CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sophomore Kealoha Pilares has been practicing at running back and slotback as Hawaii coaches look to get him more touches.
Pilares ready for bigger role
hasn't had a whole lot of down time in practice this week.
The sophomore has bounced between running back and slotback during Hawaii's preparations for its home opener against Weber State, keeping him in near constant motion.
He might stand his ground to deliver a block in the backfield on one play, run a pattern from the slot on the next, then take a handoff and scoot through a hole a snap later.
"It puts more responsibility on me to go out there and work harder," Pilares said. "It felt good being able to do both. I just try to make the best of whatever opportunities I have."
Pilares' extra work this week will likely lead to a more prominent role in the offense tomorrow.
Pilares, UH's leading rusher last year, began the season as a backup slotback and caught one pass for 2 yards in last week's loss to Florida.
He was shifted to running back this week after Daniel Libre suffered a sprained ankle that will keep him out of tomorrow's game. He continues to practice at receiver and is a shifty changeup to Leon Wright-Jackson when he lines up in the backfield.
"We have to give him the ball," offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. "He's got to touch the ball 10, 12 times."
With Pilares splitting his duties, junior slotback Dustin Blount has seen more time with the second team this week.
Blount, who has also gotten as look as a punt returner, got a late start in camp while he completed course work at Compton Community College and didn't make the trip to Florida, but could see his first playing time tomorrow.
"I was in the weight room working hard, came out here (to the practice field) doing a little 7-on-7 trying to familiarize myself with the plays," Blount said of his regimen while the team was away.
"He's still learning it, he's got a ways to go, but he'll see some action," Lee said. "He'll get better the more reps he gets. Definitely quick as a cat."
Left side story
UH coach Greg McMackin
said whether left tackle Laupepa Letuli
will be available tomorrow will be a game-time decision. Letuli hasn't practiced this week due to a shoulder injury suffered against Florida.
Aaron Kia, who stepped in for Letuli last week, practiced with the second unit yesterday after being bothered by tendinitis in his knees on Wednesday. Keith AhSoon continued to work with the first team at left tackle with Brysen Ginlack at left guard.
In the house
As of yesterday, UH had sold about 27,200 season-ticket packages - an increase over the 22,900 last year - with sales still ongoing through tomorrow's home opener.
"Given the substantial increase over last year, we're thrilled at this point," UH associate athletic director John McNamara said. "It's very encouraging and it's a credit to the football program and the leadership of Coach McMackin."
The count for the Weber State game was approximately 33,000 yesterday afternoon and with walk-up sales and the print-at-home option, McNamara said the turnout for the home opener could approach 40,000 by game time.
McNamara said sales of Manoa Maniacs memberships to UH students has jumped to 927 so far, up from 527 last year.
Weber State landed in Honolulu yesterday afternoon and headed straight to Aloha Stadium for practice, where 80 Zip-Pacs - courtesy of freshman defensive tackle and Saint Louis grad Ryan Eastman
's family - awaited the Wildcats.
"That's exactly what I was craving on the plane," said quarterback Cameron Higgins, another Saint Louis product. "We were hyping Zippy's up, the chicken, the rice. No more rice in Utah."
Also there to greet the Wildcats was former NFL running back Chris Fuamatu-Maafala, who played for Weber State coach Ron McBride at Utah.
"It was good to talk about the college days. He was just making fun of me and how when we were studying tape I would always be late," Fuamatu-Maafala said.