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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Punter to join Warriors in fall

 Photo gallery UH football practice gallery

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Cornerback Christopher Thorpe, left, and safety Erik Pedersen are in position to make an interception during pass coverage drills.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Tim Grasso

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Acknowledging that every situation cannot be resolved with a completed pass, the University of Hawai'i football team is adding a punter to the 2007 roster.

Tim Grasso, a sophomore at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif., will join the Warriors in August.

"I like the Hawai'i coaching staff," Grasso said. "Hawai'i is a good place to be. The program is great."

Grasso will enter the competition for a seldom-used position. The Warriors punted 16 times in 14 games last season, with half of the attempts coming in the first six games.

Last year's starter, Kurt Milne, has completed his NCAA eligibility. UH coach June Jones toyed with the idea of using receiver Davone Bess or placekicker Dan Kelly as the punter. Kelly recently confirmed he is no longer a candidate.

As a senior at Davis High School in Utah, Grasso was an All-State receiver while helping his team win the 5A state championship in 2004.

He attended Dixie State College in 2005, when he ranked fifth nationally with an average of 42.2 yards per punt.

He then transferred to Saddleback. Because of long-snapping problems, he averaged 40 yards per punt last year.

He accepted an invitation to participate in Mike McCabe's One-on-One Kicking Camp in Alabama this summer. "I'll be there six to eight weeks," said Grasso, who answers to the nickname, T-Grass.

Grasso, who was a three-sport athlete at Davis, is a cycling enthusiast and bodyboarder.

Saddleback could start an alumni chapter in Hawai'i. UH players with Saddleback connections include Anthony "A.C." Carter, Tes Whitlock, Micah Kroeger and Colt Brennan.

MAKA'S PAYING OFF

This semester, defensive end Francis Maka is paying his dues ... for tuition, housing, meals and, of course, on the football field.

Maka, who played at the College of San Mateo in 2006, committed to UH last December. The Warriors did not have an available scholarship this semester, so Maka decided to pay his way. He goes on scholarship in August.

"You have to pay the price sometimes," Maka said. "It'll pay off in the end."

Maka, who is 6 feet 2 and 250 pounds, was recruited to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. But then Greg McMackin was hired as defensive coordinator, and he implemented a 4-3 scheme. Maka was asked to move to defensive end.

"He's got the explosiveness, the ability to get what we call short-quickness that all great pass-rushers have," said defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold, who recruited Maka. "Players who have the ability to snap their hips" turn quickly "are rare, and he has that ability."

For the first six practices, Maka was used as the left end. Now he is the No. 2 right end. In the "Okie" package, a 3-3-5 alignment, Maka is on the first team.

"He's coming on," head coach June Jones said. "He's going to be a real player. He's had a good camp. He's what we're looking for in a pass-rusher. He's quick and fast and works really hard."

Maka, whose surname means "rock" in Tongan, was raised in the Bay Area but has relatives in Hawai'i. "I love it here," he said.

He also welcomes the responsibility of wearing No. 98, previously used by pro prospect Melila Purcell III.

"It's a pretty big number to fill," said Maka, who wore No. 98 at San Mateo. "I watched his films. He's awesome."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.