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Thursday, December 18, 2014         

PREP ATHLETICS


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Becoming Warriors

25 players commit to play at Hawaii on signing day

By Stephen Tsai

POSTED:


It was not quite a decision of LeBronian proportions, but cornerback Mike Edwards yesterday took a few minutes to mull the two football scholarships.

One was from Cincinnati, which is in the state where he was raised, and the other from Hawaii, which promised, literally, a sunnier future.

Don't underestimate solar power.

"Paradise is my next stop," Edwards said. "I'm going to be a Warrior."

That was one of the nail-nibbling moments for the UH coaching staff, which waited by the fax machines for completed letters of intent from football recruits. Yesterday was the first day football recruits could put their commitments in writing. The NCAA considers a faxed copy of a signed commitment letter to be a binding agreement.

In signing ceremonies from the Midwest to Hawaii, the first installment was made on the Warriors' future.

Defensive end Craig Cofer of Grossmont College signed his papers, then faxed them before heading to classes.

In an elaborate ceremony in Waikiki, All-State linebacker Justin Vele of Farrington High was the Warriors' lone recruit.

In Vancouver, Wash., a school assembly was held as receiver Ellis Henderson of Skyview High signed his UH letter.

Slotback Chinedu Amadi, who goes by his middle name, Promise, said it was a lifelong dream to earn a football scholarship.

"I'm excited about going to Hawaii," he said.

For Edwards, the road to redemption leads to Manoa.

As a Glenville High senior, Edwards received scholarship offers from Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee, among others. He chose Tennessee, playing in five games as a true freshman. But Edwards and three Volunteers teammates were arrested in November 2009 and charged for their alleged involvement in an armed robbery. They were dismissed from the team. The charges were eventually dropped when it was discovered that the incident was a prank that went wrong, and that the alleged weapon was a BB gun.

Edwards transferred to Coffeyville College in Kansas, where he attended school but did not play last year. Still, he received offers from several schools, including Cincinnati, Toledo and Mississippi.

"I picked Hawaii because I had a great visit," Edwards said. "The coaches were great, especially coach Tony (Tuioti). Just being in that setting is the best situation for me now."

He said his family, enduring the blizzard conditions in Ohio, are "fired up about it."

He added that Hawaii "will be a great vacation spot for them. For me, it'll be my workplace."

It was emotional at Kahuku High's gym, where safety Tigi Hill and linebacker Ben Mamea signed their UH letters.

"I still miss our boy Deedee," Mamea said of teammate Keoni "Deedee" Tafuna, who died in November. "He was a great inspiration to all of us, especially me."

Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said Tafuna probably would have played college football.

"I know he's up there smiling down on us," Mamea said.

Mamea acknowledged that signing was the easy part.

"I have to finish strong in school if I want to play for UH in the fall," Mamea said.

Torres said: "They have to work on their organizational skills and their study skills. They're going to the next level. In college, they're on their own. The university has tutors and good academic support. But mom is not up there. You have other influences. It's not easy for young men to stay the course. They have to be mature early. If they don't, they end up back here, looking for a job and struggling. The university has given them a great opportunity. They have to take advantage of it."

PLAYERS WHO SIGNED WITH HAWAII

Junior Alexis
» Defensive lineman, 6-3, 245, Crenshaw High (Los Angeles)
» Assistant coach Tony Tuioti: "He has great upside. He's built like an ox. He blocked for one of the best running backs in the country, DeAnthony Thomas. ... He's going to grow, and he has a frame that will get him to 280. He has a great physique. He's athletic enough to be a great 3-technique when he fills out. He also has the motor to be tough and physical inside."

Justin Alo
» Quarterback, 6-2, 185, Carson (Calif.) High
» Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich: "I was more impressed with Alo in person. He's athletic. He feels connection to the islands. He sees (Bryant) Moniz doing it. He'll compete when he gets here."

Chinedu Promise Amadi
» Slotback, 5-10, 185, Chino (Calif.) High
» Rolovich: "His name means 'God's Guide.' He catches everything very well with his hands. He has great body control. And that's on top of being a very top student."

Ijumaa Armstrong
» Defensive back, 5-11, 180, Culver City (Calif.) High
» Associate head coach Rich Miano: "He has the ability to play corner and safety. He's smart, fast and tough. And he has a great offseason work ethic."

Brian Clay
» Cornerback, 6-1, 185, Will C. Wood High (Vacaville, Calif.)
» Miano: "I think Clay is a lot like John Hardy(-Tuliau), but possibly taller. He's well-coached. He has really good athleticism. He'll hit you."

Craig Cofer
» Defensive end, 6-5, 250, Grossmont College (Calif.)
» Tuioti: "Craig has a great motor. He's great against the run. He's three (years) for three (seasons), so that's like getting another young player. Anytime you can get a motor guy who's constantly after the football, you can't go wrong with that."

