Deceptive speed gives Nasca edge
It's easier to be fast in a singlet and spikes than in a helmet and pads. Speed doesn't always transfer from the track to the football field.
But Nate Nasca looks at it from a different angle.
"I'm actually more of a football player than a track guy," the aspiring Hawaii slotback said. "Growing up I was always smaller than everybody, so I started doing track to develop my speed so I wouldn't get killed out there."
Nasca's speed did the killing yesterday at spring practice. He slipped behind the safeties two plays in a row during the team period for big gains. The second catch was a tough one where he held on despite hard contact with the ground.
"Some guys, when you put them on the football field, they slow down," receivers assistant Craig Stutzmann said. "This guy doesn't. He works hard and he's quick as a cat out there. He's very coachable."
Hawaii offensive coordinator Ron Lee said the Azusa Pacific transfer's knowledge of the offense is catching up to his speed.
"He's starting to get an understanding of what we're doing. You really can tell," Lee said. "He's new to this, it's his first year, but he's got speed. He's starting to understand the reads and he had a helluva day today. He caught everything, in the individual drills, too."
Lee added that he's tough enough to play Division I football at 5-feet-8 and 165 pounds.
"He has football speed, and he has that savvy," Lee said. "You can't jam him. He's making them miss on the jam. "He's going to help us."
Nasca helped his own cause with yesterday's performance, as well as with a couple of receptions in Saturday's scrimmage. On one, he bolted for 20 extra yards after the catch on a day when voracious Hawaii defenders were closing in fast and exacting a high toll for catches.
"I talked to him after," said Stutzmann, who was a three-year starter at slotback for UH. "He said, 'Coach, I don't want to get hit that hard, I'm running.' But don't let that fool you. He's a tough kid, a competitor. I don't know if he's running scared out there, but sometimes that's the best way to play. That's how I played. It seems like he's coming along. He knows the routes a lot more."
Nasca led Pearl City to a state track and field championship in 2004, and was a three-way standout in football at receiver, cornerback and kick returner. He then went to Azusa Pacific -- the alma mater of decathlon Olympic silver medalist Bryan Clay -- to pursue both sports.
Nasca, whose father, Phil, played football at UH, transferred to Manoa last year. He was bothered by hamstring injuries while at Azusa, and since he missed the 2004 season due to injuries, he might get an additional year of eligibility with the Warriors. Otherwise, it's one and done.
The injuries of others have helped Nasca get into the groove. The absence of senior Mike Washington (hamstring) and freshman Ben Noy (knee) allows him more opportunities.
"Getting more repetitions the past couple of weeks helps," Nasca said. "Mike and (Aaron) Bain and Jon (Medeiros) have been helping me out, reading defenses and stuff. I think just getting more reps, we've got a lot of guys banged up."
Greg McMackin has taken note of the blur wearing No. 47.
"He's got excellent speed. Bob Hayes was a track guy. Speed, besides character, is the thing that we look for. That obviously helps him, as long as he can catch the ball. If you can't catch the ball, speed doesn't help you," the head coach said. "But he's been catching the ball pretty well, he had a big play today. Two back-to-back. He used his speed to get the ball, so that kind of thing we're excited about. He's jumped out there and done some good things."