RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kealoha Pilares caught five passes for about 50 yards yesterday during the team period and scrimmage. The Damien alumnus is moving from running back to slotback this season.
Pedersen enjoying McMackin’s practices
Count Erik Pedersen among those thrilled with first-year head coach Greg McMackin's philosophy on spring contact.
While full-speed tackling was heavily restricted under June Jones' watch, the Hawaii offense and defense have gotten to knock each other around in scrimmages the last two Saturdays, with the spring game still coming up next weekend.
Pedersen, a backup linebacker, has had his moments in both of the controlled scrimmages so far, making several big hits and forcing a fumble yesterday.
"Any time we have scrimmages it feels real easy for me, just run full speed and hit the runner," the junior said. "Other practices we just have to touch off, (in scrimmages) we actually finish the play off, so my instincts come through more."
With the starters out for most of the heavy contact, the scrimmages represent a chance for Pedersen to make some noise while playing with the second unit at outside linebacker.
Pedersen is entering his fourth year in the program and hopes he's finally found a home. He joined the Warriors as a defensive back and has changed positions five times since then, shuffling between linebacker and safety, and spending one season as a running back.
He began last season in the secondary, but requested to move back to linebacker early in the season.
"I feel much more comfortable," Pedersen said. "I'm more of a guy who likes to go up instead of backwards. The (coaches) were cool with it. (McMackin) said, 'If you feel more comfortable there, go for it.' "
Pedersen is also a contributor on the Warriors' coverage units on special teams and has gotten more action this spring with starter Blaze Soares staying out of contact.
"It's really awesome for the coaches to give me an opportunity like that," Pedersen said. "Especially on Saturdays."
The transition from running back to slot receiver continues for Kealoha Pilares
. The sophomore had five receptions for approximately 50 yards in the team period and the scrimmage, catching passes from four different quarterbacks. He made a nice grab of a pass thrown behind him from Tyler Graunke
and turned upfield for a sizable gain and later connected with Kiran Kepo'o
on a 20-yard completion.
"The offense is just trying to find the chemistry between the receivers and the quarterbacks. Once we do that we'll be fine," Pilares said.
"Last week we didn't come out that strong. This week we have a feeling for what we're going to do and just getting more comfortable. All the guys are reacting more than just thinking about what they're doing."
This is one position competition that could go on for a while.
After running with the ones for three practices, senior Calvin Roberts is now officially atop the chart at right cornerback, McMackin said, but senior Jameel Dowling and junior JoPierre Davis are close.
"Calvin Roberts has really come a long way now. He's No. 1 at the right corner," McMackin said. "Jameel Dowling's jumping out. Dowling's pushing for No. 1 and JoPierre's still in the mix. There's not much separating them."
Dowling has been getting plenty of reps, and came up with another interception yesterday. Davis missed yesterday's practice due to a school commitment.
The starter at the other corner, Ryan Mouton, made a leaping interception in 7-on-7; safety Keao Monteilh also came up with one. And safety Kenny Estes was impressive in the scrimmage, with a pick and a jarring hit on Jon Medeiros to break up a pass.
More than 400 youth and high school coaches participated in the UH coaching clinic that started at 8 a.m., with many sticking around for the 3:30 p.m. practice and scrimmage.
"It was really a good deal for $10," said Roosevelt receivers coach Alex Miguel, noting the fee included lunch. "It was very good overall and all you have to do is learn one thing and it makes it worth it."
Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said the event benefits UH, too.
"I used to come when (Dick) Tomey used to run it," said the father of UH cornerback Richard Torres. "It's good they're doing this again and trying to make a relationship with the high school coaches and McMackin is making a strong push to try to get local kids and help the local coaches.
"I learned a lot of things. All my coaches did. We're excited, we want to get on the field already."