DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Kenny Patton is trying to make the switch from cornerback to receiver.
Patton’s switch gives UH offense more ammo
The senior joins a solid group of receivers after spending four years as a Warriors cornerback
Second of Two Parts
He was a karate champion before he was old enough for elementary school. He worked out with varsity football players when he was in junior high.
Kenny Patton has never been afraid to try something different, or to mix it up with those more experienced.
What: Hawaii football spring practice
Where: UH grass practice field
When: Tomorrow through Friday; April 3-8, 10-13 and 15; 7 to 9 a.m.
Note: UH is considering a full-contact scrimmage, possibly at Aloha Stadium on April 15.
Now, Patton joins one of the nation's deepest groups of college receivers -- after four years as a cornerback.
The experiment is one of the most interesting in Hawaii's spring football camp, which begins tomorrow at the UH grass practice field. But it's not that outlandish, after a closer look at Patton's background.
In 2000, when he was a junior at Punahou, Patton scored a touchdown and helped the Buffanblu to a near-upset of then-dominant Saint Louis -- while playing receiver.
The next fall, Patton was a senior at St. Francis in Pasadena, Calif. He was named the league's defensive MVP, although he played more on the other side of the ball.
"Defense was more situational," Patton said.
UH coach June Jones said that's the plan for Patton this year.
"We'll give him a shot at receiver, and he'll probably also be able to help us out on defense at times," Jones said.
He'll get plenty of receiver reps in the 15 spring practice sessions. But playing time in the fall is no guarantee for Patton.
The starting slotbacks are Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen, both coming off seasons in which they garnered freshman All-America notice. At the wideouts, where Patton will compete, starters Chad Mock and Ross Dickerson are back for their senior seasons, and junior Jason Rivers -- a star in 2004 who missed 2005 -- said he expects to be in camp next month.
"Everyone's coming back and this is by far the most talented bunch we've ever had," UH receivers coach Ron Lee said. "I'm anxious to see (Patton). He's been coming around, picking up material, looking at tape. He's a smart kid. He'll pick it up, it's just a matter of getting out there."
Warriors quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison recruited him. He knows Patton doesn't get intimidated by experienced competition.
"I've known him since he was a real little guy at Punahou," said Morrison, who used to coach the Buffanblu. "The thing that always intrigued me was he would always come out with the varsity when he was in middle school. He had no fear of jumping in with the older kids."
Jones lets most of his players choose their positions. Patton selected cornerback four years ago because it was the fastest way onto the field. The idea now is playing receiver (and possibly returning kicks) will translate into big plays like his 74-yard TD run with a blocked field goal against SMU in 2002 and 47-yard broken-field jaunt after taking a lateral on an interception last December against San Diego State.
"Defense was pretty rough last year. We've got some good corners coming in," Patton said while taking a break during an unofficial workout last week. "We'll see how this receiver thing works out. It's my first time playing in here in a pretty complicated system.
"Right now it's all mental. I've got to learn the plays, first and foremost. That's the most important thing. As soon as I get that down I'll be ready for the rest. I wish I would've made the switch sooner, but I'm going to make the best of it."
Patton has started games at cornerback since his true freshman year of 2002, including 10 last year. But he's been plagued by injuries throughout his college career.
"You can't control that. There's a lot of things you don't want to make excuses for," Patton said. It's either you played well or you didn't. And it's one of those things I wish I'd played better."
The Warriors return nine of 11 starters on offense from last year's team that went 5-7 despite 476.17 yards per game (11th in the nation). Here's a position-by-position look going into the start of spring practice:
Front of the line: Tyler Graunke, Inoke Funaki, Will Brogan
Big question: How much will Brennan improve at finding his second, third and fourth reads?
Notes: Brogan is a walk-on freshman. ... Funaki is still a freshman in eligibility after a two-year religious mission following graduation from Kahuku and a redshirt season last year. ... Brennan led the nation with 4,301 yards passing as a sophomore in 2005.
Front of the line: Reagan Mauia, Jazen Anderson, David Farmer, Bryan Maneafaiga
Big question: Ilaoa and Mauia both shed plenty of unwanted extra weight since the end of last season. Can they maintain their new figures for the fall season?
Notes: Ilaoa and Maneafaiga are in limbo, awaiting word from the NCAA if their careers are over or if they get one more year because of injuries. ... Backup Chris Cole, who was injured all last season, and freshman walk-on Mikhael Kafentzis, who started one game, both transferred.
WRs Ross Dickerson and Chad Mock, SBs Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen
Front of the line: WRs Kenny Patton (moved from CB), Jason Rivers, Ian Sample, Michael Washington, Dylan Linkner, David Kaihenui, Tua Mahaley and SBs Aaron Bain, Pat Olchovy, Quez Jackson, Rick Taylor
Big question: After a year off due to injury and academic issues, can Rivers regain his 80-catch form of 2004?
Notes: Grice-Mullen was fourth in the nation with 1,228 receiving yards in 2005. ... Bess was third among receivers with 14 touchdowns. ... SB Jason Ferguson's ACL rehab has gone well, but he isn't ready to participate in spring drills. ... Sample is in the same situation as Ilaoa and Maneafaiga with the NCAA.
C Samson Satele (moved from LG), LT Tala Esera, RT Dane Uperesa
Front of the line: Gs Hercules Satele, Larry Sauafea and Marques Kaonohi, Ts Keith Ah-Soon, Keoni Steinhoff, Dan Johnson and Raphael Ieru, Cs John Estes and Laupepa Letuli
Big question: How much will four- and three-year starters C Derek Fa'avi and G/T Brandon Eaton be missed?
Notes: Freshman Aaron Kia is a versatile player who will get looks all across the line. ... Uperesa benched 465 pounds in team testing.
K Dan Kelly, P Kurt Milne
Front of the line: LSs Jake Ingram and David Farmer, K/P Jeremy Shibata
Big question: Will Jones allow Bess to return kicks and punts?
Notes: Milne returns as a fourth-year starter. ... Ingram and Farmer snapped at times in place of Tanuvasa Moe, who completed his eligibility last fall.