Hansen, Lefiti, Letuli in line for starting positions
• Photo gallery: UH football practice - Wednesday
BY Stephen Tsai
For the Hawai'i football team, the opening line is starting to take shape.
After yesterday's penultimate practice of spring training, three offensive line positions appear to be set.
Austin Hansen, who will be a fourth-year junior in the fall, has secured the left tackle's job, succeeding Aaron Kia.
"Nobody's going to knock out Austin," line coach Gordy Shaw said, praising Hansen's "experience and knowledge of the game."
"He just doesn't mess up fundamentally," Shaw added. "He doesn't beat himself by doing the wrong step."
Hansen said: "That's high praise considering all of the talented guys we have. I've been here with Gordy for two years. I know his system."
Hansen said the defense, under coordinator Dave Aranda, has challenged the offensive linemen in 11-on-11 sessions.
"Our defense shows so many different looks," Hansen said. "They have a real diverse package. It's good. It puts a mental strain on us."
Matagisila Lefiti, who also will be a junior, has the edge at center over Bronson Tiwanak.
"I know my calls," said Lefiti, who was backup to John Estes last season. "I've had chemistry with the first unit."
Shaw said Lefiti is ahead physically, but both Lefiti and Tiwanak are relatively even in their knowledge of the offense.
Lefiti is capable of bench pressing 440 pounds and squat lifting 545 pounds.
Shaw said London Sapolu, who transferred from a junior college in January, should challenge for second-team reps during training camp.
With the return of right tackle Laupepa Letuli, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, Adrian Thomas moves back to right guard, where he will compete against Brysen Ginlack.
Shaw said Brett Leonard, who has worked mostly with the first team, and Andrew Faaumu are competing at left guard.
"The more the better," Shaw said of the position battles. "They know if they take a day off this summer, the other guy who didn't take a day off might do enough to move ahead. They all know they have to work their butt off this summer."
Tomorrow's Warrior Bowl — which will be a controlled scrimmage matching the offense and defense instead of an actual game — will be the final exam for about 25 players.
Head coach Greg McMackin said the spring roster must be pared to make room for recruits, transfers and preferred walk-on players. The NCAA limits training-camp rosters to 105 players, although the restrictions are lifted on the first day of the fall semester.
"It's going to be a big evaluation day," McMackin said. "It's the toughest thing about coaching. These are all good players. There's not a non-athlete out there. Letting them go is tough on everybody. We've given them a shot. But we have to be realistic. It's a numbers game."
Strong safety Fesootai Papali'i knows he is on the bubble.
This is his second spring with the Warriors after transferring from Foothill College. Because of a low grade-point average, he acknowledged, he did not compete during the 2009 season. He had to go through the walk-on tryout to earn another berth on the spring roster.
"I'm giving it my best," Papali'i said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm sure all of the other walk-ons gave it their best, too. I'm ready for anything."
Associate head coach Rich Miano, who coordinates the walk-on program, said it is difficult to make cuts.
"You don't want to take away someone's dream," Miano said. "Their dream is to play for the University of Hawai'i. They've worked so, so hard. The best part is that no matter what happens, they will always be part of our family. Just because you don't make it, you still have our respect and you'll always be in the Warrior ohana."