Colorado, UCLA join chase for Roosevelt junior DE Kaeo Akana

Roosevelt defensive lineman Kaeo Akana (51) worked to bring down Pac-5 slotback Bryson Ho (2) in this 2019 game. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The Pac-12 bull rush has arrived for Kaeo Akana.

Colorado, then UCLA offered football scholarships to the Roosevelt defensive end on Tuesday. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior now has six offers. Hawaii, Utah, Washington State and UNLV are also on the table.

“Every offer is life changing for me,” Akana said on Wednesday morning. “I had no clue. I was surprised.”

The Buffaloes have a history of recruiting in the islands, going back to Waimea linebacker/running back Jordan Dizon and beyond. This year, CU has offers to linebackers Mason Tufaga (Saint Louis) and Kahanu Kia (Punahou), and quarterback Cameron Friel (Kailua). Tufaga committed to Utah on Friday and Friel gave UNLV his word in May.

Akana is the only island junior with an offer from the Buffaloes.

“Colorado, that’s a big-time school. It’s a special moment to get an offer from them. (Outside linebackers) coach (Brian) Michalowski said he likes my ability to rush the passer. He was asking what’s my favorite move and I told him, ‘Ghost dip.’ That’s Von Miller,” Akana said.

Akana and UCLA were in contact for “a couple of weeks,” he said.

“That’s a major offer. Everyone thinks of UCLA as big-time. They still have that aura,” Akana said. “I talked to Coach (Brian) Norwood, the defensive backs coach. Then Coach (Jason) Kaufusi.”

Norwood was a standout athlete at Radford before playing defensive back at Hawaii. He has coached since 1990 and was a defensive coordinator at Baylor, Tulsa, Kansas State and Navy. He is currently UCLA’s defensive backs coach, assistant head coach and defensive passing game coordinator.

Kaufusi joined Chip Kelly’s staff in 2019 as outside linebackers coach. He had been the defensive line coach at Nevada.

“They like the relentless effort and the ability to rush the passer,” said Akana, who had 23.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2019.

Akana works out several days per week with the Trench Dawgz. The Akana home has big space for weight training. Their videos include footage of players pushing cars up on the street, a throwback to Coach Whitley Fehoko’s years training under his father, Vili.

Momentum is gaining. Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and Michigan have been actively communicating.

“I think they’re going to offer. It’s a matter of time. They text us and tell us they see us working out on Twitter,” Akana said. “My dad was very surprised. He was excited.”

The grind is different academically during this second COVID-19 lockdown. At Roosevelt, Akana has virtual learning from 8 a.m. to noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“Online school is all right. I’d rather have face-to-face contact,” he said. “I email my teachers when I need help after school.”

That kind of freedom rewards students with time management skills. There is more time to study and work out.

“Shout out to Coach Whit, Coach Kip (Akana), Coach Jon (Kahooilihala) and Coach Kui (Kahooilihala),” Akana said. “Shout out to my Trench Dawgz. I love them like my brothers. We work together every day so hard. They push me to be better every day.”


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