CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Aaron Bain and the other Hawaii reserves hope to earn playing time with strong practice sessions.
Bye week giving Hawaii reserves chance to stand out
Second team is getting plenty of reps
STORY SUMMARY »
Aaron Bain leapt off his left leg and stretched his right arm high. In a swarm of three Hawaii defensive backs, Bain got a few fingers on the incoming ball, tipped it to himself and hauled in the Tyler Graunke pass just before skidding out of bounds on his face.
Whistles and cheers from the sidelines followed for the second-team slotback, who also made a nice leaping grab in traffic earlier at the Warriors' morning practice.
Among his appreciative audience: quarterback Colt Brennan and starting slotbacks Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins.
The 17th-ranked (No. 18 BCS) Warrior starters continued to receive relative rest and relaxation during 7-0 Hawaii's first bye week while the reserves ran rampant; it was the most action they'd gotten since fall camp.
"That's what byes are for," coach June Jones said. "Get the other guys a lot of reps and get the starters healthy."
Hawaii hosts New Mexico State on Oct. 27.
Receivers coach Ron Lee confirmed it was time to loosen up after the nail-biting overtime win against San Jose State last week.
As a result, it was a casual outing for Brennan, Bess, Grice-Mullins, and running back Leon Wright-Jackson, who used some of their precious break time trying to deduce who among them could throw the football the best left-handed.
FULL STORY »
TONY AVELAR / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Hawaii running back Kealoha Pilares has caught a pass in every game so far this season.
Even when it's an unofficial day off for Hawaii's starting running back platoon of Kealoha Pilares, Leon Wright-Jackson, and David Farmer, the work doesn't stop.
Running backs coach Wes Suan makes sure of it.
During drills, those observing must offer constructive criticism of the other backs on the field. Khevin Peoples can critique Pilares, Farmer can offer advice to Korey Reynolds, and on and on until the players' techniques are laid bare.
"Oh yeah, they all do that. They need to," Suan said. "I'm insistent on that -- being observant, and actually critiquing the other person, the second or third guys in there. So they fully understand what needs to be done and anticipate problems."
For Pilares, the 2005 Star-Bulletin High School Offensive Player of the Year out of Damien, most of the pointers fall under one category: the dreaded "B" word.
It's no secret that Farmer is the Warriors' most proficient blocker for quarterback Colt Brennan, and that Pilares is the team's most graceful runner. But the freshman transfer from Air Force did absolutely zilch in the area of quarterback protection coming out of high school for the run-happy Monarchs.
He knows all too well that to keep himself a viable option during big plays (he scored the Warriors' first touchdown against San Jose State last week) protecting the Heisman hopeful remains top-tier on the priorities list ... even if a defender shoulders by here or there.
"In this offense you can kind of get away with it, because Colt slings the ball out of there so fast," said the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Pilares. "The (defense) is just coming to you, and you have to turn around because the ball's out already. We're a passing team so you have to defend the pass. For the most part, I think I'm getting the job done, but my blocking isn't up to Farmer's."
He laughed ... then rated his current blocking a 5 on a 1-10 scale.
Suan said Pilares' running style for the Warriors hasn't changed one iota from that which allowed him to pile up 1,900 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior year at Damien -- and that's a good thing.
"We thought he was pretty talented coming out of high school," Suan said. "I think the thing that impressed me the most, that we really didn't know about, was just his people skills and his character. He's got a great work ethic, a passion for the game, he's an attention-to-detail guy. He generally pays really good attention to getting better."
Suan cited Pilares' continuous efforts in the weight and film rooms toward his steady contributions. In particular, he has studied ex-running back Nate Ilaoa's success in both blocking and exploding for huge gains. Granted, "Nasti Nate" weighed nearly twice as much.
In UH's seven wins, Pilares has four touchdowns (three rushing), averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Only Wright-Jackson's 6.2 is higher.
Coach June Jones has noticed consistent improvement out of Pilares since spring training.
"Big time. He's going to be a great player for us. He's got it all," Jones said.
All, perhaps, except a blocking edge on David Farmer.
Kelly doesn't discriminate
It's all the same to kicker Dan Kelly.
Whether he's kicking the game-tying point-after attempt to Colt Brennan's 2-yard keeper touchdown in the final moments of regulation against San Jose State, or connecting on one of many meaningless extra points against Charleston Southern, it matters little to the junior.
Kelly is a perfect 50-for-50 on PATs this season after going 89-for-95 over his first two, moving solidly within the top-10 all-time scorers at Hawaii. Against the Spartans, he broke Jason Elam's single-season record for consecutive PATs of 46 in 1989.
"I'm really blessed with the ability to kind of just push out the emotions when I go and kick any kind of field goal or PAT," Kelly said. "I didn't feel anything (tying the game late) at Louisiana Tech, I didn't feel anything at San Jose. I just go out there and do my job regardless if we're winning 60-3 or we're trying to tie it up at 35-35."
While linebacker Blaze Soares (tweaked shoulder) was back participating in warm-up drills yesterday, backup Brashton Satele was sidelined with a pulled hamstring. The Word of Life graduate rode the exercise bike hard, but Jones didn't yet have an idea of Satele's availability against New Mexico State.
As for rehabbing cornerback Ryan Mouton (knee), Jones said, "I'm hoping he'll be ready, but he's the only one that knows."