Coaches have no doubt Thomas will succeed
They knew Adrian Thomas was athletic enough. Mike Cavanaugh raved about his agile feet.
They knew he was strong enough. Brian Smith gets a laugh when he recalls Thomas' recruiting tape, which features a segment of Thomas running up a sand hill, carrying his trainer.
Now, more than two years after his arrival from Australia, the Hawaii coaching staff wants to know if Thomas is ready to play meaningful downs on its offensive line.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound sophomore got the majority of the plays at right tackle in yesterday's scrimmage. Senior Keoni Steinhoff is a returning starter at the position, but Greg McMackin wants to see everyone under fire.
"I wanted the ones to work out, but I wanted the guys we've got to make decisions on, let those guys play," said McMackin, who hopes to have 10 offensive linemen game-ready when the Warriors open at humid Florida on Aug. 30.
With a lot of mixing and matching of new guys going on, the O-line didn't have its best day yesterday. But offensive line coach Smith, like McMackin, knows now is the time to take the lumps and develop and assess players like Thomas.
"This was a tool for us to evaluate," said Smith, who was a UH student assistant when former offensive line coach Cavanaugh recruited Thomas. "Adrian's had a real good spring so far. He's big, strong and fairly athletic. So I think he's still a little bit away. But if he keeps improving, keeps getting better he's going to push some of these guys.
"Football's pretty new to him. He's still learning the fundamentals, but he's a competitor, he's strong and he really wants to be good so he's working hard at it. He's got a real good future here."
Not counting Cavanaugh, Smith is Thomas' third position coach, following Wes Suan and Dennis McKnight. He said that has helped rather than hindered his development.
"I just try to take what I can learn from each of them," said Thomas, who could follow in a line of prominent UH football players from Australia including Colin Scotts and Mat McBriar. "It's been a good experience. In some ways it's similar to back home. I'm glad I came to Hawaii to play football."
Scotts was the first Australian to receive an American football scholarship and played briefly in the NFL. McBriar is the Dallas Cowboys punter, and made the Pro Bowl in 2007.
Thomas said he thinks he performed well in his audition yesterday, and hopes to get more opportunities as spring practice winds down this week and culminates with Saturday's spring game at Aloha Stadium.
"I did OK, just working on my technique, the extension of my hands, punching," said Thomas, who added that he hasn't minded waiting his turn to be evaluated extensively. "I've just watched the other guys, see what they do and follow them."
One mentor said Thomas will get better as he continues to learn by doing.
"Adrian, he's doing good," Steinhoff said. "He's going to be really good if he keeps getting the amount of reps like he got today."