Raiders bring project in for visit

Some players are deemed projects but that also means they have considerable upside. The Oakland Raiders are intrigued by one such prospect that has played along the defensive line and has some teams considering how he can be used on the offensive side of the ball.

Hawaii defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis didnít see his first real football action until a pro coach lined him up at end in a 3-4 defense. Thatís why the Raiders believe he has the right fundamentals, not to mention vast resources of untapped potential.

"I'm still learning, but I‘m a hard worker," he explained. "I'm someone who will give everything I have into whatever is brought upon me. I know I have a lot to learn and I'm going to have a positive attitude towards everything and most of all I'm going to be a great person towards everything. I feel when you respect others, others will give you respect in turn and I just try to be the best person I can be and work with everybody because it's a team game and you have to be able to work with everybody. I'm just really excited to have the opportunity."

A week ago, Alama-Francis was in the Bay Area to meet with the Raiders, where he spent most of the day meeting with coaches and going over different chalkboard assignments.

Alama-Francis suffered a pectoral tear and feels like he is close to being fully recovered and will be ready for mini-camp in May.

While watching Alama-Francis play football, it's important to know his history.

Yes, his dad was Bart Starr's backup with the Green Bay Packers, but it's more important to know that Alama-Francis has played only three seasons of football since leaving Pop Warner ball as a pre-teen. NFL teams need to keep that in mind as they watch video of Alama-Francis playing like a seventh-rounder in one half and like a first-rounder in the next.

Alama-Francis is raw, but his potential is the reason he visited with the Raiders.

"When I decided to play football I put everything I had into it," he said. "I'm loving every minute of football right now."

A 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end with room to grow.

When Ikaika (Ee-KIKE-uh) heard his dad's friends -- such as Jerry Kramer -- talk about the old days with the Packers, he became intrigued and took up the game. He was a quarterback in Pop Warner ball, but soon quit the game to concentrate on basketball and volleyball.

Alama-Francis didn't play football in high school, and was recruited by the University of Hawaii to play volleyball. He instead walked on as a basketball player and played in a reserve role during the 2002-03 season. He worked out with the football players, and the coaching staff asked him to come out for the team. So in the spring of 2003, as a 210-pounder, he went out for the football team, which surprised his dad.

Alama-Francis redshirted in 2003 and played less than 50 snaps in 2004. But he got his weight up to 250 in 2005 and moved into the starting lineup upon the arrival of defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, a former NFL head coach who changed the Hawaii scheme to a 3-4. Alama-Francis played end and impressed both his coordinator and June Jones, the Hawaii head coach who'd also coached in the NFL.

It appears that Jones will be right. In two seasons, Alama-Francis had 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. He plays too high at times and can't get off blocks at other times, but his motor is as obvious on video as his rangy athletic ability.

Alama-Francis showed up at the combine at 280 pounds, but didn't work out because of a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the Hula Bowl.

"I was tackling the quarterback and my arm got overextended from one extreme to the other," he explained.

What did he learn from Glanville?

"Jerry taught me things that I never would have learned from any other coach," Alama-Francis said. "He taught me never to quit. He instilled that. I always wanted to work hard but he just pushed me to that extra limit. He was always pressing that you've got to give everything on every play in every practice. That's really helping me now."

Some teams are even considering moving him to tight end, something that shows his versatility.

"I'm training out here, running some routes, and everything's going really well," he said. "I feel the more you can do the better off you'll be, so whatever they want me to do I'll do it; if they want me to become a free safety I'll be a free safety."

Whatever position he plays, potential will be closely linked to it and the Raiders hope they are the ones who get to tap that keg.


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