UH WARRIOR FOOTBALL
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii receiver Ryan Henry ran upfield after catching a pass at the Warriors' workout yesterday at the grass practice field.
The more the merrier
Newcomers work to catch up with deep group of Warriors receivers
Ryan Henry spun, exploded and extended for the football.
It ricocheted incomplete off his hands and bounded away toward the sideline of the grass practice field.
Coach Greg McMackin, observing nearby, walked over to the transfer from West Los Angeles Junior College, put an arm on his shoulder and offered some sage advice.
Henry's next two routes and catches on the first day of fall camp Monday were flawless.
Henry and two other junior college transfers, Craig Bell and Mike Tinoco, are in the same boat after two days, speeding desperately to catch up to the rest of the fleet. Any help is appreciated.
Their summer was a cram session of plays, reads, routes and improvisation that has helped them on their way to matching up with the more experienced Warrior receivers. All four starting positions are up for grabs after the departure of Hawaii's 2007 Western Athletic Conference Offensive Unit of the Year -- C.J. Hawthorne, Ryan Grice-Mullins, Davone Bess and Jason Rivers.
Yesterday, Greg Salas, Aaron Bain, Mike Washington and Malcolm Lane lined up from left to right in the first group during offensive team drills. Bell (left wideout), Henry (left slot) and Tinoco (right wideout) have taken second- and third-string positions thus far.
But graduate assistant Craig Stutzmann, who oversees the receivers, said the plan is to mix the rotation up from day to day. He sees potential in the newcomers.
"The first few days of practice for the new guys are the toughest because they gotta learn the plays, they gotta get the timing down with the quarterbacks, and then on top of that they gotta catch the ball," Stutzmann said. "There's a lot of different factors that come into that -- getting off the line of scrimmage, running the route properly, recognizing the coverage. You'll see a lot of dropped balls in the first few days. Of course you don't condone it, but the thing you really look for in the first couple of days is the effort."
Henry, Bell, and Tinoco all felt pretty good about what they displayed to kick off camp.
Henry appreciated the tips he received from quarterbacks Inoke Funaki and Tyler Graunke during the current summer school session. He had a month to prepare before fall camp started, and was moderately confident in his knowledge of the run-and-shoot, as he ran in a 4-wide system at West LA.
"I just want to showcase my football smarts, my IQ, route running, and what I can do after I catch the ball," Henry said.
Bell observed that Hawaii's system features a lot more reads on the fly than anything he used in the 3- or 4-wide system at Cerritos College (Calif.).
"It was a bit different, but it's always good to get out here and compete with the team and everything," Bell said. "I felt real good about it. Help the team out wherever I can, try to get as many reps as the coaches allow me to."
Tinoco, the tallest of the newcomers at 6-foot-2, hit the playbook hard over the summer, and felt rewarded after the first day.
"I knew all the plays when I went out there, knew what I had to do every route," he said. "Knew where to be, how to run it. Had no questions, that's why summer helped out a lot."
Jovonte Taylor, of Los Angeles Southwest College, was due to arrive yesterday. Dustin Blount, of Compton Community College (Calif.), is wrapping up course work on the mainland.
Stutzmann hinted that big things are expected out of Taylor.
"We're looking at him to stretch the field," Stutzmann said. "His disadvantage is he wasn't able to come out during the summertime. So it's really going to be, how much can he learn in the next two or three weeks leading up to Florida."
Royce Pollard, a freshman who redshirted last year, was in a similar situation in 2007 learning the playbook from near scratch at the start of fall camp. He thinks the newcomers are making progress.
"I feel like they're doing all the right things, working hard," Pollard said. "Mike's always looking to get in, Craig's the same way. Ryan's out there doing his thing. And they're all learning. They're all doing good, I feel."