C.J. Hawthorne making a push
Hawthorne converted to defense last season, now gets a shot to start by switching back
Though he started five games in the Hawaii secondary last season, C.J. Hawthorne entertained visions of catching passes instead of defending them. "I'd always hint to the (coaches)," Hawthorne said. "Say, 'coach I might like to go back to receiver.' "
He got his wish this spring when the 5-foot-11 senior was switched from cornerback to wide receiver. He's made the most of his opportunity on offense so far, impressing the coaches with his speed, hands and attitude.
"He did want to play receiver but he knew we were looking for corners last year," UH receivers coach Ron Lee said. "Even now, if we needed him at corner he'd go back. But I think he's found a home."
After spending his first season at UH on defense, Hawthorne is getting up to speed with the routes and reads in the run-and-shoot system.
"Sometimes it can be frustrating," Hawthorne said. "This is by far the most complex offensive system I've ever been in. It takes a lot of thinking. ... (But) I'm definitely getting it down."
C.J. Hawthorne found he's more comfortable running routes than chasing receivers.
So although the senior has bounced around often in his brief Hawaii football career, he's happy to have found a home back with the Warriors offense.
Hawthorne arrived at UH as a receiver, was switched to cornerback last year, and returned to the offense this spring. Now that he's back in his comfort zone, he's making a push for a starting job this fall.
"I feel excited just to be back on offense," he said. "That's what I got recruited as, that's what I've been doing my whole life, that's the spot where I have confidence."
Cornerback was a thin spot last spring when Hawthorne transferred to UH from Mississippi Gulf Coast College. He spent a week with the receivers before making the switch to cornerback.
Hawthorne earned a starting job in fall camp and started five of the Warriors' first six games last season, two on the right side and three on the left, as the Warriors regularly shuffled corners in search of a consistent mix.
The Warriors eventually settled on the combination of Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry for the second half of the season and Hawthorne ended the year with 16 tackles and one interception.
With both starting corners returning this season and graduation denting the wide receiver corps, Hawthorne traded his green practice jersey for white this spring, drawing raves from the coaches with his progress thus far.
"I think he's an upgrade for us," head coach June Jones said. "He's had a great spring and is starting to get a feel for it and he's going to make a lot of plays for us."
UH lost three seniors who rotated at outside receiver last season in Ian Sample, Ross Dickerson and Chad Mock. Jason Rivers is slated to return on one side with the other starting spot up for grabs.
Receivers coach Ron Lee has two proven pass catchers at the slots in Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins, who have also worked on the outside, and has been encouraged with the efforts of Hawthorne and sophomore Malcolm Lane.
"Last time (Hawthorne) was with us (the receivers), he was only there one week and then he went to defense, but he was already progressing," Lee said. "By the time we get done with spring I think he's going to be one of the better ones we've ever had. So fast and quick and he's eager to learn.
"Malcolm has done a great job too. I feel really good about the outside. ... If they keep working hard, they have a chance to be as good."
Hawthorne hopes to get a shot on special teams returning kicks this season. Hopping from one side of the line of scrimmage to the other means a shift in mentality as he adjusts to running routes rather than defending them.
"On defense you have to learn to react instead of being the one who's dictating," Hawthorne said. "On defense you have to have a lot more poise and be able to withstand a lot of little things. On offense you just have that confidence where you know what you're going to do and you know I'm dictating."
Quarterback Colt Brennan didn't participate in yesterday's practice to take care of some school work. In his absence, Tyler Graunke got most of the snaps during the team period and hit Bess and Grice-Mullins for long gains early in the session.
"I'm the next one in line so I got a little more action than I do usually," Graunke said. "I have to be prepared to step up whenever I'm called.
"Everything's slowing down for me," he said. "A couple years ago the game was going too fast in making my reads, but it's all coming together."
Long distance learning
Two coaches from Liberty High School in Columbus, Ohio, have been taking notes at this week's practices. Head coach Steve Hale and running backs coach Chris Snyder spent most of their stay on Oahu watching practices and sitting in on meetings to pick up the nuances of the run-and-shoot offense they plan to install with the Patriots this season.
"They've just got great guys, the players, the coaches. They've really worked with us to try to help us understand everything," Hale said.
Hale said they've also watched practices at nearby Ohio State and wanted to make the trip to Hawaii to get an up-close look at the Warriors' system after watching their games on TV in recent years.