Hawaii’s Ulu-Perry tough to ig­nore at cen­ter

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY STEPHEN TSAI

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).”

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