WAILUKU - There was not a Mauian on the roster for the University of Hawaii football team's spring practice at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
First-year coach Norm Chow and staff are clearly out to change that.
Four Maui recruits were the focus of the informal meet-and-greet session that went on in conjunction with the practice that drew a crowd of about 1,200.
University of Hawaii football coach Norm Chow introduces Baldwin High School sophomore linebacker Jordan Hoiem to the team as fellow recruit, Bears junior quarterback Keelan Ewaliko, looks on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"We intend to recruit all of the islands, the entire state," said Chow, who cannot comment on specific recruits by NCAA rule. "We are out to prove to them that we can play great football and that they should want to stay home to be a part of it."
Baldwin High School sophomore linebacker Jordan Hoiem and junior quarterback Keelan Ewaliko were introduced to the team by Chow at the end of the two-hour practice.
Hoiem appears to be the apple of Chow's eye after the coach called to verbally offer him a scholarship last month. A written scholarship offer cannot be given to a sophomore, but Hoiem could be in line to be heavily recruited after he blasted onto radar screens with an impressive performance at the Nike SPARQ Combine in February - he had the 11th-best total score out of 453 athletes, second-best among sophomores.
"In Hawaii, I can see myself out there," Hoiem said. "I'm just really blessed to be able to come watch this practice. I'm just thankful to coach Chow for giving me this opportunity to come do this. It is my first college practice and it is a great experience to see what pace they are running at. I love the pace. I get to do this right in my own backyard. I haven't seen football in a while and I miss it. I want to get back in there already."
During many of the drills, Hoiem and Ewaliko stood near coaches on the field watching the units that UH hopes they will be a part of in the next couple of years.
"It was fun, a real great honor to get the up-close chance to watch these guys hit and play the sport of football," said Ewaliko, the two-time Maui Interscholastic League Offensive Player of the Year who became the first player to lead the league in rushing and passing in a single season in 2011. "I really can't wait to get out there with these guys."
Lahainaluna defensive lineman Feleti Taufa, a two-way MIL All-Star in 2011, said he was offered an invited walk-on slot to fall camp in a conversation with assistant coach Chris Wiesehan.
Ceejay Santos, the MIL record holder with a 53-yard field goal in 2010 while at Baldwin, talked with coaches about his pending transfer to Manoa in the fall - a decision he made during winter break on Maui after he was limited to kickoff duties as a Weber State freshman.
"UH was always my first choice," Santos said. "I'm very happy to be home and stay. This just seems like it was meant to be - I just (arrived on Maui) this morning and was able to make it over to see these guys today."
Santos, who had a walk-on invitation from UH before deciding to take a scholarship from Weber State last year, is confident he can compete with the kickers currently on the Warriors' roster. He will have a year to show them what he can do in practice because he must sit out a season due to his transfer. He will be a walk-on in the fall, but appears to have a shot at a scholarship quickly.
"Coach Chow told me I'm in, but I don't completely know what that means," Santos said.
Ewaliko said he is being recruited as an "athlete" and not specifically a quarterback, partially because of his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.
"No offer yet," he said. "We have been talking about quarterback, but that is iffy right now because of my height. I can play defensive back, receiver, safety, slot. I've played all over and I for sure know how to play, it doesn't really matter where. Getting the chance to play is my main concern right now, to show people what I can do."
Taufa could follow in the footsteps of several former Lahainaluna linemen who went to UH, most recently Kaniela Tuipulotu and Andrew Faaumu, who are both preparing for the NFL draft.
"It would be big, I have always wanted to play over here," said Taufa, who is currently 6-1 and 245 pounds. "That would be a dream come true. I have watched these guys on TV all my life, especially when they played Georgia (in the 2009 Sugar Bowl)."
Chow is installing a pro-set offense and new defensive plan. David Graves, a 6-0, 195-pound junior, led the No. 1 offensive unit Saturday in the 12th of 15 spring practices.
"I feel like we have come a long way," Graves said. "We are making improvements on both sides of the ball, defense, offense. We are getting comfortable with the new schemes that we are running on both sides of the ball. We are coming along, we are coming along, 12 practices in, feeling good."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com