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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Kealakehe HS Gabe Tuata offered by UH

Kealakehe HS (Kailua-Kona, HI) Senior Running Back Gabe Tuata
5'7, 170

Kealakehe senior running back Gabe Tuata has rushed for 1,525 yards and scored 29 touchdowns this season. - Michael Darden | West Hawaii Today

Hawaii offers Tuata full scholarship

Senior Still Weighing His Options

by Brendan Shriane
West Hawaii Today

Saturday, October 28, 2006 7:04 AM HST

It looks like senior Gabe Tuata might be headed to the University of Hawaii, but for now, he's going to weigh his options.

The Warriors offered Tuata, Kealakehe's all-purpose running back/punt returner, a full scholarship to join the team, according to his father and Kealakehe running backs coach, Laau Tuata.

Laau Tuata spoke with members of the Hawaii coaching staff this morning. He said he was just following up after sending a videotape of his son's highlights to Hawaii defensive backs coach Rich Miano, who has been recruiting Gabe Tuata for the Warriors.

"I didn't even get the chance to ask the question I wanted before (they) said 'Good news, we're offering Gabe a scholarship,'" Laau Tuata said.

If Gabe Tuata accepts the scholarship offer, he would join Konawaena running back Billy Stephens, who attended Hawaii from 1984-87, and Honokaa offensive lineman Kaulana Noa (1994-1999) as the only Big Island football players who accepted full-ride scholarships from Hawaii out of high school.

But Tuata, who has rushed for 1,525 yards and scored 29 touchdowns this year for undefeated Kealakehe, won't decide on where he'll play college football until after the season.

"I think I'm going to wait and keep my options open," said Tuata, who has a recruiting trip to Hawaii's Manoa campus planned for next weekend.

Tuata was surprised Hawaii offered him a scholarship so early in the process.

Tuata impressed Miano at one of Hawaii's speed and quickness clinics on the Big Island this summer. Miano gave Hawaii head coach June Jones a tape of Tuata.

"He's got good speed, quickness, he has the ability to make people miss and he's very strong," said Miano, who said he couldn't confirm whether Tuata had been offered a scholarship because of NCAA regulations. "He kind of reminds me of a young Chad Owens, (a 2005 Hawaii graduate who's returning punts for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars)."

Miano also said the staff, including Jones and wide receivers coach Ron Lee, like Tuata's intangibles.

"The coaches were really impressed with his character, work ethic as well as his ability," Miano said of Tuata, who is listed at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds.

"They're really excited about him," said former Kealakehe coach Sam Papalii, who was Gabe Tuata's coach last year and has helped guide the Tuata family through the recruiting process. He spoke to both Miano and Lee.

"They feel like he can really play -- they like his quickness at running back and his ability to make plays in the open field,'' Papalii said. "They said 'We think he's special' -- I told them he is special."

But a number of schools have also expressed interest in Tuata. Arizona defensive coordinator and Hawaii recruiter Mike Tuiasosopo has been in contact with the Tuatas recently, and the Wildcats might be close to offering Tuata a scholarship.

If Tuata does go to Hawaii, he would likely be used as a tailback and a slot receiver.

Hawaii is reportedly looking at Tuata as a possible replacement for sixth-year senior running back Nate Ilaoa, a 5-9, 248-pounder. As the Warriors' primary runner, Ilaoa has rushed 72 times for 524 yards and seven touchdowns through Hawaii's first seven games. Ilaoa has also been one of quarterback Colt Brennan's favorite targets, hauling in 31 passes for 393 yards.

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