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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

American Samoan spent freshman year picking up systems

Aiulua Fanene has a system.
Whenever the Arizona Wildcats defensive tackle wants to call home, he first phones his brother, Jonathan, in Ohio.
Jonathan Fanene, a defensive end with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, punches a few buttons and then connects his younger brother to Nu'uuli, American Samoa, so he can connect with their parents.
It's a complex, time-consuming process with one obvious reward.
"I don't waste my money," he said.
Fanene is taking advantage of every opportunity this spring, whether it's playing time on the Wildcats' rebuilt defensive line or - thanks to his brother - an inexpensive way to call home.
Coaches believe the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound Fanene can develop into something special. Fanene was named the UA scout team's defensive MVP as a true freshman last fall; uncommonly strong and constantly improving, he could be a surprise contributor in 2011.
"He's getting better," coach Mike Stoops said. "He's young, he's a big body inside, and he's certainly getting more comfortable. We're pleased with his overall development."
No player has come further, both geographically and on the field.
Fanene grew up in American Samoa, a South Pacific island located more than 5,000 miles from Tucson. Fanene starred at Tafuna High School and was profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" but arrived at the UA last summer with so little football experience that he was immediately redshirted.
Fanene spent the 2010 season mimicking opposing defenses and picking up the nuances of a position that requires more than brute strength.
His improvement is showing this spring: Fanene's technique is better, and his recognition of opposing offenses is sharper. The 18-year-old has learned to leverage his body and "get low" when the ball is snapped, defensive tackles coach Joe Salave'a said.

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