Three Maui Interscholastic League standouts - all defensive ends - signed national letters of intent to play at Football Bowl Subdivision (former Division I-A) schools on Wednesday, the first day the binding agreements could be signed.
Baldwin High School's Mana Rosa - the 2008 MIL Defensive Player of the Year - signed with Oregon State; Rosa's teammate and fellow defensive end-tight end Jordan Puu-Robinson, a first-team MIL All-Star, signed with Washington State; and 2006 Maui High graduate Kamaloni Vainikolo signed with Utah State as a transfer from El Camino Junior College.
Rosa grabbed some face time on ESPNU Wednesday morning as that network beamed in live to show Punahou's Manti Teo, the top-ranked line-backer in the nation by Rivals.com and Scout.com., and his eventual decision to sign with Notre Dame. Rosa was seated next to Teo, who turned down USC and UCLA , and Rosa was prominently in the screen as anchor Lowell Galindo interviewed Teo.
Puu-Robinson was also at the same gathering put on by the Pacific Sports Athletic Alliance at the Blaisdell Arena. Puu-Robinson transferred from Kamehameha Maui to Baldwin before his senior season and was a standout as a defensive end after being mainly a tight end for the Warriors.
''Jordan is another big-frame athletic guy who has played a few different positions in high school, primarily tight end and just learned defensive line this past year, his senior season,'' Washington State coach Paul Wulff said on the school's Web site. ''He has all the potential in the world and is going to have some growth and learning to do as he develops into his frame and his athleticism. The future could be very bright (and) if he wants to be a great player, he will be. We really like his potential to help us somewhere along the defensive line.''
Puu-Robinson (6-foot-4, 256 pounds) was a Baldwin team captain and finished ranked No. 54 on Scout.com's Northwest Hot 100 list that includes Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah, Idaho and British Columbia. He was rated No. 14 among tight ends in the West by Scout.com.
Puu-Robinson plans to pursue a degree in business at WSU, according to the Web site.
Vainikolo (6-2, 280), from Kihei, will have two years of eligibility for the Aggies. He will have a pair of teammates at USU from El Camino, Sean Enesi and Reuben Willis. Vainikolo played in seven games for a 9-1 El Camino team. He had 10 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries and earned first-team all-conference honors.
At Maui High, he was a three-year starter and letterwinner for coach Curtis Lee. Vainikolo led the team in sacks and tackles for loss all three seasons and was a first-team MIL All-Star as a senior, in addition to being the team MVP.
Rosa is a Rivals.com three-star athlete, rated the 56th best strong-side defensive end by Rivals.com and the ninth-best prospect in Hawaii. He finished 22nd on the Northwest Hot 100 list. As a junior he had 62 tackles, 14 for loss, 6.5 sacks, four forced and recovered fumbles.
ESPN.com said ''Rosa is an aggressive defensive end prospect with a good motor and backside chase speed.''
Teo, perhaps the most-recruited football player in state history, pulled a shocker when he put on a Fighting Irish hat, indicating he would attend the Catholic school. Teo, a devout Mormon, told ESPNU that he has permission from coach Charlie Weis to take his two-year mission after his freshman season if he chooses.
Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports told The Associated Press that Notre Dame's signing of Teo could be huge. The Irish finished 7-6 after beating Hawaii 49-21 in the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
''I can't remember the last time they got a great player at the very end,'' Lemming said. ''He's their best linebacker recruit since Bob Crable 30 years ago.''
Meanwhile in Manoa, University of Hawaii coach Greg McMackin announced a class of 29.
''We're excited about our class this year, we've got a large class,'' McMackin said on the school's Web site. ''The coaches again worked very hard for a year recruiting these guys. You really don't know how guys play for you until they get on the field between the white lines. So, I don't ever go out and say this is the greatest class, or this is going to be the greatest class ever. I know it's a quality class, guys want to go to school and get their degrees. I've been in every home of the players we've recruited and met their parents, great families and good people.''
Of the 29 signees, 14 are offensive players and 15 are on the defensive side of the ball. A total of 20 are from high schools and nine are from the junior college ranks. Eleven of the 20 high school signees are from Hawaii high schools and all were selected to the all-state teams, including safeties Kamalani Alo and Aulola Tonga from Kahuku.
''The other thing that we did, as always, is we used Hawaii as our base,'' McMackin said. ''We had 12 players from the state of Hawaii and from Samoa, so we want to keep our good Hawaiian players home, and we've done that the last couple of years.''
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org