Hawaii spreads the wealth to its receivers
Quarterback Colt Brennan is keeping all of the Warriors' many talented pass catchers happy
On the surface, the math shouldn't work out.
Six receivers with starting experience. One football.
Hawaii at Utah State
When: Tomorrow, 10:05 a.m. Hawaii time
Where: Romney Stadium, Logan, Utah
TV: ESPN Regional Television on KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
But with the Hawaii offense ringing up some astounding numbers this season, there have been enough catches to go around for a deep and talented Warriors receiver corps.
"A lot of times you can get too many guys and not enough playing time," UH receivers coach Ron Lee said. "We have a great bunch of guys who share the time among themselves and it makes them all play harder and practice harder. It's working out fine.
"They're definitely getting their chances, and so far they're making the best of it."
With the Warriors topping the nation in passing offense, four UH receivers rank among the top nine in the Western Athletic Conference in yardage per game entering tomorrow's game at Utah State's Romney Stadium.
Davone Bess continues to be the Warriors' busiest receiver, ranking fourth in the nation with 7.38 receptions per game for an average of 82.9 yards, good for 14th nationally.
Ross Dickerson (64.8 ypg), Jason Rivers (64 ypg) and Ian Sample (60.5 ypg) are also among the WAC's most productive receivers. Chad Mock, who started seven games last year and one this season, has 16 receptions for 226 yards.
Ryan Grice-Mullins led the Warriors in receptions last season and was putting up big numbers again before an ankle injury sidelined him for four games. Dickerson moved from outside receiver to replace Grice-Mullins in the slot and caught 28 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns in those four games.
Grice-Mullins returned last week against Idaho with 83 yards and two scores and will continue to rotate with Dickerson.
"We were able to fill in and we don't really miss a beat," Lee said. "We really have 10 guys who I think can play."
Quarterback Colt Brennan has done his part in keeping the receivers content. In last week's 68-10 win, six Warriors caught at least five passes, with five getting into the end zone. Sample, who's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last five games, had eight catches for 90 yards, while Rivers led UH with 108 yards on six receptions. Mock had a season-high five catches in the win.
"Colt has a good feel for all the receivers now and a good understanding," Lee said. "I think right now the guys, Colt and all the receivers, have a really good understanding of coverages and our system. They know where they have to be, they know when to do certain things."
Lee said some of the rotations are predetermined, with head coach June Jones making the call if he wants a certain receiver in the game in a particular situation.
UH's depth at the receiver spots could come in handy tomorrow when the Warriors take the field in Logan, Utah (elevation 4,700 feet above sea level). Running sprints in the thin mountain air can make it tough to catch your breath, much less the ball, so being able to keep fresh receivers on the field figures to be a plus.
"That'll help us," Lee said. "But the guys are in good shape and used to the running, so it won't be a problem."
Lee also isn't all that concerned with the effect the climate -- temperatures are expected to peak in the low 50s tomorrow -- will have on the receivers' hands.
"It won't be a problem," he said. "Utah State will be the problem; the cold will be fine."
The Warriors (6-2, 4-1 WAC) embarked on their final road trip of the season yesterday, departing on a charter flight following their morning practice in Manoa.
Hawaii heads to Logan alone in second place in the WAC, a game behind Boise State (9-0, 5-0), and can secure an extra game at Aloha Stadium with a win over Utah State (1-7, 1-3).
Hawaii needs one victory in its final five games to become bowl eligible. The Warriors are likely to receive a berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl set for Christmas Eve if they meet the seven-win requirement.
Rolling them in: While the receivers split time, the defensive coaches plan to keep rotating defensive linemen despite losing three to injuries.
Starter Ikaika Alama-Francis (back) has returned to the lineup after sitting out last week, but backup defensive ends Renolds Fruean, Keala Watson and Amani Purcell suffered injuries that could keep them out for the rest of the regular season.
"You never have enough big men," defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said. "Just about the time you think you have a lot of good big men, you lose some."
The staff moved Laupepa Letuli from the offensive line to defense this week and Glanville plans to keep shuttling linemen into the game to keep them fresh, a strategy that has paid off so far this season.
"It's changed us," Glanville said. "We made that commitment before Alabama and stuck with it ever since. They roll in and out every six plays or so."
Chillin': Last night's forecast for the Logan area tomorrow calls for a chance of rain in the morning and a slight chance in the afternoon, with overnight temperature low of 35 degrees and a midday high of 51.
Not so fast: Now that the Warriors have oral commitments from two defensive players, with Brother Rice (Chicago) linebacker Kevin Konrath yesterday joining Kamehameha tackle Vaugn Meatoga, eager UH fans are hoping highly regarded JC tackle Ray Hisatake soon makes it three.
But Hisatake's coach at San Mateo (Calif.) Junior College said it will probably be a while before the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Hisatake makes a decision.
"We still have three games, and I think he wants to finish the season first," Larry Owens said yesterday.
Also, more schools are becoming aware of the late bloomer who didn't play high school football.
"Utah's coming in (today) to see him. Miami's showing some interest, San Jose State has already offered," Owens said. "He's inexperienced, but everyone likes his size. The fact that he's 6-4, a big man, but athletic."
Dave Reardon of the Star-Bulletin contributed to this report.