Walking wounded fit for action
By Stephen Tsai
Before hitting the road, the Hawai'i football team administered what proved to be a successful field test.
After yesterday's 2-hour practice on the school's grass practice field, defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga, defensive ends Fetaiagogo Fonoti and Paipai Falemalu, and punt returner Ryan Henry declared themselves physically fit for Wednesday's road game against Louisiana Tech.
It is the Western Athletic Conference opener for the Warriors (2-1).
Meatoga and Falemalu are recovering from sprained right ankles. Fonoti missed the first three games because of a hyper-extended left kneecap. Henry is recovering from a strained hamstring.
"I feel good," said Fonoti, who will reclaim his job as the No. 1 defensive right end. "I can't wait to play."
Falemalu, who did not play in last week's game against Nevada-Las Vegas, has been receiving intensive physical therapy on his right ankle. There were several tweaks to the travel roster. But the final one included Falemalu, who is considered to be the Warriors' best pass-rushing defensive end.
While not 100 percent, Falemalu said, "I'm gradually getting better. I'll be ready to play by Wednesday."
Meatoga's recovery is important against an opponent that relies on power-running plays.
Meatoga is a versatile defensive tackle. Against UNLV, the Warriors used a three-man front in which Meatoga alternated between nose tackle and defensive end.
"That was a lot of fun," Meatoga said.
Meatoga has been averaging more than 40 snaps per game. In the Louisiana humidity, the Warriors are expected to rotate redshirt freshmen Geordon Hanohano and Haku Correa at the tackle positions.
The Warriors have been giving Meatoga some leeway in practices. Yesterday, he participated in position workouts and some of the drills against the scout-team offense.
During breaks, he went to the sideline, where he received ice treatment on his tender ankle.
"I have to keep taking care of it until the game," Meatoga said.
Henry has worked on his first-step burst during punt-return drills. Henry, who also plays slotback, participated in a few of the 6-on-7 passing drills.
"I'm getting better each day," he said.
Henry is expected to be UH's main punt returner Wednesday. Left slotback Greg Salas also is capable of returning punts.
Despite not having played a down this season, offensive tackle Brett Leonard is on the travel roster.
The hope is that he will not be needed, enabling Leonard to redshirt this season.
Leonard can play both tackle positions. When Laupepa Letuli suffered a knee injury that will keep him from playing this week, Adrian Thomas was promoted to No. 1 right tackle.
Leonard will be activated only if left tackle Aaron Kia cannot play.
"Other than that, they're going to save my year," Leonard said.
SNAP TO IT
Junior Andrew Faaumu has been elevated to long-snapper Luke Ingram's backup.
Faaumu also serves as a backup guard.
"Any spot they need me, I'll try to help out," said Faaumu, a Lahainaluna alum.
Faaumu did not play as a freshman, instead attending Hawai'i Pacific University to earn transferrable credits.
He participated in the 2008 spring practice, but was not invited to fall camp.
"I got overweight," said 6-foot-3 Faaumu, who ballooned to 375 pounds.
He spent the 2008 fall semester training.
"I ran twice a day," said Faaumu, who trimmed down to 290 pounds.
This time, he made the team.
"I'm happy for the opportunity," he said.