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Warriors settle on starting offensive line, for now

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    Aaron Brown went up against fellow linebacker George Daily-Lyles yesterday at the University of Hawaii during UH spring football practice.

In a depth chart surely written in pencil, the Hawaii football team has established a starting offensive line for the next two weeks.

In yesterday’s first spring practice in pads, the No. 1 offensive line was: left tackle Clayton Laurel, left guard Brett Leonard, center Matagisila Lefiti, right guard Chauncy Winchester-Makainai and right tackle Levi Legay. Laurel, Leonard and Lefiti will be fifth-year seniors in the fall. They have combined for one start, by Leonard. Legay will be a fourth-year junior. Winchester-Makainai, who played in 11 games in 2010, will be a sophomore.

"Right now, we think we have the five best players starting," line coach Gordy Shaw said.

Shaw said that lineup will remain in place for practices tomorrow and Friday. The Warriors will go on hiatus next week for spring break, then resume practicing March 28.

"We might make some adjustments after the break," Shaw said. "That’s when you might see a change up or down."

The Warriors are seeking to replace four starting blockers who completed their UH eligibility after the Hawaii Bowl in December. A fifth 2010 starter, left tackle Austin Hansen, is appealing an NCAA suspension.

Shaw said Lefiti and Leonard will rotate between center and left guard. During yesterday’s team drills, Lefiti played the first four snaps at center; Leonard was at center for the next four plays.

"They’re both among the top five," Shaw said. "No doubt."

Laurel was on the cusp of starting the past two seasons before suffering wrist and foot injuries. He has appeared in six games during his UH career.

Winchester-Makainai can play all five line positions. He was projected initially to compete at right tackle. But after several evaluation meetings, Shaw said, it was decided "he has to be an inside guy."

Legay is a 2007 Kealakehe High graduate who signed as a grayshirt and did not join the Warriors until January 2008. Weighing 250 pounds at the time, the 6-foot-3 Legay was regarded as a developmental player. He participated in 2008 spring training, but was not invited to training camp that August. Discouraged? "No, it was the desire to play, really," Legay said. "I wanted to get out on the field."

He went on a protein-rich meal plan, and spent extra time in the weight room. For guidance, he turned to strength coach Tommy Heffernan’s detailed workbook and a full-length mirror. The reflection provided clues which areas needed attention.

"If I’m a little too light in practice, I’ll gain a little weight," said Legay, who now weighs about 280.

"Fundamentally, he’s pretty sound," Shaw said of Legay. "He knows the offense. He’s holding down the position for now. He will get challenged, for sure."

Offensive tackles Sean Shigematsu and Jordan Loeffler, both of whom redshirted as freshmen in 2010, are on the second unit, but have played well in the Warriors’ first three spring practices.

London Sapolu, son of former UH and San Francisco 49ers lineman Jesse Sapolu, is the No. 2 center. He transferred from a junior college last year. He has only one year of eligibility remaining.

"He’s improved tremendously," Shaw said. "He struggled not so much with knowing the offense, but knowing how to perform in the offense."

This is the fourth year in a row the Warriors will have at least three new starters on the offensive line.

"The system is in place," said Shaw, who joined UH in 2009. "It’s no different than at wide receiver or anywhere else in our offense. The system is there. The players learn the system, and they perfect their techniques within the system, and they become good players."

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