HITTING THE BOOKS

Two of the Warriors' best players center Samson Satele and defensive end Melila Purcell III skipped their second consecutive practice to focus on their studies.

Jones said they are academically eligible, and are expected to compete in spring practice.

"They have stuff to take care of," Jones said.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.