Wednesday | December 13, 2017
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UH-Manoa notes: Rainbow Warriors get thin on offensive line

University of Hawaii offensive lineman Austin Webb is recovering from a MRSA infection in his right leg and will not play for the Rainbow Warriors this season.

Webb, who is recuperating at his family’s home in Dallas, said he plans to attend classes in the fall.

“I’m definitely out for the season,” Webb told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a telephone interview.

Doctors believe it was in late February or early March when he contracted the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection in his right femur. He still participated in spring training and the offseason conditioning program.

But after noticeable pain and discoloration in his right leg, he was diagnosed with the bacterial infection in May. On May 23, he underwent surgery to remove the infected area. A catheter known as a PICC line was inserted into his arm to provide medication during his recovery.

Webb said he is focused on trying to walk without the use of a walker.

“That’s my biggest thing right now,” Webb said. “I can barely walk.”

Webb, who is 6 feet 8 and 310 pounds, redshirted as a freshman in 2015. He was a member of the scout team but did not play in any games in 2016. He practiced as a second-team offensive tackle this spring.

“I’m going to root for my boys this season and I’m praying for the team,” Webb said.

This is the latest setback for the Warriors’ offensive line.

Center/guard Leo Koloamatangi, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Lions, and right guard RJ Hollis completed their UH eligibility at the end of the 2016 Hawaii Bowl. Elijah Tupai, who played in 36 games the past three seasons, decided not to return for his senior season to take care of family matters in Utah.

Kingjames Taylor, who was expected to compete for playing time at tackle, did not meet the NCAA requirements to play for the Warriors this season. Taylor redshirted as a freshman last year.

However, the Warriors signed four offensive linemen for the 2017 recruiting class.

Fred Ulu-Perry, who can play all five line positions, resumed working out with the team in April. Ulu-Perry, a former Saint Louis School standout who played one season at UCLA, did not participate in UH’s spring training because of personal issues. He is projected to start this season.

Eperone Moananu, who redshirted as a sophomore last year, has been activated and will be in the line rotation.

Right-handed pitcher Cade Smith turned down an offer from the Minnesota Twins and will honor a commitment to play for the University of Hawaii baseball team this coming academic year.

Smith, a recent graduate of Mennonite Educational Institute in British Columbia, was one of three UH recruits selected in last month’s Major League Baseball draft. Infielder Johnny Homza (fifth round by the San Diego Padres) and pitcher Austin Rubick (20th round by the Milwaukee Brewers) decided to sign pro contracts. Smith’s decision to enroll at UH was finalized on Friday morning, the deadline to choose between the pros and college.

“I will be playing for Hawaii next year,” Smith wrote in a text to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “My family and I felt that it was clear that I should go to school and mature and develop — and I look forward to doing that.”

Smith plans to pursue a degree in the medical field.

“He’s a tremendous student,” UH coach Mike Trapasso said. “It’s a great fit because he’s pro-education. His family is pro-education. I think it’s the right decision for him, no question. It’s something that will allow him to grow emotionally and physically — although I don’t know if he can physically grow a whole lot more.”

Smith is 6 feet 5, 230 pounds, and capable of throwing a fastball 93 mph. He played for Canada’s junior national team last year.

“He is a beast,” Trapasso said of Smith’s hard-throwing style. “He’s got a great upside.”

Smith is following a familiar pattern. In 2008, the Twins also drafted Kolten Wong in the 16th round. Wong turned down the Twins’ offer, and then went to UH. The St. Louis Cardinals selected Wong in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Trapasso said Smith had indicated he would choose UH if he were not selected early in the 40-round draft. The Twins made an aggressive pitch last weekend. “We felt good about (Smith’s commitment), but it’s always good to have it over with,” Trapasso said.

The ‘Bows return starting pitchers Dominic DeMiero, Neil Uskali and Jackson Rees. They added six pitchers, including left-hander Jeremy Yelland of Central Valley High (Spokane, Wash.). Yelland can throw pitches in excess of 90 mph. He was not drafted

 

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