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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digging deep

While their teammates headed toward the locker room after practice, the Hawaii linebackers were still sweating through a set of sprints on the turf at Ching Field.

The extra running wasn't punishment so much as preparation."Coach Cal (Lee) said the LBs have to be the most in-shape guys on the field," Mana Lolotai said.

"Coach expects a lot out of us as linebackers so we have to make sure we push ourselves."

Lolotai put in a solid day's work last Saturday and alternated with senior Brashton Satele at middle linebacker in yesterday's practice.

Lolotai has been working primarily with the second unit during the spring, but got a few repetitions with the first unit after an impressive performance in last Saturday's scrimmage.

"We have to know how to play with each other," Lolotai said. "Playing with the ones, I get that more fast-paced tempo."

Lolotai (6-foot, 240 pounds) grew up in Kahuku and attended Hawaii Pacific University after graduating from Kamehameha in 2006.

He transferred to Hawaii before the 2007 season, seeing action in four games his first season. He registered four tackles while getting into 13 games last year and could push for more playing time in the fall with his showing this spring.

"They're two of our best players so we just have to find a spot for them," UH head coach Greg McMackin said of Satele and Lolotai. "They're probably two of our top five players this spring."

Both middle linebackers will probably have to be in shape for Saturday's Warrior Bowl at Aloha Stadium. McMackin said the coaches will divide the team evenly for the spring game, which probably means Satele playing for one team with Lolotai on the other side and not many breaks for either.

Lolotai's conditioning was tested last weekend when he didn't get many breaks in the Warriors' offense vs. defense scrimmage played under a draining afternoon sun.

"It was a mental gut check, you have to dig deep," Lolotai said.

While he gets more repetitions in practice, Lolotai has enough to keep his hands full after he leaves the locker room.

When Lolotai's not in classes, meetings or practice, keeping track of 2-year-old daughter, Zaiah, fills his time away from the field.

"It keeps me more grounded, I have to be more focused," Lolotai said of balancing family life with school and football. "Not only do I have football, but I have responsibilities at home, too. It kind of works hand in hand."

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