Crowded pack


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

First came acceptance. Now there's appreciation.

When a group of junior college receivers signed with the Warriors last year, the newcomers had visions of hitting the ground running in the run-and-shoot. Instead, they spent the fall as redshirts serving on the scout team.





        Last year's leaders at the four receiver positions (receptions-yards-touchdowns):

» Slotbacks: H—Mike Washington (62-789-6). Y: Aaron Bain (52-557-6).


» Wide receivers: X: Greg Salas (57-831-3). Z: Malcolm Lane (35-613-6).




Although not exactly what they planned, they now see the benefits of sitting out the season.

“;Redshirting was a wonderful thing,”; slotback Ryan Henry said. “;It gave me a chance to get stronger, put on some weight, get familiar with the offense and just adapt to being out here. It was a blessing in disguise and the coaches knew what they were doing.”;

Now part of the competition for playing time, Henry and Dustin Blount have been running second in the slotback rotation in spring practice behind Kealoha Pilares and Jon Medeiros during spring practice.

With Greg Salas learning the slotback position this spring, Mike Tinoco—another of last year's redshirts—has seen more action at wide receiver along with speedy newcomer Rodney Bradley.

Jovonte Taylor was contributing as a kick returner early in his first season. But an illness forced him to miss most of the year and he's back in the mix at right wide receiver with returnees Malcolm Lane and Royce Pollard.

The receivers are part of a crowded pack jockeying for position on the depth chart with just today's practice and Saturday's Warrior Bowl left on the spring schedule.

“;We wanted to give everybody reps,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;We're going to make some decisions after spring. We gave everybody a chance to step up and now we've got to evaluate.

“;Every position is still up in the air. ... It's competitive and we have to put the best out there.”;

While slotbacks Aaron Bain and Mike Washington completed their careers in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Salas returns after starting every game at X receiver, while Malcolm Lane had 13 starts at Z receiver.

Meanwhile, the redshirt year allowed last year's transfers to pick up the system while leaving them with two years of eligibility.

“;I didn't expect it. I was hoping to learn it quick and have a chance,”; Tinoco said. “;They gave me a chance, but there were some things I was unsure on. It was good for me because I learned the offense really well now. I don't even think when I'm running routes.”;

Not suiting up on Saturdays still left the redshirts with opportunities to contribute on game weeks.

“;It was kind of hard to accept it at first, but after that I took pride in being on the scout team and took it as a learning experience and a chance to get physical with the starting defense,”; said Henry, who played some quarterback when the Warriors were preparing for an option team.

Now part of the regular rotation, Henry had a productive scrimmage on Maui with seven catches for 50 yards. Blount caught four passes for 52 yards on Maui and three catches for 36 yards in last week's scrimmage on campus. Taylor and Bradley both had touchdown receptions last week as well.

Freshman slotback Jeremiah Ostrowski also redshirted last year and has shown promise in the spring.

Salas' introduction to slotback has given Tinoco, Bradley and Joe Avery more repetitions on the left side. Salas may still end up at his customary spot come fall, but his added versatility gives the coaches another option in looking for mismatches on the field.

“;All the receivers we've got are amazing athletes,”; Blount said. “;It's just a big competition right now.”;