November 21, 2007

Insider: Maiava set for first (OK, second) start

Kaluka Maiava has started before. Against Stanford, Maiava's freshman season, Oscar Lua suffered an injury covering the opening kickoff.

That threw USC's linebacker rotation out of whack, and Maiava stepped in for the first play.

"I was (pulled) out after that," the junior said. "That was my starting, right there."

Maiava has practiced with the first-team defense since the Nov. 10 game at California, where he filled in after Keith Rivers suffered a high and low ankle sprain. However, even after Tuesday's practice, Maiava was unsure if he would start on Thanksgiving at Arizona State.

"You never know with Keith," Maiava said. "He's a fast healer. … But I'm ready for it. If he can't go, I'll step up."

The junior from Hawaii earned co-special teams player of the year honors the past two seasons, and he has recorded 27 tackles so far in 2007. A cast encases his broken left wrist, and his severely puffed up right hand will get a thorough wrapping before the game.

He has been playing with the injuries since the Oregon game, Oct. 27, and coach Pete Carroll confirmed that Maiava would start this week.

"He moves well and is real instinctive," Carroll said. "He's had all of the critical repetitions for the game plan. It's the most consistent work he's had with the first group. He's ready to go."

Maiava's first meaningful start comes three games early. The target for him always has been next season, when he would be a senior and Rivers would be playing in the NFL.


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