POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 2:33 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012
The transition from youngster to leader can be swift.
Twelve months ago, Dave Lefotu was the eager freshman anticipating his introduction to college football. One season and seven starts later, he's the most seasoned member of the Hawaii offensive line.
Over the past three years, as one class of seniors departed, the starting line was reassembled the following fall primarily with the next group of rising seniors awaiting their turn.
Lefotu worked his way into the senior-led starting unit last year. Now a sophomore, he has the most starting experience on a Warriors offensive line heavy on redshirt freshmen and sophomores and without a senior among them.
"It's been a different role for me going from last year being a redshirt freshman and starting. I was the one looking up to all the seniors for advice and help with the play-calling and techniques and just studying football in general," Lefotu said.
"I have to speak up a lot more …getting the younger guys more comfortable with practices and being a part of the program. Coming in as a young player I really liked it when the older guys helped out, so I'm trying to be in that role helping the young guys."
It's not the first time Lefotu has moved into a leadership position at a relatively early stage. After playing his freshman season on the junior varsity at Pearl City High School, he not only moved up to the varsity as a sophomore but was named a team captain, a title he held through his senior year.
Lefotu was one of the cornerstones of UH's 2010 signing class and took pride in representing the Chargers as a Division I recruit.
"It's definitely a special thing," Lefotu said. "I'm definitely humbled and I feel blessed for all the opportunities I've had so far coming out of a school that's not really known for D-I prospects year in and year out."
He redshirted along with four other linemen in his signing class — Kody Afusia, Jordan Loeffler, Frank Loyd and Sean Shigematsu — and made his first collegiate appearance in UH's loss at UNLV last September. His first start came two weeks later at San Jose State and he kept the spot for the next six games as well.
His efforts to hold his place in the starting lineup included trimming down between the spring and summer. Lefotu said he weighed 320 pounds during spring practice and reported for fall camp at 295. His regimen included working with a trainer on core exercises, and he improved his conditioning and quickness off the line of scrimmage, a potentially telling trait given the Warriors' plans to place more emphasis on the running game this season.
"Coming into this camp I shed a lot of pounds and I'm moving a lot faster. I feel a lot better in practice," Lefotu said.
Lefotu remained part of the offensive line's top tier through fall camp as a fixture at right guard, flanked by Shigematsu at right tackle and freshman Ben Clarke at center.
On the other side, redshirt freshman Blake Muir maintained a spot at left tackle, while junior transfers Kapua Sai and Mike Milovale competed at left guard. Junior Chauncy Winchester-Makainai came off the bench in nine games last year, making him another of the group's veteran members.