It won't be easy for
the slot receiver to play
through his knee injury
Nate Ilaoa is the kind of athlete who has to be protected from his own toughness.
Ilaoa, a sophomore slot receiver on the Hawaii football team, played through a painful right shoulder subluxation injury last season. But if he tries to gut it out with his current knee injury, it could lead to further damage.
"Last year he had that shoulder popping out all year," Warriors coach June Jones said. "He just popped it back in and played. Most guys wouldn't do that, but he did."
During Saturday's 40-17 victory over Appalachian State, Ilaoa sprained his right knee. He managed to play some more after the incident, but did not return to the game after halftime.
An MRI test on Sunday showed a partial tear in Ilaoa's anterior cruciate ligament.
Jones said it's possible Ilaoa could play in Hawaii's next game, a week from this Saturday at Southern California. But he added that a knee injury of the type Ilaoa has could lead to complications and serious re-injury if he plays while hurt.
"If he risks further injury ... with a shoulder you're not going to hurt it any more. It's just going to pop in and out. You're not going to rip it off your body," Jones said. "The knee, you can play with it. Guys have. Timmy Chang played with it, Chad Owens did. But if you press it and blow something else out, that can happen. He's so talented, I don't want to risk anything for him. The shoulder is different. A knee, you might not want to mess with it."
Ilaoa attended practice yesterday morning, but was held out of drills.
"He was ready to run today. We had to tell him to take it easy," receivers coach Ron Lee said yesterday. "The ACL (injury is) like that. You can run straight, but you can't cut real well. I hope he's ready to go when we play. The poor guy worked really hard all summer. Top shape."
Jones and Lee said they have reconsidered options in case Ilaoa can't play. They were originally hesitant to move left wide receiver Britton Komine back to slot, but might do so and play true freshman Jason Rivers at Komine's spot.
"Right now Britt's the No. 1 left wide receiver," Lee said. "We'll see in the next two weeks. If Nate can't play we need to see who's going to be the best No. 4 guy."
Other possibilities are veteran slot receivers Clifton Herbert and Gerald Welch and second-year freshman Ross Dickerson. Dickerson is the backup to Chad Owens, the other slot receiver.
Jones said cornerback Abraham Elimimian is expected to be healed up in time for the USC game. He suffered a shoulder strain Saturday.
Players of the Week: UH senior receiver Jeremiah Cockheran and freshman kick returner Dickerson were named the Western Athletic Conference offensive and special teams players of the week yesterday.
Cockheran tied a school record with three touchdown receptions in the Warriors' 40-17 season-opening victory against Appalachian State last Saturday. He caught seven passes for 154 yards.
Dickerson, playing in his first game for the Warriors after redshirting last season, returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. He returned three kickoffs for 140 yards and caught one pass for no gain as a slot receiver.
Dickerson is tied with Owens in the Hawaii record book for second-longest kickoff return. Owens had two 100-yard returns in 2001. Tommy Kaulukukui is credited with a 103-yard touchdown return in 1935 against UCLA. That was prior to a rule change that counted all kicks returned from the end zone as 100 yards.
Nevada linebacker Logan Carter was named WAC defensive player of the week. He made several big plays in the Wolf Pack's victory against Southern Utah on Saturday.
Practice schedule: Although this is a bye week, Jones said the Warriors will practice tomorrow and Thursday at 7 a.m., as usual. Today's practice began at 8 a.m. after a team meeting.
The coach had not decided about Friday's practice.
"We might want to give them some time off since we don't have a game this week," Jones said.