FIFTH IN A SERIES ON SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICES ON OAHU
Obviously, it’s OK to bring a nimble Mack truck on to the Kaiser football field.
Cougars offensive tackle Michael Eletise made a name for himself with strong showings at national camps and he’s received close to 40 Division I college football offers.
That is his future. Kaiser football for his upcoming senior season is his present, so plan to get your binoculars out and watch some line play this fall when Kaiser is playing.
It was only a practice session last Wednesday, but Eletise gave those watching — including a scout from the University of Utah — a glimpse of his athleticism.
During the team drills, he lined up at left tackle and every so often after the snap, he would pull to the middle right or the far right leading the way for a ball carrier. He also lined up at right tackle and did the same thing on various snaps, pulling mid left and all the way left.
The essence of pointing all that out is that Eletise can MOVE, and, if you recall Michael Oher in “The Blind Side,” you’ll understand that he finishes his plays all the way through to the whistle (or, in the case of spring drills, whenever he feels like stopping). At the end of the many running plays in which he pulled, the last audible thing were his feet pounding into the turf. The play was over. He was finishing. Elephants, they say, make that kind of noise.
“He is a crazy athlete to be able to move the way he does,” second-year head coach Cameron Higgins said after the spring practice session. “He’s big and quick and light on his feet. He’s doing what college coaches want to see, driving players 10 yards and then into the ground.”
Eletise is 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds. After practice, he was being timed in sprints across the field.
When he was interviewed, he was out of breath and it took about 5 minutes to catch it. … He didn’t have to do the sprints, BTW. He wanted to see how fast he could do it. Technically, he’s still a junior in high school.
“I think we’re going to do really good this year,” Eletise said after practice. “We have talent. We have a lot of returnees on the line. We’re coming together as a team and each day it’s getting better.
“We have some new players and new teammates and we’ll have to build it up, but we’re not far from where we left off last year.”
Hmmm. Last year. So good, so close … yet somehow, so far off.
The Cougars finished 4-3 in the regular season, a record that was 5-2 on the field until a forfeit nullified one win. They pulled off a 20-19 upset of Kahuku in their fifth game, when the whole state took notice.
A close win over an improved Castle squad followed before a 42-30 loss at Leilehua. That middle of the road kind of ending continued with a win over Moanalua in the first week of the playoffs followed by a lopsided loss and elimination at the hands of eventual Division I state champion Mililani.
So what’s new? Will Kaiser improve in 2015?
Signs point to a rousing Yes! But you never know.
Running back Jensen McDaniel (1,135 rushing yards, 22 total TDs as a junior) is back for his senior season and will be looking to be right behind Eletise when the Cougars go up the middle.
Quarterback Justin Uahinui looked solid in practice, connecting on many short and medium range throws with an occasional miss. He was slated to be the Cougars’ starter a year ago, but broke his collarbone and missed the whole season before Kalawaia Judd stepped in as a transfer from Kauai High.
One thing the Kaiser coaches stressed over and over at practice was tempo. That’s the new football world we all live in: Get to the line and snap the ball.
As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what the coaches said countless times during team drills: “Get to the line and snap the ball.”
“Pretty soon I’m going to sound like a broken record about that,” coach Higgins said.
The tempo was good at practice, but by all accounts, it’s going to get much better during the summer and in the fall.
“We’ve got pretty much our whole O-line back and a lot of really good returnees,” coach Higgins said. “They are taking the leadership role and making this team their own.
“We will be trying to make a run. We feel like we have the team to take us to the state championship. We are putting in the work. Championships are won in the offseason.”
Eletise’s presence is lifting everybody else’s game, the coach pointed out.
“We have scouts that come to watch Michael and they end up also asking, ‘Who’s that?’ and then a little later ‘Who’s that?’ Others are getting noticed.
Eletise’s linemate John-Wendell Nisa is one of them.
“I’m so comfortable with him on the right and me on the left (tackle),” Eletise said about Nisa.
Two years ago, under coach Rich Miano, the Cougars won the OIA Division II title and the D-II state championship. Last year, they moved up to the top level and got some need experience there.
McDaniel is upbeat about the Cougars’ potential.
“Everybody (on the team) wants to win and we’re trying to be leaders and guiding the younger and newer players on the right path. We’re gonna go as far as we can. That’s the plan. We have to stay focused as one group and everybody has to do their jobs.”
Two players coming off of banner seasons — linebacker Parker Higgins and safety Nic Tom — are back to lead the Kaiser defense.
Coach Higgins calls Tom one of the fastest players in the state, and he looks at Parker Higgins, his little brother, as a team leader.
“He’s undersized for his position, but he has heart like (Kaiser assistant coach, former undersized Kahuku and Hawaii standout defensive back) Richard Torres,” the head coach said about his sibling linebacker.
Cameron Higgins said it’s somewhat tough to coach his brother and finds himself being a little harder on Parker than some of the other players.
Eletise didn’t guarantee anything, but he did say the Cougars “have a pretty good chance” while competing for the OIA title.
“They can’t underestimate us,” he added.
Previously in the series on spring football practices —
PART 1 >> Kahuku, May 18 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/first-day-of-practice-like-christmas-for-tata/
PART 2 >> ‘Iolani, May 19 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/iolani-football-team-cranked-up-for-d-i/
PART 3 >> Punahou, May 22 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/punahous-primary-football-pieces-still-in-place/
PART 4 Mililani, May 26 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/mililani-drives-to-steer-clear-of-being-average/