Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Lelie catching onTwo wizards of wide-open offense, June Jones and Ron Lee, are passing -- not handing off -- their knowledge of the run-and-shoot to a new disciple.
fast as receiver
The former walk-on will carry
a heavier load in the Warriors'
wide-open offense this season
By Dave Reardon
Ashley Lelie's doing a good job of receiving.
And he's hungry for more.
"You can learn it. But to master it, that's something else," the University of Hawaii sophomore receiver said of his role in the wide-open offense.
"I want to know it off the top of my head, I want to know everything, and know it automatically, so I'm not thinking about what I've got to do while I'm doing it."
That kind of commitment makes Lee, the Warriors' receivers coach, smile. Lelie, already one of Lee's brightest pupils, wants to continually expand his knowledge.
"I think this system adds to his talents. It highlights his jumping, running and catching skills," Lee said. "He's having fun, he's become really confident because he knows what he's doing."
But he isn't satisfied, and that's the key.
Last year, the former walk-on (Lelie was awarded a scholarship last spring) busted out. He was a seven-game starter and vital contributor, averaging 14.39 yards on 36 catches, including two touchdowns.
Thousands who had no idea who he was learned to pronounce his name (LEI-lee). And as the Warriors improved with each game of their 9-4 season, so did the lanky wideout from Radford High School.
But success never went to the shaved head of the quiet joker teammates call "8-Ball."
"He's laid-back, but humorous. He's dependable. He's got the respect of a lot of players," said defensive tackle Karman Saulsberry, who lockers near Lelie. "Just like everybody else on this team -- he had a good year, but he keeps working hard."
Good history major he is, Lelie intends to not repeat mistakes -- even though he has the physical attributes to make up for them at times.
"Iwant to keep improving my speed (4.45 in the 40) and strength, but the most important thing is to keep learning the offense and run good routes all the time," Lelie said.
His other physical gifts include a 37-inch vertical leap and a 6-foot-3 frame. Jones, the UH head coach who came back from the NFL has seen those attributes before: on professional wide receivers.
"If he keeps growing as a player the way he did last year and in the spring, he has a chance to be one of the best receivers in the country," Jones said.
And to think the only recruiters Lelie dealt with his senior year of high school had nothing to do with football.
"Actually, after I didn't get any offers, I was thinking about going into the military," said the son of a retired Marine.
"Then, when I got to UH I was thinking more about walking-on for basketball instead of football. It just so happened football's season was first."
Lelie was an unknown because he had only played football for two years -- and at about five different positions, never really learning any one. Also, Radford suffered through bad seasons while Lelie was there.
Jones and Lee discovered what they had in the spring of 1999.
"June noticed in the spring game that he could run," Lee said. "That was the first time Ashley caught our attention.
"He was very tentative the first couple months. But we could see he was very talented but kind of feeling his way through the system."
Lelie gradually gained a feel for making the reads and running the precision routes necessary for the run-and-shoot to work. And the more he learns, the more he wants to know.
"The big thing is he likes the system. He's beginning to really understand what we're doing," Lee said. "This will be a tell-tale season for him. He's got some ability but hasn't played to all of it yet."
Lelie's load will be heavier, but he won't have to do it all by himself. Channon Harris and Craig Stutzmann join him as returning starters on a receiving unit that one preseason publication ranked the 10th best in the nation.
"We lost a lot of good players on offense. We'll see if these guys can pick up the leadership slack," Lee said.
"Ashley has to show more leadership," added Lee. "He's shown he can contribute. Now he has to be one of the guys who wins the ballgames."
Ka Leo O Hawaii