Two ACL surgeries in high school hasn’t stopped Kamehameha alum Kaulana Apelu.
Apelu, who walked on at Oregon in 2015, had his junior and senior seasons cut short at Kamehameha with knee injuries. A running back in high school, Apelu tried out at linebacker for the Ducks.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore made enough of an impression in camp that he earned time on special teams as a true freshman and played a total of 184 snaps.
This season, Apelu sat out the first three games, but with the Ducks’ defense struggling, has seen increased playing time of late. Reports surfaced he was going to start last Friday’s game against California, but he instead came off the bench to post a career-high nine tackles in a 52-49 loss in double overtime to the Bears.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was asked about Apelu in a press conference held on Sunday.
“Yeah, I think the two things he has going for him is just his heart, his desire, as far as a guy that’s probably a little undersized compared to a lot of other people,” Helfrich said according to OregonLive.com. “He’s a relentless kid. Had a couple times where we need to finish tackles and he kind of gets a little out of — his biggest strength is probably his biggest weakness at times in terms of trying to do too much or overshoot things, but he did a lot more good than bad.”
Apelu is one of nine players with Hawaii ties listed on the roster for the Ducks, who are 2-5 overall and 0-4 in the Pac-12 less than two years removed from playing for the national title.
Defensive tackle Rex Manu (Mililani ’15) has played in all seven games this year and has made 11 tackles with 2 1/2 for loss and one sack.
Defensive lineman Canton Kaumatule, who was a preseason All-Pac-12 third team pick by Phil Steele, has played in five games with three tackles.
Defensive tackle Ratu Mafileo, a 2014 Moanalua alumnus who joined the Ducks this season after playing two years at a junior college, was forced to medically retire last month with a back injury.
>> Central Florida true freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton (Mililani ’16) led the Knights, who finished 0-12 last year, to a 24-16 win over UConn on Saturday. UCF is 4-3 and 2-1 in the American Conference heading into Saturday’s game against Houston. Milton, who is 2-2 as the starter, finished 29-for-45 for a career-high 317 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against the Tigers. Milton is now completing 60.7 percent (71-for-117) of his passes this season for 960 yards, eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s also rushed for two touchdowns.
>> UNLV senior linebacker Tau Lotulelei (Maui ’12) leads the Mountain West Conference in tackles for loss with 11 1/2 and is tied for second with 72 total tackles. Lotulelei had 11 tackles with 3 1/2 for loss in a 42-23 loss to Colorado State on Saturday to drop to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the MWC.
>> Utah junior Kavika Luafatasaga (Farrington ’13) has stepped into the linebacker rotation for the Utes and posted his second game of seven tackles in his last three outings for the Utes in a 52-45 win over UCLA on Saturday. He also had seven tackles in a 36-23 win over Arizona on Oct. 8. No. 17 Utah will host ESPN College GameDay on Saturday morning prior to the Utes’ showdown with No. 4 Washington.
>> Navy safety Alohi Gilman (Kahuku ’15), who was named the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the week on Sept. 12, is currently tied for third on the team with 30 tackles. Gilman, who also is a key part of Navy’s kick-return coverage on special teams, had three solo tackles and broke up two passes in a 42-28 win over Memphis on Saturday. The Midshipmen improved to 4-0 in conference and 5-1 overall with their only loss to Air Force. They are currently ranked No. 22 in the latest Associated Press Top 25.
>> Oregon State linebacker Manase Hungalu (Kealakehe ’13) is currently tied for sixth in the Pac-12 averaging 7.3 tackles per game.
>> Washington linebacker Psalm Wooching (Kealakehe ’12) is currently tied for seventh in the Pac-12 with 4 1/2 sacks.
>> Washington State defensive end Hercules Mata’afa (Lahainaluna ’14) is currently tied for second in the Pac-12 with 9 1/2 tackles for loss and tied for 16th with three sacks.
>> Utah senior defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini (Baldwin ’12) is tied for eighth in the Pac-12 with 7 1/2 tackles for loss.