February 6, 2013 at 9:56 PM HST - Updated July 11 at 3:47 AM
HONOLULU – (Hawaii Athletics) University of Hawai'i head football coach Norm Chow announced the Warriors' 2013 signing class Wednesday at a press conference at the Stan Sheriff Center's Ed Wong Hospitality Room. Chow and his coaching staff secured commitments from 20 high school and junior college prospects.
Among the recruiting class are 17 prep standouts and three junior college transfers. The class features seven players from Hawai'i, four each from California and Utah, two from Florida, and one each from Louisiana, New Jersey, and American Samoa. The position breakdown is four linebackers, four wide receivers, three defensive linemen, three defensive backs, two offensive linemen, two running backs, and two quarterbacks.
Not included in this list are five mid-year transfers, who signed in December.
"We felt we met some of our needs with this recruiting class and we're extremely pleased with the local recruits who signed with us," Chow said. "We were able to secure the state's top offensive and defensive linemen according to our evaluations. We looked to improve our wide receiver corps and linebackers, but really we were out to get the best athletes. Linemen will always be one of our top priorities each year and we felt we did a really good job with that."
Of the Mountain West schools, UH signed two of the three listed in the ESPN 300 top national recruits – quarterback Aaron Zwahlen (No. 155) and defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii (No. 187). Zwahlen, of Downey High in Modesto, Calif., is listed as the 11th-best quarterback prospect in the country while Tulimasealii, of Wai'anae High on O'ahu, was the state's No. 2 prospect and started in the prestigious Under Armour All-America game.
Also headlining a talented group of Hawai'i high school prospects are three members of the two-time state champion Kahuku – running back Aofaga Wily, offensive lineman John Wa'a, and linebacker Rashaan Falemalu. Wily is a three-time all-state pick who is the state's second leading rusher all-time while Wa'a anchored the offensive line of the state's two-time state championship team.
Other Hawai'i high school recruits inking with the Warriors were 'Aiea defensive lineman Ualesi Sale, who was rated 13th in the state and Baldwin quarterback Keelan Ewaliko, who was the first player in Maui Interscholastic League history to be named Offensive Player of the Year three times.
Two signees are brothers of current or former Warriors. Offensive lineman Matthew Koloamatangi, of Woodside High, is the younger brother of current Warrior offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi while Rashaan Falemalu is the younger brother of recent Warrior defensive lineman Paipai Falemalu.
UH also signed a pair of JUCO transfers who are expected to make immediate impacts – defensive back Tigi Hill, a Kahuku High graduate who signed with UH in 2011 and spent the past two years at Mesa Community College and linebacker Darzil Washington, who initally signed with Texas A&M out of high school, and comes to UH by way of Eastern Arizona College.
The Warriors vastly improved its running back position with the addition of Wily and Diocemy St. Juste, of Santaluces High in Florida. St. Juste is a speedy back who rushed for 1,243 yards, including six touchdown runs of 50 yards or more.
Four wide receivers signed with UH – Ammon Barker of Alt High in Utah picked the Warriors over UCLA; Marcus Kemp of Layton High in Utah was one of the top recruits in the state; Terrance Polk of Los Medanos JC in California, ranked second in the state in touchdowns and sixth in receiving yards, and Keith Kirkwood of Neptune High in New Jersey is a two-sport star who received several Division I basketball offers.
With the loss of all-everything cornerback Mike Edwards, the Warriors went out and signed defensive backs Trayvon Henderson of Grant High in Sacramento, Calif., and Barry Higdon of Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Florida. Henderson was a two-way player at Grant who received numerous postseason honors while Higdon picked UH over Cincinnati.
The Warriors' pipeline to American Samoa continued with the signing of linebacker Jamie Tago of Samoana High, rated the fourth-best recruit out of the country. Linebacker Drake Miller earned all-state honors after recording 105 tackles at Bingham High in Utah.
"We need to temper our enthusiasm and reserve judgment on this class until 2-3 years from now," Chow said. "That's when these players should be making an impact on your program. We're especially pleased with the commitment these young men made to want to become Warriors. Last year's and this year's class coupled with the next few classes and we should really have ingredients of a strong program."