For months, the path to success at Syracuse appeared to veer through the Hawaiian Islands.
That observation rang truer still after the Orange recently offered a football scholarship to Saint Louis offensive lineman Jonah Savaiinaea, who just completed his sophomore season. The 6-foot-4, 345-pound right guard also has offers from Hawaii, UNLV and Arizona State.
“(Offensive line coach) Kevin Mawae of ASU and Cav (Mike Cavanaugh of Syracuse) reached out a few times,” Crusaders OL coach Rob Crowell said. “Because this whole (COVID-19) thing, they’re trying to get more info on the kids. They can’t visit, can’t see them working out, no practice going on. It’s like the old-school way of recruiting before there were Hudl tapes available. You had to take the (high school) coaches’ word on it. It’s been working.”
Cavanaugh, currently the OL coach at Syracuse, was the OL coach at Hawaii during June Jones’ era. Cavanaugh was an avid supporter of head coach Dino Babers, who played for the Rainbow Warriors under Dick Tomey. Saint Louis left tackle Kalan Ellis (6-5, 350) committed to the Orange two weeks ago. Saint Louis right tackle La‘akea Kapoi (6-4, 300) also has offers from Hawaii, Syracuse, Arizona State and UNLV. Ellis will be a senior and Kapoi will be a junior this fall.
Kamehameha senior-to-be Austyn Kauhi (6-5, 260) also has an offer from Syracuse.
Savaiinaea is the youngest of ‘Cuse’s prospects in the Pacific. The research goes both ways for him and the others.
“Now, this is a whole new dynamic. The kids can’t really travel and go to camps and see the campuses. They’re really going to have to do their homework on their own to see what schools fit,” Crowell said. “I know that’s what Kalan did. He researched the school, the coaches, the depth (chart). They’re going to have to do that on their own.”
Savaiinaea, like many of his teammates, has made do with limited resources since the lockdown began and school facilities became off-limits.
“He’s young and as far as playing ball, he’s got a lot of potential and a lot of growth ahead,” Crowell said. “He just started (weight) lifting in January and he was already benching 365. When the COVID thing hit, he was trying to find places to lift, sending myself and Coach (James) Hall videos and, jeez, he was at 365 as a sophomore. He could become one of the greatest to come out of Saint Louis if he keeps working like he’s working in the classroom.”
Savaiinaea has a 3.7 grade-point average.
His younger brother, Julian, is a promising sophomore defensive end for the Crusaders.
Hawaii (Mountain West), April 17, 2020
UNLV (Mountain West), June 3, 2020
Syracuse (Atlantic Coast), July 31, 2020
Note: Corrects Kapoi’s grade to junior for the coming school year.