Elite defensive prospect commits to Warriors
|UH football practice gallery|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i football team has secured a commitment from one of the state's top defensive prospects.
Vaughn Meatoga of Kamehameha Schools said he has decided to fulfill a childhood dream of playing for the Warriors.
He will put his commitment in writing Feb. 7, the first day high school recruits may sign binding national letters of intent. This is the earliest commitment in June Jones' eight years as UH head coach.
"I want to play at home," said Meatoga, who was born on Kaua'i and has boarded at Kamehameha since the ninth grade. "As a kid, I always wanted to play for UH. Now I'll get the chance."
Meatoga, who is 6 feet 2 and 274 pounds, plays defensive tackle for Kamehameha. He is projected to compete at defensive end in UH's 3-4 alignment.
Rivals.com, a respected scouting service, rated Meatoga as the nation's 43rd-best defensive tackle. He also is listed as the state's No. 7 overall football prospect.
"That was nice, because I never went to the Nike combine or anything like that," Meatoga said.
At a combine put on by the Pacific Islands Athletics Alliance (PIAA) in May, Meatoga bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times. He also ran 40 yards in 5.0 seconds, and completed the shuttle run in 4.6 seconds.
During the summer, he bench pressed 365 pounds.
"I know I have to work really hard to prepare for next year," Meatoga said.
Meatoga, it seems, has been preparing for this opportunity most of his life. He joined Pop Warner as a fifth-grader on Kaua'i.
He also competed in baseball and golf. But one day, he decided to focus entirely on football, dropping the other sports.
Meatoga weighed 160 pounds as a Kamehameha freshman. But he bulked up, and as a sophomore, he was on the Kamehameha team that won the state championship.
"That was a lot of fun," he said.
This year, Meatoga drew interest from Washington, Boise State, Colorado, Fresno State and New Mexico State.
He received early scholarship offers from UH and Nevada-Las Vegas. But he had already made his decision.
Meatoga was going to announce his choice this weekend. By making his choice public yesterday, he can enjoy Saturday's game between UH and Idaho.
"I go to all of the UH games," Meatoga said. "That won't change."
Defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis did not practice yesterday because of back tightness, but the UH coaches are hopeful he will be available for Saturday's game against Idaho.
Asked about his availability, Alama-Francis said, "I don't know yet."
He said his lower back "feels weird. ... We'll see how it goes."
Alama-Francis experienced back spasms Friday night following a walk-through practice in El Paso, Texas. He indicated to the medical staff that he did not know if he would be able to play against New Mexico State the following night.
But Alama-Francis started at right end, helping to contain the Aggies' prolific passing attack, in the Warriors' 49-30 victory. He was used for 51 plays, the most among the UH defensive linemen.
After the game, Alama-Francis appeared to be in discomfort, again complaining of back spasms.
Monday night, he underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the condition of his lumbar. An MRI uses magnetic fields to create an image of the body's interior.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville did not want to speak specifically about Alama-Francis' situation.
But in general, Glanville said, "Nobody can tell you how your back is. Only you know how it will be."
Keala Watson, who has played mostly defensive left end this season, yesterday practiced as the first-team right end.
"It's kind of the same thing, only flipped over," said Watson, who was a nose tackle last year. "All of the assignments are the same."
Glanville said he is confident Watson can play each of the three line positions in the Warriors' 3-4 scheme.
"Really, he was a big-time football player before he had the bout with the flu (two weeks ago)," Glanville said of Watson, who has lost more than 20 pounds. "He's down around the 290s. I want him to eat more cookies. The bigger he is, the better he plays. I want him to keep growing until he runs out of skin."
BRENNAN'S 'ALL GOOD'
An MRI showed quarterback Colt Brennan has a "curvature" in his back that can cause tightness in his hamstrings but is otherwise harmless.
He said he does not have any nerve problems, and his condition — classified as a "lumbar strain" — is not a concern.
"It's all good," he said, adding he had his best "Tuesday practice of the season" yesterday. On Tuesdays, the Warriors practice against the scout team, which portrays the upcoming opponent's defense.
