By Stephen Tsai
When BYU ruled the WAC in the 1980s and 1990s, opponents groused about playing against much-older players. The Mormon church administers BYU, and under the old rules, a player could spend a year at BYU, go on a two-year mission, and return as a 21-year-old sophomore or second-year freshman. (The eligibility standard has changed and now a man can go on a mission at age 18.)
UH — as far back as Kaulana Noa's recruitment in the mid-1990s — found the loophole know as "grayshirting," in which a player delays his initial full-time enrollment a semester. That freezes a player's eligibility clock while allowing him to participate in spring ball entering his freshman season. If a grayshirt then redshirts as a freshman, he eventually will become a 20-year-old freshman with four years to play four seasons. Through the years, the Rainbow Warriors have had dozens of grayshirts, most recently running back Joey Iosefa and quarterback Ikaika Woolsey.
Now the Warriors are combining both approaches — grayshirts and missionaries — to sprinkle older (and presumably mature) players into recruiting classes. In January, grayshirt linebackers Jamie Tago, Ualesi Sale and Rashaan Falemalu join the Warriors.
With the commitment of Alta (Utah) High receiver Mack Richards, the Warriors will have four players on missions in 2014. Receiver/running back John Ursua, offensive lineman Gus Lavaka and quarterback Aaron Zwahlen join UH in 2015, in time for a season featuring road games against Ohio State and Wisconsin. (Ursua and Lavaka began their missions late.) Richards will join UH in 2016.