Switch sitting well with UH's Thomas
The receiver-turned-safety is enjoying his new position
Desmond Thomas spent the summer of 2004 running routes and catching passes from Taylor Humphrey in Northern California, as both thought they'd do the same at the University of Hawaii.
Humphrey -- who found himself near the end of a long line of quarterback hopefuls at UH -- ended up transferring.
Thomas, also caught up in a numbers game at receiver, moved on, too. But Warriors coach June Jones is happy that it is merely to the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Toward the end of last season Thomas shifted to safety, and he's popping some pads and turning some heads in spring practice. He took reps with the first and second teams yesterday.
"Coming out of high school I had my heart set on playing receiver. But sometimes you have to resort to what you do best, and that's what I'm doing now," said Thomas, who was in on 118 tackles, picked off eight passes and knocked down 20 others as a senior at Vallejo (Calif.) High School.
The move was a mutual decision, coach June Jones said.
"We always knew Desmond was a real hitter at safety, so we wanted to give him a look," Jones said. "He's a great kid, real conscientious. We're hoping to find a place for him on special teams, too, get him on the field.
"We have some good players (ahead of Thomas at receiver), and he wanted an opportunity to play."
He has the right height for free safety at 6-foot-2, and Thomas has put on 15 pounds of muscle since his arrival at UH two years ago.
"It's fun. I'm out there reading the quarterback, out there trying to make plays," Thomas said. "I feel like I'm right back in high school.
"When I first came out I hadn't backpedaled in almost two years. I was looking like a first-timer, but it's second nature so it came back. Now I'm ready to go."
Sophomore Mario Cox will be moving from running back to linebacker once he completes academic obligations, and Jones said he still plans to try freshman All-American receiver Davone Bess at cornerback.
"Probably before we get out of (spring practice)," Jones said.
The biggest position switch on offense is also under way -- mentally.
Samson Satele, expected to start at center after three stellar seasons at guard, watched from the side yesterday. He can't go in pads yet because he missed most of the first week of camp finishing up course work from the fall.
"I can't wait to get out there and hit," Satele said. "It's been a while."
The leader of the offensive line took six classes last semester and has five this term.
"It's a heavy load, especially that many credits during football season," Satele said. "But I'm trying to do something special, make sure that I graduate in December. I want to leave here with a degree."
Satele considered leaving UH early for this year's NFL Draft but opted to remain for his senior season.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Graunke considered trying a different position -- he's athletic and tough enough for slotback or safety -- but opted to remain where he is, pushing starter Colt Brennan.
"I thought about it a little bit," Graunke said. "But hey, I came here to play quarterback. That's where Coach Jones wants me and I think it's the best position for me.
"Special teams might be fun, but I'm a quarterback."
Around the world: Malcolm Lane, a U.S. Army dependent in Germany, signed a letter of intent with UH last week.
Lane is one of the top high school American football players in Europe. He led Hanau High School to the league championship with 272 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the title game.
Lane, who is 6-2 and 187 pounds, has been timed at 10.4 in the 100 meters. He accounted for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in an eight-game season.
He played running back, defensive back, receiver and kick returner.
Jones said Lane will be tried at receiver first when he arrives in August.
"I'm looking forward to playing anywhere I can help the team out," Lane said in a phone interview yesterday.
He was recruited by UH's newest fulltime assistant coach, Jeff Reinebold. Reinebold learned of Lane from Dan Miles, who coached Lane on a European All-Star team. Reinebold knows Miles from his previous jobs with NFL Europe.
"I just got a call (from Reinebold) one afternoon," said Lane, whose only other scholarship offer was from South Dakota State. "I got in late, and I didn't get much attention because I didn't know what the process was and no one had any scholarships left. Thank God that Hawaii did."
Lane said his mother, Catherine Baldwin, retires from the Army in three weeks. His stepfather, Michael Baldwin, is trying to get stationed in Hawaii.
"I'm very excited about coming to Hawaii," said Lane, who is originally from Florida. "The farthest west I've been is Missouri."
Lane has a qualifying SAT score and is expected to be eligible to play in the fall, Reinebold said.