Brenden Daley
» Linebacker, 6-4, 255, Ventura (Calif.) College
» Assistant coach Brian Smith: "The one thing we didn't have was a true middle backer, a guy who can play physical in the box. He was a great leader on his team. He should bring a lot of intensity to the field. He runs to the ball hard. For a big guy, he covers a lot of ground."

Trevor Davis
» Receiver, 6-1, 165, Alhambra High (Martinez, Calif.)
» Rolovich: "With Trevor Davis, I see a young Royce Pollard. Except what Trevor has is an elusiveness you don't always get with outside receivers."

Ben Dew
» Offensive lineman, 6-4, 300, Word of Life Academy (2009)
» Assistant coach Gordy Shaw: "He's an outstanding athlete. He has great lateral movement, and he's tremendously strong. He's opening people's eyes with what he can do in the weight room."

Cecil Doe
» Receiver, 6-3, 210, North Dakota State College of Science
» Shaw: "He ran 10.68 (in the 100 meters) his junior year in high school. He's fast, and he's got great hands. We feel fortunate to get him."

Mike Edwards
» Cornerback, 5-10, 185, Coffeyville (Kan.) College
» Miano: "He's like Ryan Mouton. He can return punts, and he could be starting for us at corner. We expect great things out of him. He's as talented as we've recruited in 12 years. He has speed, quickness, athleticism and ability."

Penitito Faalologo
» Linebacker, 6-1, 220, Fagaitua High (American Samoa)
» Tuioti: "He's a hard-nose football player. He's going to grow and fill out. He's the best defensive player, all-around athlete down there in American Samoa. ... He's definitely strong enough to take on the physical aspect of the game."

Chris Gant
» Receiver, 6-1, 185, Moorpark (Calif.) College
» Smith: "Chris is a dynamic receiver at the JC level. He broke all of their school records and, I believe, led the state in just about every (receiving) category. He's strong with his hands. He has good speed and quickness, and he's very versatile. He could end up being an inside or outside (receiver) for us."

Tyler Gray
» Linebacker, 6-3, 215, Templeton (Calif.) High
» Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda: "For a big man, he's very light on his feet. I see him being 6-3, 245 pounds, being an outside guy who can play in space and rush the passer. I like the fact he's played running back. He's played athletic positions, as well as playing linebacker."

Will Gregory
» Running back, 6-0, 200, Dominguez (Calif.) High
» Smith: "He's an explosive player. He's got a little Alex Green in him in the sense when he makes a cut, he gets vertical. He has a good burst to him, along with good size. ... We liked him a lot as a safety as well, because of how physical he is."

Ellis Henderson
» Receiver, 6-1, 180, Skyview High (Vancouver, Wash.)
» Rolovich: "Ellis is a playmaker with great speed. He's a great athlete. We project him at slot. He's effective in the return game. I think he could play slot for us, but he has the speed to stretch the field on the outside."

Tigi Hill
» Safety, 6-3, 215, Kahuku High
» Miano: "Tigi Hill is probably the best athlete in Hawaii in terms of size, speed, athleticism and versatility. He's a big-time player, and a good kid."

Jared Leaf
» Running back, 6-2, 230, Alhambra High (Martinez, Calif.)
» Smith: "I think he fits our offense well. He's big and physical. We know he can handle the protection. He's got good lateral movements. He can make people miss. He plays with good pad level. He runs hard. He's going to be able to break tackles, and get you some extra yards."

Ben Mamea
» Linebacker, 6-1, 228, Kahuku High
» Miano: "Mamea is the best linebacker in Hawaii. People made comparisons, his sophomore year, to Manti Te'o. And obviously, Manti is one of the best linebackers in the country. But Ben has potential to be a big-time linebacker for us."

Blake Muir
» Offensive lineman, 6-5, 285, Kirrawee (Australia) High
» Shaw: "He has all of the ingredients to become a tremendous lineman. He has athletic ability, exceptional strength. And he's a very good student."

Thomas Olds
» Offensive line, 6-4, 275, San Clemente (Calif.) High
» Shaw: "He can play center or tackle. He's very athletic. He has great hips, excellent flexibility. He's a very aggressive football player. You can do a lot of things with him."

Mike Sellers
» Cornerback, 6-1, 185, Campbell High
» Miano: "Mike Sellers is kind of a hidden gem. So far the reviews are this kid is tough, smart, fast and talented."

Kendrick Van Ackeren
» Linebacker, 6-1, 205, Bellevue (Wash.) High.
» Miano: "Kendrick is a versatile kid who can play linebacker or safety. He also played offense, at quarterback. He's a football player. He's kind of like an Aaron Brown."

Justin Vele
» Linebacker, 6-1, 235, Farrington High
» Tuioti: "He's athletic. I think he's similar to Penitito (Faalologo) in that he's very physical. He can play the middle for us at linebacker. He also can be an outside linebacker. He's athletic against the pass and physical against the run."

Tavita Woodard
» Defensive end, 6-4, 250, Eastern Arizona College
» Tuioti: "He's big-time, man."






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