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Young linemen show they can play

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    After redshirting last season, David Lefotu, left, and Sean Shigematsu are getting some reps with the first-team offensive line.

When it comes to being admitted into the Hawaii football team’s No. 1 unit, there is no age requirement.

“How a person plays is more important than how old he is,” offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said.

This spring, the Warriors have been trying to build a depth chart, particularly on the offensive line, where each starting position has been vacated. While the top offensive line consists of experienced players — three fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year junior — three players who redshirted as freshmen in 2010 are expected to receive considerable playing time this season.

Right tackle Sean Shigematsu and right guard David Lefotu have practiced with the first-team offense, and left tackle Jordan Loeffler will receive work there during Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage in Hilo.

“They’ve made some good improvement,” Shaw said.

Shigematsu, Lefotu, Loeffler, left guard Frank Loyd and center Kody Afusia were part of the Warriors’ 2010 recruiting class. Each redshirted last year.

Following the departure of five senior offensive linemen who started in the 2010 Hawaii Bowl, Shaw opened the competition to all ages.

Shigematsu is in a close battle with Levi Legay at right tackle.

“You have to prove yourself day by day,” Shigematsu said. “A lot of the older guys — Brett (Leonard), Clayton (Laurel), Sila (Lefiti) — have been helping me with my calls.”

Shigematsu, who was raised on Kauai, said the biggest adjustment has been the move to Honolulu.

“I’m kind of a mama’s boy,” he said, smiling. “My mom does everything — cook, clean.”

Shigematsu might have mastered the cooking part. Weighing 250 in August, the 6-foot-4 Shigematsu is now about 300.

“It’s OK,” he said. “I can still move.”

Loeffler’s agility made him a valued recruit, especially as a projected offensive tackle. Loeffler resumed practicing yesterday after missing a week after aggravating an injury to his left knee.

The line techniques, Loeffler has learned, are taught at the same level.

“They expected us to stop being boys and start being men, even though we’re still kind of young,” said Loeffler, who is 6-5 and 300 pounds.

Lefotu recalled how the young offensive linemen spent most of 2010 on the scout team.

“Last year, we got no reps at all,” Lefotu said. “It was kind of hard. As a young guy, you’ve got that urge to play.”

But Lefotu said he realized that the pace is faster and the reads more difficult at the college level.

“The biggest adjustment, for me, was working with my right tackle and getting the plays down,” Lefotu said. “That was the biggest challenge.”

Shaw said the young linemen have matched up physically in 9-on-7 drills.

“I like their physical-ness,” Shaw said. “They’re coming along with their fundamentals. They’re going to be very good. It’s like a painting that’s not finished.”

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