UH offense: fewer holes to fill in '09


POSTED: Monday, March 30, 2009

A lot can change in a year.

Just ask Hawaii offensive coordinator Ron Lee.

; This time 12 months ago, Lee began his first spring camp in charge of a Warriors offense searching for an identity and playmakers in a daunting rebuilding project that would define much of the fall as well.

After a 7-7 season, this year's Warriors again have holes to fill on offense as they hold their first practice of the spring this afternoon. But experience at key positions allows them to start farther along than they did last year.

“;It's so different this spring,”; Lee said. “;The goals are a little different.”;

Where the quarterback situation was unsettled going into last spring - a condition that persisted midway though the fall - senior Greg Alexander returns as the established front-runner and will take most of the snaps over the next 15 practices.

The starting slotbacks must be replaced, but the Warriors return their top wide receivers, and junior Kealoha Pilares will get a chance to establish himself at slot after splitting time at two positions last season.

“;There's still a lot of work to be done as far as getting better,”; Lee said. “;But the guys are here now, so we can use the spring perfecting what we do.”;

“;The guys worked really hard getting ready for spring. I think they really know there's going to be some big competition.”;

Alexander and backup Brent Rausch were among the junior college transfers who joined the team for fall camp last year. Alexander had less than a month to learn the run-and-shoot system before struggling in the season opener at Florida. He spent the next seven games on the bench before reclaiming the job, going 3-3 as the Warriors' starter down the stretch while finishing with 1,895 yards passing and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions.

While Lee plans to use the spring to refine the passing attack, it's also a chance to experiment and look at players who waited their turn last season.

Inoke Funaki ran a modified version of the attack to utilize his scrambling ability with mixed results last year and will get a shot at running back and slotback entering his senior season.

“;We know what he can do as a QB,”; Lee said. “;We want to see what he can do as a running back.”;

Senior Leon Wright-Jackson is the top returnee in the backfield after struggling to gain traction in his first two years at UH, with injuries helping limit him to a total of 102 yards last season. The competition figures to pick up in the summer, because the Warriors signed three running backs last month.

“;We really need for him to step up - he's so explosive,”; Lee said. “;This spring is going to be very big for him.”;

While Alexander was thrown into action in his first season out of junior college, other transfers redshirted, giving them a year on the scout team to acclimate and learn the system.

Pilares and senior Jon Medeiros are listed as the top slotbacks going into the spring, but the coaches will also “;look at the Ryan Henrys and Dustin Blounts and see how fast they can come along,”; Lee said.

Wide receiver Jovonte Taylor got a late start in fall camp while his paperwork was cleared and showed promise as a kick returner before an illness forced him out of action. He returns to work at wide receiver, where the Warriors return starters Greg Salas and Malcolm Lane.