JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii running back Leon Wright-Jackson dashed over the tackle of Northern Colorado's Casey Herron in UH's opener at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Wright-Jackson’s instincts impress
HOUSTON » There was nothing but green turf in front of him.
Hawaii running back Leon Wright-Jackson got past the last Louisiana Tech defender. No blue jerseys between him and the end zone.
Most runners would've just stayed on a straight line to the end zone. But Wright-Jackson, sensing trouble coming from behind and to his left, veered off to his right.
Does he have mirrors attached to his helmet?
No, but maybe he has eyes in the back of his head.
"I try to," Wright-Jackson said with a laugh.
He spoke after yesterday's brief practice at Rice Stadium, two days after his 47-yard touchdown run gave UH its first score in a 45-44 overtime victory over LaTech. The 24th-ranked Warriors (2-0) are in Houston preparing for Saturday's game at UNLV (1-1).
How does anyone avoid tacklers in the open field when you can't even see them? How do you know danger lurks?
"I kind of got it built into me when I was little," Wright-Jackson said. "I had a coach who told me to keep my head on a swivel.
"I don't know, but I knew if I went to the right, there'd be no one on the right."
Running backs coach Wes Suan said no one taught that to Wright-Jackson.
"No, that's God-given, natural instincts," Suan said. "He's been in situations where people are chasing him, but he knows to take away the angle. The thing is he's got the speed that he probably would've made it anyway. But that's the sense that quality backs have. He knew that the guy had the speed and the angle that might catch him."
"Some runners just know," said UH linebacker C.J. Allen-Jones, who played running back in high school. "They sense it."
Most of Wright-Jackson's production so far is from that one carry. He leads the Warriors in rushing with 53 yards in six attempts. He also has three catches for 35 yards.
The sophomore transfer from Nebraska doesn't even appear on the two-deep chart (David Farmer and Kealoha Pilares are listed ahead of him), but he started against LaTech.
UH coach June Jones said Wright-Jackson will continue to get more playing time as his understanding of the blocking schemes improves, as well as his familiarity with the options involved in the running plays.
"He came out of an I-formation where it's already defined," Jones said. "Now he has got to read the trap (blocking). And our screen's a little different.
"Once the light comes on, he'll be unbelievable."
It flickered on Saturday.
"I hadn't been in the end zone since high school," said Wright-Jackson, who was a Parade All-American.
Back to back
UH quarterback Colt Brennan won his second consecutive Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week award yesterday.
He completed 43 of 61 passes for 548 yards and four touchdowns in the win at LaTech. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Brennan also threw his first interception of the season and fumbled a wet ball. There was also a fumbled exchange between him and Wright-Jackson.
"You never like turnovers, of course. We were in the hole from the get-go, and there's a lot to be said about how we kept battling and balling all game," Brennan said. "We could've given up lots of times."
Thanks, but are you sure?
Kicker Dan Kelly was named the WAC's Special Teams Player of the Week, largely based on his 49-yard field goal with time running down that sent the game into overtime.
"It's nice. I don't think I earned it. I had a horrible game. My kickoffs were good and I made one (field goal) and it was big. But I feel like I let the team down in a lot of ways and I need to work on a lot of things."
Kelly also contributed what might have been a touchdown-saving tackle after having a field-goal try blocked. He also missed on a third field-goal attempt.