Maiava Making Early Impact

Colorado put on the full pads for the first time this August and got after it on Friday. While rookies Ryan Miller, Markques Simas, Josh Smith and Kendrick Celestine have been the talk of camp so far, the biggest surprise came Friday when freshmen offensive lineman Kai Maiava was working with what looked like a first unit during 11-on-11 scrimmage situations.

Though they weren't tackling, the Buffs went through their most extensive scrimmaging of the fall camp so far on Friday afternoon. Between individual unit drills, position competitions and special teams work, the team went 11-on-11 a handful of times.

The first time they broke into a scrimmage, half the team worked on one field while the other worked on another field. Quarterbacks Cody Hawkins and Nick Nelson slid between the two fields to run each offense.

Later, the entire team came together for 11-on-11 work. The big surprise was that along with Daniel Sanders (center), Edwin Harrison (tackle), Tyler Polumbus (tackle) and Ryan Miller (guard), Kai Maiava was playing guard. Coaches will say there is no real depth chart at this point. But Maiava's reps with that group, which went up against what's surely the makings of a first-team defense (a group that included Jordon Dizon, Brad Jones, Ryan Walters, Terrence Wheatley, Brandon Nicolas, George Hypolite and others), points to the fact coaches like what Maiava has brought with him to Boulder from his native Hawaii.

Asked what he though earned him the look this early in camp, Maiava said, "I guess my attitude, my mentality. I like to be rough, show what I can do. Use my height to my advantage, I guess."

Maiava is "almost" 6 foot 1, he said. And he's tipping the scales at just under 300 pounds these days.

While linemen like Miller, Sione Tau, and Tyler Polumbus tower over Maiava — who played mostly guard in high school — he's learning how to use his shorter stature to his advantage. He doesn't have to get low on run blocking because he's already low to begin with. And he can get a good strike underneath his opponents' shoulder pads because of his vantage point.

He came to Boulder two days after he graduated from Baldwin High School in Wailuku, Hawaii. He said being in Jeff Pitman's strength and conditioning program helped him. Since camp opened, though, Maiava's been trying to stay afloat as he learns technique and terminology.

"It's a whole new ballgame out here," he said. "You've got to go 100 percent every play or else you'll end up on your back. (Coach) Grimes is doing a good job with us. Especially with us young guys. He's always on our case, making us watch videos, listen to the older guys."

There's a long way between Aug. 10 and Sept. 1, the team's opener against Colorado State. Lots of things can and will happen. And Grimes is cross training many of his linemen at different positions (Maiava has been working at guard and center).

But Maiava's early reps show promise for the youngster. One thing's for sure, he's got good bloodlines. His father, Scott Mahoney, played OL for the Buffs, his grandfather, Neff Maiava, was a world renowned wrestler in the 1950s and ‘60s, and Maiava is the nephew of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the former Miami Hurricane turned film star.

Whatever his name happens to be, the kid from Hawaii hasn't ever been the biggest one on the team.

"I may not be the biggest, but I try to be the roughest," he said.

• Some more personnel notes: Lionel Harris and D.J. Dykes were taking turns beside Ryan Walters with the first team defense. Cody Hawkins and Nick Nelson both got reps with the first team offense.

• The defense mostly dominated the offense during the scrimmage situations. Two exceptions came early in the practice when Hawkins hit Riar Geer in the flat, and Geer would his way about 40 yards to the end zone. Nelson followed that with a floater to Joe Sanders who got close to scoring.

But the offensive execution was mostly poor on the day. Dan Hawkins said he wasn't concerned afterward. But it was in contrast to what happened during spring scrimmages. The first big test will take place Sunday morning during the real scrimmage, set for 10 a.m. The conditions will be more game like than a typical early August scrimmage, Hawkins said.

• Four players were conspicuously absent Friday. Bernard Jackson, Keenan Stevens, Erick Faatagi and Alvin Barnett weren't there. Jackson has practiced once, while the other three have yet to practice, all due to school work that needed attention. School ended Friday.

Below are photos from Friday's action:

Freshman linebacker Tyler Ahles.
Mark Collins/BSN

Sophomore DT Jason Brace.
Mark Collins/BSN

Senior PK Kevin Eberhart.
Mark Collins/BSN

Sophomore DT Taj Kaynor.
Mark Collins/BSN

Redshirt-freshman LB B.J. Beatty.
Mark Collins/BSN

Freshman WR Kendrick Celestine tries to split two defenders.
Mark Collins/BSN

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