The University of Hawaii football team will be without two injured playmakers — defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii and running back Joey Iosefa — for next Thursday’s season opener against USC.
Tulimasealii’s status is actually better than initially feared when he left Tuesday’s practice with an injury to the MCL in his right knee.
An MRI showed Tulimasealii had a sprained MCL. All sprains involve some degree of tearing. But his ACL was intact. His MCL will not require surgery.
Tulimasealii, a freshman, is likely to need four weeks to recover. The Rainbow Warriors play Oregon State on Sept. 7 and have a bye the following week. Head coach Norm Chow said he is hopeful Tulimasealii and Iosefa, who is recovering from a fracture in his left foot, will be available to play against Nevada on Sept. 21.
Timetables are "things nobody can project," Chow said. "It depends on treatment and the extra work that’s involved. I don’t think anybody can set a time frame."
When Tulimasealii was carted off the field, Chow said, "your first reaction is the ACL. When (the trainer) looked at it, he was concerned about that. (An injury to) the ACL is season-ending."
But the MRI did not show any damage to Tulimasealii’s ACL.
"That was good news," Chow said.
Moses Samia, Saui Matagiese, Marcus Malepeai and Tulimasealii were part of the four-player rotation at the two interior positions on the defensive line.
Malepeai, who also can play defensive end, will remain at tackle. Dejon Allen, Calen Friel and Mike Andrade also will compete at defensive tackle.
"We have depth," Chow said. "I wish we had more depth."
Craig Cofer, who has trained at both tight end and defensive end, now will spend more time on defense.
"Cofer is willing to help us wherever he can help us the most," Chow said. "Right now, defense seems to be the place."
Iosefa has not practiced since suffering the foot injury a week before camp began.
While he has made significant progress, such as being able to run in a straight line, he needs another two weeks of rehab to be fully healthy.
Freshman Aofaga Wily appears to have the lead at running back, although Steven Lakalaka, Diocemy Saint Juste, Willis Wilson and fullback Marcus Langkilde are expected to play against USC.