Pilares leaves backfield behind for role in receiver corps
Kealoha Pilares knows shifting from running back to slotback will take more than one practice.
The sophomore from Damien Memorial was realistic yesterday following his first official day at his new position.
Pilares, who led the Warriors in rushing last season, ran routes and shagged balls from six prospective quarterbacks. A good start, he said, but there remains lots of work to do.
"It felt great just to get out here and strap on the cleats again, come out and play ball," Pilares said. "The new position is fun, it gives more opportunities to run in an open area. I'm happy with it.
"Coming from running back, I don't really know what to do, so everybody's helping me out just to make the transition smooth," he added.
Pilares rushed for 388 yards last season, and added 249 receiving.
Offensive coordinator Ron Lee directed extra reps toward Pilares and other receivers who could be essential in rebuilding the Western Athletic Conference's offensive unit of the year.
"He's doing fine, first day," Lee said. "He's fast, we got some speed up the field. It's (about) understanding where to be. We're just trying to get guys to line up right, motion, play calling."
Freshmen wideouts Royce Pollard and Joe Avery also benefited from increased looks on the first day of spring practice.
Quarterback Kiran Kepo'o
was in good spirits following his first practice since suffering serious head trauma in a bicycle accident on campus early last fall.
The Iolani alum practiced independently with fellow Warriors since February (when he was cleared) to help prepare him for taking a run at the starting quarterback job.
"Kind of (natural) today," Kepo'o said. "Still gotta work on some knicks and knacks there. But it's coming along, hopefully soon."
The lefty was given a fair share of snap repetitions and appeared sharp in connecting with his receivers.
"It's always a good feeling to be back with the boys on the field, especially missing all of last season," he said. "Kind of unfortunate, but took multiple steps (to get) back -- trying to work my way back into it."
White vs. Green
Yesterday's first practice featured the offense and defense playing against air. That will be the case again tomorrow, but changes Thursday with the first offense vs. defense action.
"We'll go seven on seven when we get in pads in a couple of days," coach Greg McMackin said.
Senior safety Keao Monteilh
was back with the first unit yesterday after missing the last five games in the fall due to a fracture in his shoulder. The senior had 19 tackles and two interceptions while starting the first eight games last season. He was joined in the secondary by Desmond Thomas
, who filled Monteilh's spot in the starting lineup following the injury.
"He's a smart guy who can play both safeties, he's played nickel, lines people up, he made plays for us last year," defensive backs coach Rich Miano said.
Blast from the past
The first day of spring practice resembled a reunion of the Warriors' 2001 team.
Members of that UH squad roaming the field were first-year assistant coaches Nick Rolovich (quarterbacks) and Brian Smith (offensive line), graduate assistant Craig Stutzmann and student assistant Chris Brown. Rolovich quarterbacked that 9-3 team with Stutzmann at receiver and Smith at center. Brown, a linebacker back then, led the Warriors in tackles that season.
On the go
McMackin and Miano were scheduled to fly out of Honolulu yesterday to attend UH's pro day today in Los Angeles. They'll fly back tonight to get back in town in time for tomorrow morning's practice.
Star-Bulletin writer Dave Reardon contributed to this report