HONOLULU – University of Hawai‘i head football coach Nick Rolovich and his coaching staff secured commitments from 23 high school and junior college prospects on National Signing Day, Wednesday, the first day prospects may sign a National Letter of Intent. Rolovich made the announcement official during a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the UH Athletics Department.
Among the 23 signees are 19 high school standouts and four junior college transfers. Ten of the signees are listed as offensive players and 13 as defensive. Among the position breakdown are six defensive backs, five defensive linemen, four offensive linemen, three wide receivers, two linebackers, two running backs, and one tight end. The signees represent seven states (11 – California, 2 – Arizona, Oregon, and 1 – Arkansas, Idaho, Virginia, Washington), three from American Samoa, and one from Canada.
“I feel really good about the guys who wanted to come play here, guys who had multiple offers from great schools but they felt something special in Hawai‘i on their visit,” Rolovich said. “Especially ending with three wins, I think it was important for them to see the positive direction that we’re moving. I think this class is fairly balanced we’re really spread out.”
Before the day began, six of the signees are already enrolled in the spring semester. Junior college transfers Marcus Armstrong-Brown, Manu Rasmussen, and Jamie Tago were mid-year signees while freshmen Jay Dominique, Eugene Ford, and Kalepo Naotala began classes on January 9. Armstrong-Brown and Ford were part of last year’s signing class and delayed enrollment until the spring while Tago is a former Warrior who spent the 2016 season at Garden City College in Kansas.
UH fulfilled its need on defense with nearly half of the class either linemen (6) or in the secondary (5). Four of the linemen are freshmen while Tago and Doug Russell (Seattle, Wash.) spurned Power 5 offers to sign with the Warriors. The day concluded with one of the biggest surprises with the signing Vista Murrieta defensive lineman Anthony Mermea, who followed his teammate tight end Kade Greeley to Hawai‘i.
A total of seven prospects picked UH over Power 5 schools including Oakland, Calif., linebacker Paul Scott – regarded as one of the top linebackers in the state of California – who picked UH over Cal. Two of the top recruits in American Samoa also inked with the Warriors, defensive lineman Blessman Ta‘ala (Faga‘itua HS) and Penei Pavihi (Tafuna HS), the latter of whom had multiple Pac-12 offers. Among UH’s six signees in the secondary were prep standouts Donovan Dalton (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Akil Francisco (Alameda, Calif.), and Demario Mclean (Elk Grove, Calif.), all of whom played both ways and were electrifying athletes in high school.
“We wanted to address the line of scrimmage – with the departure of 4-5 seniors on the offensive line next year and you can never have enough good defensive linemen – and it looks to me that winning this conference has to be met at the line of scrimmage, we need to be able to stop the run and I think we addressed that,” Rolovich said. “Also our depth in the secondary wasn’t close to where we wanted to be so getting more speed on the back end was important to us.”
On offense, UH grabbed a pair of speedy wide receivers – Isaia Mullen (Portland, Ore.), the state of Oregon’s top receive prospect out of Madison High, and Drake Stallworth (Folsom, Calif.), who averaged 20.1 yards per catch and scored 19 touchdowns as a senior at Folsom High. Running backs Hekili Keliiliki (Bentonville, Ark.) and Miles Reed (Corona, Calif.) also bring impressive resumes and bulk and speed to the Warrior backfield.
Four offensive linemen who possess imposing figures also signed on Wednesday – versatile JUCO lineman Emil Graves (Fullerton JC) and freshmen Brandon Klipper (Nampa, Idaho), Josaiah Maama (Sunnyvale, Calif.), and Micah Vanterpool (Phoenix, Ariz.) all measure over 6-foot-6 and tip the scales at 270-plus pounds.
2017 Signing Class
Name Pos Ht Wt Cl Hometown / Last School
Marcus Armstrong-Brown* WR 6-3 195 Jr. Napa, Calif. / Diablo Valley JC
Donovan Dalton DB 6-4 200 Fr. Scottsdale, Ariz. / Saguaro HS
Jay Dominique* DB 6-2 195 Fr. Montreal, Canada / Old Montreal Cegep
Eugene Ford* DB 6-2 190 Fr. Los Angeles, Calif. / University HS
Akil Francisco DB 6-0 160 Fr. Alameda, Calif. / Encinal HS
Emil Graves OL 6-3 275 Jr. Lynwood, Calif. / Fullerton College
Kade Greeley TE 6-6 220 Fr. Murrieta, Calif. / Vista Murrieta HS
Hekili Keliiliki RB 6-2 225 Fr. Bentonville, Ark. / Bentonville HS
Brandon Kipper OL 6-6 270 Fr. Nampa, Idaho / Columbia HS
Josaiah Maama OL 6-5 270 Fr. Sunnyvale, Calif. / Kings Academy
Anthony Mermea DL 6-4 300 Fr. Murrieta, Calif. / Vista Murrieta HS
Demario Mclean DB 6-1 185 Fr. Elk Grove, Calif. / Elk Grove HS
Isaia Mullen WR 6-4 190 Fr. Portland, Ore. / Madison HS
Kalepo Naotala* DL 6-3 280 Fr. Newport News, Va. / Menchville HS
Penei Pavihi LB 6-3 225 Fr. Pago Pago, American Samoa / Tafuna HS
Manu Rasmussen* DB 6-0 185 Jr. Tigard, Ore. / Riverside City College
Miles Reed RB 5-8 190 Fr. Corona, Calif. / Centennial HS
Doug Russell DL 6-5 270 Fr. Seattle, Wash. / O’Dea HS
Paul Scott LB 6-1 205 Fr. Oakland, Calif. / McClymonds Senior HS
Drake Stallworth WR 6-2 185 Fr. Folsom, Calif. / Folsom HS
Blessman Ta‘ala DL 6-2 285 Fr. Faga‘itua, American Samoa / Faga‘itua HS
Jamie Tago* DL 6-3 260 Jr. Pago Pago, American Samoa / Garden City College
Micah Vanterpool OL 6-6 285 Fr. Phoenix, Ariz. / Phoenix Central HS