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Hawaii continues to produce top talent

By Ferd Lewis


When you have what might prove to be the national championship team coming more than 2,500 miles to make a pretty-please scholarship pitch, "you can't be having too bad of a year in your state for (football) prospects," observed a recruiter.

And, as the University of Oregon's pursuit of Saint Louis School quarterback Marcus Mariota underlined, there is, once again, some major college talent flowing through the Hawaii high school ranks this year.

Overall, the aggregate picture that took shape, based upon analysis offered by a sampling of recruiters, had Mariota, Koa Ka'ai, Paulay Asiata, Juda Parker and K.T. Tuumalo all tightly bunched atop the Star-Advertiser's Top 10.

The NCAA prohibits coaches from commenting on prospective recruits prior to the Feb. 2 signing day under threat of sanctions, but a selection of recruiters spread across the Western Athletic Conference, Pac-10, Big 12 and Mountain West agreed to talk to the Star-Advertiser on an unattributed basis.

They suggest that there are some blue-chip prospects here this year and an estimated seven to 15 local prospects will likely have Football Bowl Subdivision offers in front of them to sign as part of the National Letter of Intent day ritual next month.

Qualifying grade and test-score issues could add to or subtract from that figure, recruiters say.

How productive the eventual crop might be remains to be seen. Cautions a recruiter with decades of experience here, "you never know how a class will turn out. Over time you get some surprises — good and bad."

Said another, a coach from the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-12): "There are definitely some good players, guys who can help fill your needs, but just not as many of them this year. Take linemen for example, some years they are four and five deep."

That lack of perceived depth, said one West Coast recruiter, "is why there aren't as many schools in here (recruiting) this year."

In contrast, the past two years have been almost a coaches convention with most of the 11 major conferences represented.

On a per-capita basis, Honolulu has been the most productive city and Hawaii the richest state in recent years when it comes to placing players on major college rosters, according to a 2009 study by the Tulsa World newspaper.

Honolulu had 4.6 recruits per 1,000 boys in the age group and Hawaii 3.8 according to the World's analysis of major college rosters.

But after nearly 50 signees over the past two years, "the number (of prospects) is down this year," said a recruiter with extensive experience here.

Two years ago, when Punahou School linebacker Manti Te'o was pursued by a who's who of suitors before signing with Notre Dame, 27 players got major college scholarship offers, 10 with Bowl Championship Series schools. Last year the number just barely reached 20.

The top prospect this year, Mariota, who led the Crusaders to a state championship, took a lot of the drama out of the process with a June commitment to the Ducks. Oregon secured more than a third of its class before the season opener.

Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Nebraska, Oregon State, Boise State, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming and Tennessee have been among the schools making bids this year.

But local coaches say they expect recruiters to make a significant contribution to tourism numbers in the spring and fall as work begins on assessing and recruiting the 2012 crop. It is already a group that is projected as "deeper, better ... more of what you see in the better years over there," said a Pac-10 recruiter.

Indeed, two years ago when Pete Carroll was attempting to recruit Te'o to USC, legend is that Carroll inquired about Buffanblu defensive end DeForest Buckner. Told that Buckner was just a freshman, Carroll reportedly told coaches, "I'll be back."

Carroll is with the Seattle Seahawks, but Punahou coach Kale Ane notes, "Charlie Weis (then of Notre Dame) said the same thing ... and (now) he's at Florida."

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Buckner is one of a handful of promising prospects for 2012 in a class that recruiters say could be 20-deep by the signing date.



Rank Player Pos. School Height Weight
1. Marcus Mariota QB Saint Louis 6-4 190
2. Koa Ka'ai DE Kamehameha 6-5 250
3. Paulay Asiata OL Saint Louis 6-5 300
4. Juda Parker DE Saint Louis 6-4 245
5. K.T. Tuumalo LB Punahou 6-3 210
6. Na'Alii Robins DT Saint Louis 6-3 245
7. Tigi Hill S Kahuku 6-3 215
8. Ben Mamea LB Kahuku 6-0 217
9. Chester Sua RB Kaimuki 6-2 210
10. Peni Vea S Kealakehe 6-1 185

Others being mentioned: Lancelot Williams (LB, Farrington), Hassan Richardson (WR, Mililani), Trent McKinney (QB, Mililani), Duke Bukoski (WR, Saint Louis), Jamal Napeahi (OL, Kahuku).

Source: Poll of college recruiters


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