Versatile Warrior keeping busy
C.J. Hawthorne contributes at cornerback and on special teams
C.J. Hawthorne came to Hawaii with the idea of playing receiver.
But he's flexible, versatile and talented. So instead, the junior college transfer might end up filling a gaping hole from last season -- and doing just about everything else for the Warriors this fall.
"We're looking at him everywhere. He's a special guy," said defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville. The pun was intended, since Hawthorne, who is No. 1 on the depth chart at right cornerback, will likely play on several special teams as well.
It all depends on how much coach June Jones thinks Hawthorne can handle in addition to helping anchor a secondary that did not perform well last fall.
"He's played the best of anyone out there (at cornerback). I would say there's a high probability he will start (Sept. 2 at Alabama)," Jones said.
Hawthorne said he's up to the task of multi-tasking.
"My first game my senior year (at St. Martin High School in Owen Springs, Miss.), I didn't come off the field a single play," Hawthorne said after the Warriors practice yesterday. "Safety and cornerback, running back, receiver, running back kicks, covering kicks."
He's displayed a propensity for blocking kicks. Problem is, Jones would also like him to return kicks. As they say in track and field, that's a tough double.
The compromise could be Hawthorne getting a chance to return punts but block field goals. Especially since Chad Owens ran back five punts for touchdowns in 2004, the Warriors have preferred to set up returns instead of going for blocks.
"I'd prefer returning punts I think (than blocking them). It's an important part of the game, helping the offense get field position," Hawthorne said. "But what I prefer over that is to do what the team needs. I'll do whatever it takes to put the team in the best position to win."
Hawthorne was even lighter than the 161 pounds he now has on his 5-foot-11 frame when he was coming out of high school, which is why he received no Division I offers. He went to Mississippi Gulf Coast College, where he starred on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Still, Louisiana-Monroe and UH made the only firm offers (Marshall and Florida State wanted him to wait until after signing day).
One measurable in Hawthorne's favor is his 4.4 speed in the 40. But the UH coaches feel they might have
come up with a steal because of his intangibles.
"Nobody puts in more effort," defensive backs coach Rich Miano said. "He has an amazing attitude, fortitude. He's like a sponge absorbing what we do. He gets upset when he gets beat, but he doesn't let if affect him. He has a good attitude for a cornerback."
Glanville said Hawthorne has still got work to do, but he's good enough to play.
"He wasn't good enough today on the 1-on-1 passes at the 12-yard line. Got to work on that," Glanville said. "He's a better person than he is a player. He's as good a person as there is in the United States. You can trust him. When you can trust somebody who has ability, you try to get him in there."
Meanwhile, at left cornerback, senior Kenny Patton was back with the starters as A.J. Martinez re-injured his groin. Martinez was No. 1 at the position going into fall camp.
"Kenny's been playing better than anyone the last three or four days," Miano said. "We'll see when A.J. gets back."
Glanville is also keeping watch on JC transfers Myron Newberry and Gerard Lewis.
"Twenty-three (Lewis) catches your eye every now and then. He's got long-range giddyap. Who's 38 (Newberry)? They both run well," Glanville said. "We gotta be sure they can play well."