Hawaii’s Ulu-Perry tough to ignore at center
University of Hawaii offensive lineman Fred UluPerry did not want to be the center of attention.
But it was difficult to ignore Ulu-Perry’s presence as the play caller — the center barks the cadences in the Rainbow Warriors’ offensive system — and up-front leader during the first three practices of training camp.
“He’s doing well,” offensive coordinator Brian Smith. “He’s playing physical. He’s moving well. It’s good to have him back.”
Ulu-Perry was required to redshirt last season after transferring from UCLA, where he spent the 2015 fall semester. Although he was not eligible to play in last year’s UH games, he practiced as the No. 2 center. But in mid-November he began experiencing medical issues that led to a leave of absence from the Warriors. He did not participate in the Warriors’ spring training in February and March.
After resolving the medical issues and completing missed school work, UluPerry was cleared to rejoin teammates for the cycles of offseason conditioning drills. “I was back rolling with the team,” Ulu-Perry said.
But all of the sprints and weight training (he can bench press 405 pounds five times) could not quell his hunger for contact drills. “It was hard to miss spring (training),” Ulu-Perry said. “The last time I strapped it up was Boise State week (in November). It’s been a long time.”
On Wednesday, when the Warriors officially reported to training camp, offensive line coach Chris Naeole mentioned a new block-recognition primer. Ulu-Perry made a mental note. During Thursday’s practice, the defense ran a switch with the linebackers.
“Fred took (Wednesday’s information) and applied it,” UH coach Nick Rolovich said. “His ability to process that information and then communicate it to the O-line and then execute it, that was one of the best things that happened (that practice).”
Smith said: “He picked it up fast. The good thing with him is he adds leadership. He’s a vocal kid. He’s smart. He picks up football quickly. That’s what you would like with your center.”
Ulu-Perry actually was a highly-rated guard and tackle at Saint Louis School. He played center and guard at UCLA. Although he played in eight UCLA games as a true freshman in 2015, Ulu-Perry conceded, “my heart was still at home. I didn’t feel I fit in that much at UCLA. I like L.A. and the lifestyle, but I felt I would be more at home and play better here.”
He also relished working again with Naeole. They had known each other for several years through football camps.
Ulu-Perry can play all of the line positions. While he does not have a tackle’s prototypical build — he’s 6 feet 23/4 and 340 pounds — Ulu-Perry is effective because he is “athletic, physical and smart,” according to Smith.
Rolovich said “people like playing next to him.”
Left tackle Dejon Allen and left guard John Wa’a are established starters. Rolovich said Ulu-Perry’s position is “offensive line.”
“Chris Naeole is the best I’ve been around in terms of cross-training and getting guys ready and playing the best guys for the situation we’re about to face,” Rolovich said. “I trust him to make that decision (on Ulu-Perry’s starting position).”