Austin stares down UH’s second-team ‘D’
Shane Austin, who looks like a Boy Scout, earned a figurative merit badge yesterday.
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The baby-faced true freshman quarterback from Rio Mesa High (Oxnard, Calif.) absorbed the full force of hungry Hawaii defenders and lived to tell about it.
"This was my first time live in college, and it's a lot faster," said Austin, a 6-foot, 185-pound walk-on. "I've got to get used to the speed. I never really got hit like that (in high school)."
Austin smiled through the blood, mud and other crud on his face after he got bounced around by second- and third-string UH defenders. He showed grit by coming back from the hard knocks to make a few plays, operating behind a patchwork offensive line of non-starters. And it's obvious he knows the first rule of quarterbacking -- never blame the blocking -- or the lack of it.
"We're all new. Once we get some experience we'll be fine," Austin said.
Coach June Jones was handing out awards for his foundation's fun run and didn't see much of the carnage. He rarely throws any of his quarterbacks into the fire in practice, but knows it has to be done once in a while -- especially for a newbie to earn the respect of teammates.
"I heard he took a couple of shots," Jones said. "His time will come this spring, he'll get a chance to throw a lot of balls. Jake (Santos) looks like he'll stand in there, too."
Santos, a junior-college transfer, looked a little more comfortable in the crumbling pocket. But on many plays there was little the QBs could do but duck and chuck.
Freshman linebacker Po'okela Ahmad pounded Austin the hardest on a blitz, and later made a nice play in coverage. The Kapolei grad keeps showing up large in practice. With many of the veteran linebackers gimpy, he could see some significant action in Saturday's opener against Northern Colorado.
"Coach wanted to look again and see if we're ready to play the game at this level," said Ahmad, who has teammates jealous that he got to go "live" twice, including last week's scrimmage at Aloha Stadium. "I need to stay consistent during practices and remember the coverages. I'm getting back into the groove of football."
Others earned VIP cards to the Katoosh Klub, including freshman safety Le'Marcus Gibson, for getting low enough to give as much as he got from 280-pound running back Jason Laumoli.
"I saw big 45 and knew I had to get the legs," Gibson said.
Junior defensive tackle Josh Leonard can claim the rarity of rarities after bagging Santos -- a real-live sack of a UH quarterback in practice.
Freshman Kenny Estes picked off an Austin pass, and linebacker R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, safety Erik Robinson and corners Ryan Perry and JoPierre Davis turned in noisy hits while the starters hooted from the sidelines.
"This was for some of us guys who didn't have the opportunity to show what we could do during camp," said Perry, who missed some key practices with a sore back from a car accident and a hamstring strain.
Run it back
Jones normally isn't a fan of subjecting his starters to the chaos of the kicking game. But he said star receivers Jason Rivers (kickoffs) and Davone Bess (punts) will be the deep men on Saturday.
"We'll let them do it the first game and see how it goes. We won't do it every game," Jones said.
Cornerback Ryan Mouton worked with Rivers yesterday as the second deep man on kickoffs.
Dan Kelly and Briton Forester both made four of seven field goals. ... Starting defensive tackle Fale Laeli (ankle) was back at full speed. Starting linebackers Solomon Elimimian (hamstring) and Blaze Soares (shoulder) took it slow. ... Second-year freshman Greg Salas displayed good consistency catching the ball and speedy freshman Eric Shaffer made a nice over-the-shoulder grab in one-on-one drills. Shaffer may be redshirting because of the crowded slotback situation. ... Starting safety Jake Patek's thigh bruise appears to be behind him. He made an impressive interception in 7-on-7.