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Lefiti’s start at center on hold for surgery

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Matagisila Lefiti waited two years to start at center for the Hawaii football team.

He now will have to wait a little longer.

Lefiti is expected to miss all of training camp while he recovers from surgery on his left foot. He is wearing a cast and is on crutches.


It is an untimely setback for Lefiti, who was center John Estes’ primary understudy the past two seasons. Estes, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, started all 54 games of his Warrior career.

Lefiti, a fourth-year junior in the fall, exited spring ball as the No. 1 center. But because of recurring problems with his left foot, he decided to have surgery.

His availability is in question for the scheduled Sept. 2 opener against Southern California.

Lefiti, a 2007 graduate of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., redshirted in 2007. He played one game as a backup center in 2008, and two games as a reserve last season.

Bronson Tiwanak, a walk-on senior from Damien Memorial School, is the immediate replacement.

London Sapolu – the son of Jesse Sapolu, a former UH offensive lineman who won four Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers – also is in the mix. Sapolu transferred from Orange Coast (Calif.) College in January.

Offensive lineman Chauncy Winchester-Makainai, a Kailua High graduate who redshirted in 2009, will audition at center in training camp.

And Brett Leonard, projected to start at left guard, has practiced at center during the Warriors’ unsupervised 7-on-7 passing drills the past two weeks.

"He’s coming along," quarterback Shane Austin said of Leonard. "He’s a big body."

Leonard, who is 6 feet 5 and 310 pounds, was recruited as a tackle. Although he redshirted in 2009 after transferring from Saddleback (Calif.) College, he made two of the road trips as a practice player.

In preparing for a road game against Idaho, Leonard practiced as a guard. After the season, he agreed to make the move to that position.

"I’m still doing left guard, but at the same time, I’m learning center in case something happens," Leonard said. "It’s interesting. I went from tackle to guard to center."

Leonard admittedly struggled during last week’s drills, which were coordinated by the players, but did well in Monday’s workout.

"I only had two or three (bad snaps) out of the whole session," Leonard said. "I’ll be fine.

"You want to be aggressive (coming out of the stance), but at the same time, you want to get the ball back before you start doing that. It’ll come with experience."

Austin said: "It’s his first time snapping in a long time. It’s just rubbing out the kinks and scraping off the rust. He’s getting progressively better. If anything, it’s a good way to stay in shape."Text goes here.


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