2017 Honolulu Star-Advertiser defensive player of the year Kana’i Mauga will make his first collegiate start today against Arizona.
Mauga, a Waianae grad, will start in the place of injured linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, according to 24/7 sports.
Mauga started his college career as an outside linebacker and will start on the weakside while veteran John Houston slides over to Gaoteote’s spot in the middle.
“IE has not practiced this week, still in the boot,” coach Clay Helton said. “So we will go with Kana’i.”
Mauga has been working as an inside linebacker this year after compiling 14 tackles in 12 games as an outside linebacker last year.
Mauga beat out Faatui Tuitele of Saint Louis and Kahuku linebacker Miki Ah You for the Star-Advertiser’s defensive player of the year award in 2017. He was an early enrollee at USC following the football season.
Gaoteote is currently third on the team in total tackles with 47 to go along with two tackles for a loss.
“He’s come a long way,” Gaoteote said of Mauga in the fall. “I mean just the transition from the outside to the inside and just his ability to just play both spots. I mean he’s come far and this is growth, since we both came in day one. I mean, I’ve been with him at the same time, but his growth is definitely something that I see and that I’m very proud of.”