GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Colt Brennan (15) worked on his passing along with freshman walk-on Shane Austin during yesterday's practice, Hawaii's first in preparation for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
UH gets back to business
Avoiding distractions in New Orleans is emphasized
On a drizzly afternoon in Manoa after Hawaii's first Sugar Bowl practice yesterday, C.J. Hawthorne held court.
The mature-minded UH senior receiver is from Gulfport, Miss., not far from New Orleans -- where the Warriors are headed for the biggest game in the history of Hawaii football.
The team will have other obstacles to avoid before it meets up with fourth-ranked Georgia (10-2) at the Superdome. Hawthorne spoke of how easy it can be to get in trouble in The Big Easy around the holidays.
"I don't think The (Las Vegas) Strip gets as wild as (Bourbon Street) on New Year's Eve," he said. "It's just my opinion, but I've been there."
The 12-0 and 10th-ranked Warriors haven't had any problems this season handling distractions on road trips, including a one-night stand in Vegas (away from The Strip and downtown). Coach June Jones likes to treat his players as he did with his pro players in the NFL, and curfews are generally late because the team often has meetings that go long.
"I think the majority of it is there's going to have to be some self-discipline," Hawthorne said. "I'll definitely try to steer them the right way. This is a business trip for us. There's definitely good things about (New Orleans) and there'll be time for us to have fun. But New Orleans can definitely steer a lot of people the wrong way."
Hawthorne said the streets will be incredibly crowded with all kinds of people celebrating in all kinds of ways. He warns fans as well as teammates to not get separated and lost.
"Everyone's walking, and you can walk into anything," Hawthorne said. "Fun never starts out wanting to be bad. Next thing you know you're in trouble, somebody gets suspended. A little problem can turn into the wildest nightmare."
Brennan back from party
With the Heisman hubbub and the stress of final exams fading into the background, Colt Brennan could finally fire up that prized right arm.
The Hawaii quarterback threw his first passes since the Warriors completed a perfect regular-season run yesterday afternoon as the recently crowned Western Athletic Conference champions assembled for their first practice in preparation for the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
"Obviously, we had a lot of things going on the last couple of weeks," Brennan said. "But it's fun to get all the other stuff over with, all the school, all the finals. It's fun to be back out here with no school, just practice."
School and last weekend's trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation kept Brennan occupied since the Warriors' win over Washington on Dec. 1. Yesterday's practice marked the first time he had thrown a pass since slinging a 5-yard out to Ryan Grice-Mullins for the game-winning touchdown in the 35-28 victory.
A few Warriors continued to rest up from the rigors of a 12-0 regular season, including Brennan's top two targets -- Grice-Mullins and fellow slotback Davone Bess.
"I could totally tell we hadn't been out here for a little while," Brennan said. "It's a little rusty but these next three practices are just to get us back in the groove of things. Davone and Ryan and a bunch of guys are resting up, trying to rest injuries. Right now is just about staying in shape."
Receiver C.J. Hawthorne said regaining the rhythm of the offense shouldn't be a problem as the Warriors jump back into practice mode.
"For us it's like walking down the street. It's something you don't forget," Hawthorne said. "It shows the guys are hungry and ready to get back at it for one more time."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawai quarterback Colt Brennan and the rest of the Warriors are back at practice after a long rest.
After the relatively light workout, the Warriors pushed through about a half-hour of conditioning drills. It won't be quite as rigorous as training camp, but the Warriors can expect more over the next week or so leading up to their departure.
"Probably the next 10 practices we'll really run a lot and then we'll taper down the week we get down there (to New Orleans)," UH coach June Jones said. "We're just doing our stuff right now we're not really game-planning. Next we'll start that and get two solid weeks of practice of what we need to do."
Brennan said the No. 10 Warriors have watched some tape of fourth-ranked Georgia, and Jones doesn't think ramping back up after the extended break will be a problem. Having the program's first BCS appearance and New Year's Day bowl on the horizon probably takes care of any such concerns.
"(The time off) hasn't hurt us any time we've played in a bowl," Jones said. "The guys are going to be focused for this game. I don't have to worry about that."
Although he had a round-trip to the East Coast added to his schedule last week as Hawaii's first Heisman finalist, Brennan said his post-regular season commitments haven't been all that taxing.
"If anything, the end of this season was a lot more relaxing than the end of last season, because I had to go to the college football award show, I had to go to a bunch of stuff. The Heisman is only two days," he said. "It's been easier this year. Just the magnitude and the excitement and all that stuff has been pretty crazy."
More pressing on his mind were his final exams as he wrapped up his class work and will walk the line Sunday in UH's fall commencement exercises at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"I'm so glad to be done with school, that's one of the best feelings I've had in a long time," the communications major said. "It's a huge relief."
The Warriors have eight more home practices scheduled before they leave for New Orleans, all of them closed to the public. Practices had been open during the season, but the recent rush of autograph seekers staking out the field prompted the adjusted policy.
"It's too much autographing and stuff," Jones said. "The kids take 2 hours to get back to the locker room, so this kind of relieves some of that."