New system, old system, doesn’t matter to Ethan Spencer.
He is a master of adaptation. The Saint Louis senior center committed to Hawaii last week and embraces anything that will come his way. Just don’t expect a disturbance in the force.
“I haven’t really celebrated yet. Just living life normally for now,” said Spencer, now 6 feet, 2 inches and 275 pounds. “I think it’s just going to be any other day, if anything. My parents (Mellissa and Sean Spencer) were excited for me. They always wanted me to make the best decision for myself and choose where I want to go for college. UH was just the right fit.”
At Hawaii, a pro-style offense is in play after years of a spread-heavy attack. His approach won’t change entirely.
“Less shotgun, more under center as well. Run and pass. For most of the time, my snaps are always the same, whether they’re four yards or seven yards (back). For me, it’s about quarterback heights. Finding a snap that will work for all of them is pretty important,” Spencer said. “Honestly, I kind of like pass more. I feel like shotgun is better. It gives me a little more time to move compared to under center, but the run is fun. It’s just straight attitude and being able to maul somebody.”
Saint Louis now has three FBS-level commits on its offensive line. Jonah Savaiinaea committed to Arizona on June 22 and La‘akea Kapoi committed to San Diego State on June 24.
“I think that’s an awesome choice for him. He’s a great fit,” Saint Louis offensive line coach Rob Crowell said. “Ethan is the hardest worker in our O-line for sure. It’s an awesome opportunity he got with the scholarship offer. I think their new O-line coach, A’lique Terry, is a great coach. He was a grad assistant at Oregon. He has a lot of energy and a good philosophy about developing offensive linemen. He’s about developing their guys.”
For Spencer, who has a 3.71 grade-point average — yes, he knows his number to the third digit like most scholar-athletes — studying and preparation are a way of life. He stayed busy through the pandemic despite restrictions.
“I learned to really adapt to any kind of situation, to work with what I have since most facilities were closed and stuff. I worked out at my friend’s house (Kamo‘i White) with my weightlifting coach (Dave Cosier). Kamo‘i’s grandpa (uncle Black Huihui) pretty much has a full set up,” he said.
Longtime coach and offensive line guru Brian Derby has trained Spencer for nearly a decade.
“UH is getting a steal,” the former Rainbow Warrior lineman said. “That kid is good. When we do our drills, he’s so freaking fast. I know that offense. They’re looking for more mobile, quicker type linemen. I take speed guys any day over slow guys. He’s so fast that he can free up guards. He’ll work up to the next level, the ‘backers,” Derby said. “That’s just how he is, doing his speed work. I love that kid, man. I’m so happy for him that he got offered. He got overlooked.”
Prior to Hawaii’s offer, Morningside College (Iowa) established contact with Spencer. The advantage for Spencer, and now for Hawaii, is that he is the classic cerebral bonecrusher in the trenches.
“He’ll be fine. We don’t focus on only pass pro. We do a load of run blocking,” Derby said of his clinic. “He’s articulate. He’s the brain behind that O-line. He will dictate the tempo. It all starts with him.”
Spencer has been a rarity and comfortable with it. He has trained with speed and quickness coach Kenny Patton.
“We did a mix of different combine stuff like the 40. A lot of shuttle drills,” he said. “At an official combine I’ve done a 4.64. With Coach Dave, I’ve done a 4.41.”
To put that in perspective, former Hawaii defensive back and jack of all trades Ricky Lumford, who was terrific laterally, once did a 4.1 shuttle run.
At Saint Louis, the four-time Open Division state champions are young across the board with a few exceptions. Offensive line is where the Crusaders have depth, size and talent. They’ll need all the leadership they can get from the O-line. Coach Ron Lee has not hesitated to go well over 50 percent on the ground with play calls in the past. It could happen again in 2021.
“The other two ILH teams, those are very good teams. We are very young, especially on the defensive side. I believe our strength is the offensive line. We’re pretty much seniors. I think it’s going to be a great challenge,” Spencer said. “Absolutely, I feel like we’re going to have to be able to run the ball. That’s one of the key ways to have a good offense, being able to run consistently and pass, depending on what the defense gives us. If it’s really consistent, then they’re going to have to bring more guys in the box and that’ll open our passing game.”
Saint Louis, ranked No. 30 nationally by MaxPreps, has benefited from mobile playmakers at quarterback during the title run. Chevan Cordeiro and Jayden de Laura often stymied lockdown defenses by becoming the x-factor with open-field scrambles for first downs.
“Our quarterbacks are really mobile in the pocket. Once they get uncomfortable and rolling out of the pocket, it makes it difficult for us sometimes. That’s why we like our quarterbacks. I like that they’re disciplined, able to step up in the pocket and kind of help us out of anything,” Spencer said.
He also has confidence in Keola Agbayani, who may become the starter at running back.
“He’s really good. He’s shifty. He’s fast. He knows how to read the holes. He can block well. He’s going toe to toe with some of our middle ‘backers,” Spencer said.
Ethan Spencer’s Lockdown Staples
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “The Greatest Showman”
“It kind of shows the whole story, the start of the circus. But it’s a musical and I really loved it. My parents bought it a long time ago. The music is amazing.”
2. “Greater” (Netflix)
“It’s about Brandon Burlsworth, a walk-on at Arkansas. He went from walk-on to first-team All-American and also getting drafted to the NFL, but he sadly passed away. There’s actually an award named after him, for walk-ons.”
3. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Netflix)
“That’s my favorite TV show of all time. I’ve watched more than 10 times. I just really love the comedy side of it. It’s really funny. I always loved the show. It was three season, 20 episodes each.”
Top 3 food/snack/drinks
“Probably either meat lover’s or this Philly cheese steak from Domino’s. The meat lover’s could be any pizza place. Usually Roundtable or Domino’s. Any frozen pizza my family’s gotten is DiGiorno, but honestly for me, any pizza is good.”
2. Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwich
“I think that’s the best chicken sandwich. The Chik-Fil-A (chicken) sandwich is good and the sauce is sweet.”
3. Slater’s 50/50
“This burger I had at this place in Anaheim. It’s 50 percent beef and 50 percent bacon in the patty. They have normal burgers, too. It has the same texture, but it just tastes amazing. I’ve only been there once, but ti’s still the greatest burger I’ve had and I’d gladly put it in the top three for foods. Lettuce, cheese, pretty sure it’s provolone cheese, no tomato, ketchup and mustard. That’s pretty much all I needed. It was pretty big.”
Texas Day Brazil (Las Vegas) – it’s an all-you-eat meat place. They have people that walk around with the meat. You ask for a piece and they cut it for you. You pay the base price and eat as much as you want. I probably ate five to 10 (pounds), somewhere around there. I don’t know how much meat weighs. I just know it tasted good. Steak, sausages, chicken.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Michael Jackson – “Blame It On The Boogie”
2. N.W.A. – “Boys in the Hood”
3. Eminem – “ ’Til I Collapse”
Major: Business or Economics.
How much is enough: More money is better, obviously, but I don’t know when enough money is enough. But investing your money and keep it safe for taxes and stuff is good.
“Shout out to my coaches. Coach Brian Derby. Coach Dave Cosier. Coach Rob Crowell. Coach James Hall. Coach Kenny Patton. With Coach Kenny, I used to work out with him. A mix of different combine stuff like the 40, and speed and quickness stuff. A lot of shuttle drills. At an official combine, I’ve done a 4.64. With with Coach Dave, I’ve done a 4.41.”