CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mana Silva, left, broke up this pass to Malcolm Lane yesterday at Hawaii football practice.
Lane healed, eyes move up ladder
Malcolm Lane was surprised by an interview request yesterday.
"Why does anyone want to talk to me? I'm third string," he said.
That's precisely the reason.
Lane entered Hawaii spring football practice nearly three weeks ago No. 1 at right wide receiver, the heir apparent to C.J. Hawthorne's old spot. But the junior speedster is now behind two walk-ons, senior Dylan Linkner and freshman Royce Pollard.
The easy answer is a sprained ankle Lane suffered last week that kept him out of several practices. But offensive coordinator and receivers coach Ron Lee made it clear that wasn't the only reason when he said last Sunday that Lane hadn't "done anything since spring started."
Now Lane, who said yesterday the ankle is "99.5 percent," is on a mission to re-climb the ladder. In his mind, he's already there.
"I had a rough spot, but I'm still a starter," Lane said after yesterday's practice, which included an impressive touchdown catch in 7-on-7 drills. "I intend to keep working harder and getting better and I don't see anyone taking my position as long as I continue to work hard. Right now I'm working with the third string. I haven't been able to get a lot of plays because I haven't been able to go full-speed. I'm anxious to make plays, get out there and get better."
Lane said he expects more in the coming days when he can cut better on the ankle.
"I'm just getting back into the mix of things and I feel like I had a great day today," he said. "I'm just trying to make play after play, regardless of whether I'm starting or not. I know come Florida I'm going to be the starter, so I'm not worried about any of this."
The Aug. 30 game at The Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., will be especially big for Lane. He expects plenty of family to come north from Ft. Lauderdale and south from Georgia to see him play.
"I lived in Florida about half my life," said Lane, who played high school football in Germany because he was an Army dependent.
His considerable talent was very raw when he arrived as a true freshman in 2006. Coach June Jones played Lane in some games instead of redshirting him.
Blessing or curse?
"I look at it as both," said Lane, who is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and covers 40 yards in 4.45 seconds. "When I first got here, I thought I'd do whatever they wanted just to help the team. When Coach Jones said he wanted me to play, of course I'm not going to say no. Even though, I look back at it and think, man I could be a sophomore coming in and have three years."
In his limited opportunities his first two years, Lane displayed his big-play potential as a receiver and kick returner. He averaged 22.9 yards on 17 receptions and 26.4 yards -- including two touchdowns last year -- on 31 kickoff returns. He gave UH good field position with a 36-yard runback on the opening kick of the Sugar Bowl.
Lee and head coach Greg McMackin were generally happy with Lane yesterday. Lee wants from him what he wants from everyone on offense: consistency.
"Malcolm is back, his ankle's OK," Lee said. "He's got to make a few plays."
He has the explosiveness that can turn games, and playmakers are needed with the exodus of all four starting receivers.
"He's a game breaker. He makes plays and he's got that speed you can't teach," quarterback Inoke Funaki said.
But for now, he's a third-stringer. That could change quickly, however, and probably will if Lane consistently expends as much effort as he did yesterday; after his interview, he walked back onto the practice field instead of toward the locker room.