Arizona football: New coaches gave recruiting a boost

2011-02-04T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T09:43:36Z Arizona football: New coaches gave recruiting a boostRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 04, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Mike Stoops unveiled a 22-player recruiting class Wednesday, but his best off-season pickups were already on campus - and on the payroll.

As a result, the Arizona Wildcats may have found a new recruiting hotbed.

The hiring of secondary coach Duane Akina, offensive line coach Robert Anae and defensive tackles coach Joe Salave'a has already boosted Arizona's presence in Hawaii and American Samoa, and among Polynesian players living throughout Southern California.

All three coaches have ties to the islands.

Salave'a grew up in American Samoa, while Akina and Anae were star high school players and college assistants on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

"Those were probably the best pickups we could have gotten," Stoops said. "We'll get stronger and stronger (on the islands). We have a great chance to own that part of the country."

Arizona's already making inroads.

The UA lured two Hawaiian-born players and a pair of Samoans to sign letters of intent. Offensive linemen Lene Maiava and Faatele Faafoi, defensive end Lamar De Rego and defensive tackle Sani Fuimaono are all expected to compete for playing time as soon as they arrive on campus.

The four players took different routes to the UA.

Maiava grew up in Tafuna, American Samoa, and was a high school teammate of current UA defensive tackle Ailua Fanene. Maiava chose Arizona over offers from Hawaii and UNLV, though it didn't come without drama. Maiava was the last player to fax his letter of intent to the UA's football offices Wednesday.

Joining him on the offensive line is Faafoi, who grew up in Apia, American Samoa, before moving to Tustin, Calif., to live with his aunt and uncle.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound Faafoi will start his college career at tackle.

Both have already made names for themselves - sort of - with Stoops.

"I haven't gotten to their last names yet, but I've done a pretty good job on their first names," Stoops said. "When you see them, you'll understand how important they are to our offensive line."

Fuimaono and De Rego were both multisport stars in high school who took the long road to college scholarships.

Fuimaono originally signed a year ago out of Punahou School but opted to grayshirt until after he recovered from surgery to repair a ruptured triceps in his right arm. He told the Star in November that grayshirting was "the best decision for me."

"I can get healthy and, at the same time, (Arizona's) graduating a lot of seniors," he said.

De Rego attended Kamehameha High School with dreams of becoming a basketball player. He switched to football as a senior, then - thanks to a coach's recommendation - ended up at San Jose (Calif.) City College. He starred there for two seasons, then verbally committed to the Wildcats.

The reason? Coaches.

"They're legends in Hawaii," he said.

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