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The drills are alive with sound of 11-on-11 scrimmages

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    Kamalu Umu, left, goes up against offensive tackle Austin Hansen.

There were position drills, an 11-on-11 scrimmage and a final chant of "WAC champs."

All that was missing from yesterday’s 90-minute football practice were the University of Hawaii coaches.

"As the older players, we have to take charge," said defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga, a fourth-year junior who helps coordinate the Warriors’ players-only workouts.

The NCAA permits football teams to set up summer strength and conditioning programs for their players. But the coaches are prohibited from running football-related workouts.

More than 60 players participated in yesterday’s workout on UH’s grass practice field. The more experienced players – offensive tackles Austin Hansen and Laupepa Letuli, nickelback Richard Torres, quarterback Shane Austin, linebackers Mana Lolotai and Corey Paredes, and Meatoga – led the drills. In the 11-on-11 scrimmage, Torres called the defensive plays and made the substitutions.

"I like the energy of our practices," Letuli said. "I like how everyone is working hard. It’s good to have so many people working out."

UH is trying to rebuild an offensive line in which there will be new starters at four positions. Hansen and Letuli made sure to give extra reps to second-year freshman Chauncy Winchester-Makainai.

Winchester-Makainai, who practiced at tackle during spring training, is learning to play center in the absence of starter Matagisila Lefiti. Lefiti will miss all of training camp while recovering from foot surgery.

"It’s good for me to learn a lot of positions," Winchester-Makainai said. "If somebody gets hurt, the coach can throw me in there."

David Lefotu, a heralded offensive lineman from Pearl City High, was admittedly anxious when he began training with the Warriors.

"The pressure was a lot to handle," said Lefotu, who is 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds. "The older brothers on the team helped calm me down. They said, ‘All you can do is put in your hard work and have faith. If you put in hard work, nothing can go wrong.’"

Defensive end Beau Yap, the state’s co-Defensive Player of the Year as a Kamehameha Schools senior last year, also has made a smooth transition. He had a sack during the scrimmage.

"Vaughn (Meatoga) is a fellow Kamehameha alum, and he and Liko (Satele) and Haku (Correa) took me in," Yap said. "They gave me help whenever I needed help."

Meatoga said: "Beau’s really a hard worker. He’s really strong for a freshman. I respect guys who work hard, and he works hard. He has my respect."

Yap signed a letter of intent with UH in February, then spent the next few months improving his strength and stamina. He said he has gained 20 pounds and now weighs 250.

"This is a different level of play," Yap said. "I have to push myself all of the time. It’s a lot of weights and a lot of training. I’m trying to better myself."

Meatoga praised Tommy Heffernan, UH’s strength and conditioning coach. Heffernan, UH’s only full-time strength coach, is in charge of the football conditioning program, succeeding Mel deLaura, who now works at Southern Methodist University.

"Coach Tommy really got us going," Meatoga said. "Everybody respects him. Coach Tommy demands a lot of respect because he gives a lot of respect. When he says ‘jump,’ we jump."


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