Brett Leonard, who was projected to start at center, is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and miss the University of Hawaii’s first three football games.
Bronson Tiwanak, a senior walk-on from Damien Memorial School, will start in Thursday’s season opener against Southern California.
The backup center will be London Sapolu, a junior college transfer and the son of former UH and San Francisco 49er lineman Jesse Sapolu.
The Warriors have lost two centers to injuries in the past three months. In the final quarter of the Warrior Bowl, a scrimmage marking the end of spring training, junior Matagisila Lefiti suffered an injury to his right foot.
Lefiti underwent surgery, and only recently resumed light training. Lefiti also will miss at least the first three games — USC at Aloha Stadium, and Army and Colorado on the road in consecutive weekends.
Leonard was expected to be named the starting center at the end of the past Wednesday’s practice. But during a one-on-one drill that day, Leonard crumpled to the ground, holding his left knee.
"Brett is larger (than Tiwanak) and is able to handle some of the opponents we’re going to be seeing early in the season," line coach Gordy Shaw said. "That’s why it was always a tight race.
Head coach Greg McMackin said Leonard will be missed but noted that Tiwanak was UH quarterback Bryant Moniz’s center when both played for Fresno City College in 2007.
"That’s a positive thing," McMackin said.
UH captains named
A 13-year drought came to an end when defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga was voted as a Hawaii football captain.
"The last election I won was for May Day in the third grade," Meatoga said. "I was picked to represent Molokai, I think."
In voting by the players, Meatoga, slotback Greg Salas and linebacker Corey Paredes were selected as captains for the 2010 season. Salas is a senior, and Meatoga and Paredes are juniors.
McMackin said 20 players received votes, and some of them will serve as the fourth captain during games this season.
Defensive tackle Kaniela Tuipulotu, who was born on Maui, said: "Vaughn is a hard worker. He never complains. He leads by example. He’s the first one out here and the last to leave. He’s always working hard, and pushing others."
Salas has served a leadership role since the end of the 2009 season. He was one of the organizers of the Warriors’ unsupervised workouts this summer.
Paredes is enjoying the happily-ever-after part of his storybook career. He was awarded a scholarship last year.
"I’m living proof the walk-on program at UH is the best," Paredes said. "If you want to play for UH, come out. The coaches will give you a chance."