Spring moves will stick
Hawaii going forward with three big changes
Like any other college football coach, June Jones of Hawaii would like to clone a few of his players. But that kind of weird-science research is limited to upper campus, so the Warriors have to make do with more conventional experimentation -- like moving guys around to get the most out of them.
After yesterday, the fourth day of spring practice, Jones was to decide on whether to keep former inside linebacker Brad Kalilimoku at strong safety, move him back to his former spot, or try him at outside linebacker.
The verdict? Safety first.
Jones, defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville and secondary coach Rich Miano like what they've seen, so Kalilimoku will remain a strong safety when the Warriors return for the remaining 11 workouts after taking next week off.
"Brad's really done a nice job," Jones said of the junior who was in on 71 tackles last year. "He's better than what we thought he was. I would anticipate he will stay right there."
The head coach isn't quite sure yet about Kenny Patton, the cornerback-turned-wide receiver. The fifth-year senior came into camp with a general knowledge of UH's passing schemes, since he has spent many a morning since 2002 trying to stop them. But it's still a lot to learn in a short amount of time, even for a scholar-athlete like Patton. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Patton has good hands, speed and leaping ability. But like most receivers new to the run-and-shoot, he has to develop his instincts.
"I'm going to save the evaluation of Kenny for later," Jones said. "We'll add more (plays) and his head will be swimming again, but he's done a good job of fighting through it. As soon as he gets it down he'll be really ready to turn it on."
The third big experiment, 300-pound senior defensive tackle Reagan Mauia at running back, is also going well enough to keep the big man in the mix for playing time in the fall -- especially if Nate Ilaoa and Bryan Maneafaiga don't get their additional medical hardship years.
Mauia lost around 60 pounds and gained a scholarship in the offseason.
Return of Rivers: Junior wide receiver Jason Rivers returned to practice yesterday for the first time since the end of the 2004 season.
"I can't tell you how great it was to be out there," said Rivers, who had initially not expected to be cleared until next month.
Jones hopes academic problems are a thing of the past for the two-year starter.
It's good to see Jason out here," Jones said. "He got the things he needed to take care of inside done. Hopefully he'll stay on top of everything and still be there in the fall."
Rivers didn't look too rusty yesterday, despite coming off ankle surgery.
"He looks good to me," Jones said. "He's been working out real hard the last three months probably. He's stayed in shape and he's got a lot of desire to get back into it. He's always been motivated on the football field, but education's first and foremost. Sometimes you have to go through mistakes and learn from them."
Just watching?: With Jeff Reinebold becoming a permanent part as defensive line coach, there are no vacancies on the UH coaching staff (Hyrum Peters replaced Keith Bhonapha, but Jones said there are no plans to fill the other graduate-assistant post vacated by Reinebold's promotion).
But former Warriors special teams coach Dennis McKnight, who applied for the opening, said yesterday he plans to stick around through the end of spring practice as an observer. He said he is available if another opening should arise.
"Now I know the competition is stiffer than I thought," said McKnight, who coached at San Diego State last year but was not retained by new head coach Chuck Long when Tom Craft was fired. "At least (Jones) knows I'm not planning on going anywhere else."
Jones quashed speculation that McKnight might join the UH staff in time for the start of fall season. He said special teams will be handled by committee again; Reinebold's responsibilities will include the kickoff return and punt teams, Jones added.
"I don't think there will be more changes," Jones said, adding that the current staff is the one with which he plans to go into the season.
That could change if running backs coach Mouse Davis retires, but Jones said he would like his mentor and former college coach to return for a third campaign.
Davis, 73, said he hasn't decided if he'll be back.
"You might say I'm flexible and I'm not trying to develop my résumé," Davis said.
Reunion arena: In addition to McKnight, several former players and coaches found their way to Murakami Stadium to take in yesterday's practice.
Oregon State offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh and his family drew the most attention. Larry Goeas, Craig Stutzmann and John Wilbur also spectated.
Soares on his way: Linebacker Blaze Soares, a Star-Bulletin All-State first-teamer from Castle two years ago, said he will be enrolling at UH in the fall.
"Everything's going on schedule," said Soares, who is taking classes at Hawaii Pacific. "I can't wait to get on the field."