Brennan said he underwent the MRI because he has had recurring tightness in his hamstrings during practices.
• • •
WHAT: University of Hawai'i (5-2, 3-1 in Western Athletic Conference) vs. Idaho (4-4, 3-1 in WAC)
WHEN: 6:05 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Aloha Stadium
TV: Live on Oceanic cable pay-per-view digital; rebroadcast on PPV at 10:30 p.m. Call 625-8100 on O'ahu or (808) 643-2337 statewide. Delayed on KFVE Sunday 10 a.m.
AUDIO WEBCAST: espn1420am.com
VIDEO WEBCAST: Available through Hawaiian Telecom and KFVE. Tickets available for single game at $9.95, a full season for $39.95. Go to www.hawaiiantelmedia.com
RADIO: Live on ESPN 1420, with warmup show at 5 p.m. Neighbor Island simulcasts on KAOI on Maui/Kona, KPUA in Hilo and KQNG on Kaua'i
GATES OPEN: Parking lot 2:30 p.m.; Stadium gates 3 p.m.
TICKET PRICES: $38 sideline, $32 South end zone, $27 North end zone (adult), $22 North end zone senior citizen, $22 North end zone students 4-18, $5 UH students.
TICKET SALES: Available online at hawaiiathletics.com, by calling 944-2697 (BOWS) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at Stan Sheriff Center, Aloha Stadium, UH Campus Center, RainBowtique at Ward Centre and Windward Community College's OCET Office during business hours. Convenience fees may apply.
PROMOTION: Members of the University of Hawai'i Alumni Association and UH faculty and staff will receive two tickets for the price of one (maximum of eight total) to the game. UHAA members need to present their membership cards and faculty and staff their UH identification cards when purchasing tickets. Purchase in advance at Stan Sheriff Center (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or in advance and on game day at Aloha Stadium. Tickets are in special sections. Other restrictions may apply.
ALTERNATIVE PARKING (no tailgating):
• Leeward Community College (free with $2 charge for shuttle service);
• Kamehameha Drive-In ($5 with free shuttle service);
• Radford High School ($3 with no shuttle service).
All shuttle service runs from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and approximately one hour after the game ends.
SECURITY: Only fanny packs, purses, backpacks and handbags will be allowed into stadium (subject to check).
TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Sports Radio 1420 will provide traffic advisories and updates before each UH football home game.
For UH students: Chancellor office is providing free bus transportation to the home games at Aloha Stadium. Buses will pick up UH students on Dole Street in front of Gateway House two hours before game time.The buses will leave the stadium 30 minutes after the game and return to Gateway. Sign-up sheets are at the front desk at each UH residence hall.
Roberts Hawaii is offering round trip "air conditioned" shuttle bus services to Aloha Stadium for $6 from three O'ahu areas.
Bus No. 3 will pick up at the Hawai'i Kai Park n' Ride at 4 p.m., at Bank of Hawai'i at Kahala Mall at 4:15 and proceed to the stadium.
Bus No. 2 will pick up at the Kailua District Park, Kainalu Avenue at 4:15 p.m., at Windward Mall Shopping Center on Alaloa Street facing Sears at 4:30 and proceed to the stadium.
Bus No. 1 will pick up at the Mililani Mauka Park n' Ride at 4:30 p.m. and go directly to the stadium.
Reservations are required and service is first come, first serve. Call Roberts School Bus at 832-4886 for reservations and additional information.
City bus service
The FootballExpress offers 17 pickup locations throughout O'ahu.
Honolulu pickup locations are at Ala Moana, downtown, Hawai'i Kai, Kahala Mall, Kaimuki, Palolo, Waikiki and the University of Hawai'i.
Leeward pickups are at 'Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Mililani Mauka and Village Park.
Windward pickups are at Kalaniana'ole Highway and Kailua Road, Kailua Road at Keolu Drive and Hele Street, Kailua Road at Hahani Street, Kane'ohe Bay drive at Mokapu Boulevard and Kane'ohe Bay Drive at Makalani Street.
Rates are $3 one way and $6 roundtrip. Passes and transfers are not accepted.
For information, go to: http://www.thebus.org
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.