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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Michah Kia starting for UCLA

Posted on: Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mililani grad Kia starting for UCLA

By Dennis Anderson
Special to The Advertiser

The consensus among UCLA Bruins watchers is that Mililani's Micah Kia is destined to develop into one of the best college football offensive linemen in the West.

All he needs is experience, they say.

The experience building begins Saturday when UCLA opens its season at Stanford (9:30 a.m. on Fox Sports channel 31).

Kia, a true sophomore, beat out 2006 Freshman All-American Aleksey Lanis in spring practice and will start at left tackle. Kia is No. 73 and his curly black hair, cropped close at Mililani, is now shoulder length and flows out behind his helmet, like the Steelers' Troy Polamalu.

UCLA offensive line coach Bob Connelly urges fans to go slow annointing Kia to stardom, but rattles off a string of attributes that could take him there.

"Micah is a talented young man with great athleticism and a bright future," Connelly says. "He is big (6 feet 6, 299 pounds), has exceptional feet, great quickness and good explosion.

"Once he learns the game and grows out of thinking mode and turns loose, his ability will show up in a hurry."

Thinking mode, the coach explains, is when a player has to think about what to do next instead of doing it by instinct. That's where experience comes in.

Accelerating Kia's learning curve is his daily practice partner — preseason All-America defensive end Bruce Davis. Kia has to try to block Davis about 20 times a day.

"At the first of the year, I was really getting beat up," Kia said, who now is doing better. "Blocking Davis has done a lot for my growth, and off the field he gives me lots of tips and pointers. It's helped a lot."

Davis is solidly on the Kia bandwagon: "He's a good athlete. He has good feet, he's smart and he knows the offense. He's not a guy that is going to make a mental mistake," Davis told a Los Angeles Daily News reporter.

Even though his senior season at Mililani High was shortened by a leg injury, Kia was rated the No. 1 prospect out of Hawai'i and the eighth, 11th, 17th and 28th best offensive line prospect in the nation by various recruiting Web sites.

However, he acknowledges "high school was different because I was a giant among boys, just based on my size. This is a lot different."

Last season he played on the field goal/PAT team and got in for a handful of offensive plays in three games.

As starter, there is "a lot more urgency and pressure to do things right and a bigger burden if you don't want to let your teammates down," Kia says.

Line coach Connelly is not concerned about that. "Micah has an exceptional work ethic," he says, "and natural leadership ability.

"He will grow in confidence and knowledge as he gets quality reps (playing time). That will get him playing faster and let his athleticism show up."

"It's a little early to say he'll be one of the best. That's a long-term statement," Connelly cautions. "But he's got a huge upside."

EXTRA POINTS: Also on the UCLA roster from Hawai'i are redshirt freshman Dylan Rush (Konawaena '05) of Na'alehu, who switched from defensive end to fullback in spring practice, and redshirt junior strong safety Matt Culver (Punahou '04) of Kailua, who played at Grossmont JC before he came to UCLA last season. Neither was on the traveling squad to Stanford.

Kia chose UCLA over Tennessee and also visited Oklahoma, which offered him a scholarship, and Oregon State. Oregon, Washington and Hawai'i, where his older brother Aaron plays, invited him to visit. ... Kia had a 3.8 grade point average at Mililani and earned a place on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll last fall at UCLA.

Kia's father, Malcolm, was an All-State offensive lineman and is a member of the O'ahu Interscholastic Association Hall of Fame. Micah's middle name is Kamuela.

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