DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii receiver Dylan Linkner has learned a lot from Jason Rivers, who caught at least one pass in 50 straight games.
The Hawaii receiver is doing all he can to shine in his fifth year
Talk to Hawaii receiver Dylan Linkner and the urgency is clear.
"It's my last year," the fifth-year senior receiver said. "I have to get on the field somehow."
Since joining an offensive unit headlined by Tim Chang and Chad Owens back in 2004, the Kailua graduate bided his time, waiting and working behind a series of prolific Warriors pass catchers.
With his final fall in a UH uniform coming up, this spring represents the career understudy's best chance to date to make his case for a leading role.
Linkner moved to the top line of the depth chart at right wide receiver with Malcolm Lane -- the projected starter entering the spring -- falling back after suffering an ankle injury.
Lane ran some routes during passing drills yesterday morning, but Linkner and freshman Royce Pollard alternated at the spot during the seven-on-seven and team periods, with Linkner first in the rotation. Offensive coordinator Ron Lee said sophomore Daniel Lofton, who has worked primarily on the left side, could get a look on the right as well.
"They have an opportunity to step up and Dylan and Royce have been doing a good job," Lee said. "(Linkner's) always been steady. He has to work on his speed, but I think he has a good understanding of the offense. This is his chance."
Not exactly a blazer downfield, Linkner's familiarity with the routes in UH's run-and-shoot attack is his primary ally in making a push for the job. For that, he credits the time he spent shadowing UH's all-time leading receiver (yardage).
"I really owe a big thanks to Jason Rivers," Linkner said. "He would always tell me, 'Let's go watch film.' He would always try to teach me the offense. He was really a big mentor of mine. You could ask him anything about a play and he would know it. He knows this playbook front to back and I really believe him teaching me got me to know it front to back."
Linkner redshirted his first year, was hampered by hamstring injuries once he began playing, and enters his final season with four catches totaling 44 yards.
"I played in the USC game, I went to Michigan State (in 2005), I know how big those games are, I know how exciting they are," he said. "I've been craving that field time all five years."
With all four starting receivers closing their UH careers last season, Linkner prepared for his opportunity by training with slot receivers Aaron Bain and Mike Washington. He also picked up some tips on improving his speed by listening in at the Hawaii Speed and Quickness clinics run by UH associate coach Rich Miano and strength coach Mel DeLaura on weekends.
"I took what they did and tried to do it on my own," he said. "Their program's great. I encourage any athlete from kindergarten even to college to do that. That will get you better for any sport."
Just as Linkner has been a fixture at practice for four-plus years, so has his father, Jim Linkner.
"I love it," said the elder Linkner, who has won multiple Na Hoku Hanohano awards as a producer and engineer and worked with many local artists including Kealii Reichel, Gabby Pahinui and Olomana. "Especially with Coach (Greg McMackin), he's brought a lot of new energy so I think everybody loves it."
Once he's done with college, Dylan envisions a future behind a microphone, though probably not in the music field.
"It would be kind of awesome to try to do some sportscasting, maybe have a chance at ESPN," the communications major said.
But not before taking his shot at producing some highlights of his own.