Salas a good fit so far at slot


POSTED: Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hawaii quarterback Greg Alexander's comfort in the Warriors offense this season can be traced to several factors.

Having Greg Salas running routes probably ranks somewhere near the top of the list.

“;He's kind of like a security-blanket type of guy,”; Alexander said after yesterday's practice. “;He made a couple of catches in triple coverage today. It's one of those things where I can throw him a jump ball and trust that he's either going to catch it or break it up.”;

Salas has made the spectacular look routine on numerous occasions, an attribute he demonstrated a few times yesterday on the damp FieldTurf at Ching Field.

During the 11-on-11 period, a throw from Alexander appeared to sail over the middle. But Salas leapt high to snag the ball with one hand and reel in the reception. Later in the period, Salas kicked into another gear to split double coverage and chase down a deep ball from Alexander.

“;One thing with Salas, he practices hard,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;Especially during 11s or when we go 7-on-7. When we go against the defense, he always shows up.

“;He wants the ball and he works hard at getting the football.”;

Hawaii's leader in receiving yards last season, Salas expects to see more passes coming his way this season after moving from wide receiver to slotback in the spring.

Wide receivers were the Warriors' most productive pass catchers in the first four years of the June Jones era at UH (Dwight Carter, Ashley Lelie twice and Justin Colbert). Since then slot receivers have been the favorite targets of UH quarterbacks, with Chad Owens, Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins leading the way.

Last year, Mike Washington led UH with 62 receptions from his slot position, while Salas covered a team-best 831 yards on 57 catches.

The 6-foot-2 Salas presents a bigger target than previous slots, and has the quickness to maneuver in traffic. He's also played faster as he grows comfortable with the reads required in the run-and-shoot.

“;I only had to read one guy on the outside. I'd see how a corner's playing me, then maybe have a safety I have to worry about,”; Salas said. “;Now I have to worry about the corner, and both safeties and the linebackers. It makes it more difficult, but it's a lot more fun.”;

So far, the outside spots have been filled by Rodney Bradley, Jovonte Taylor and Royce Pollard early in fall camp. Kealoha Pilares has been working with the first team at the other slot position with Jon Medeiros, Dustin Blount and Ryan Henry among those in the rotation.

While Salas has already drawn some national attention — on Monday he was named to the watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the nation's top receiver — the depth of the receiver unit could spread the focus of opposing defenses and give him room to roam.

“;I think with all the receivers we have it's going to take a lot of pressure off,”; Salas said. “;You can't just account for one person with our receiver corps. Everybody brings something to the table, and that's going to help everybody out.”;

As for being among 37 receivers up for the Biletnikoff Award:

“;It's an honor to be mentioned in that category, but I haven't done anything yet,”; Salas said. “;So I still have to go out there and do it and prove it.”;

Sione checks in at DE

Earvin Sione joined the team for his first practice yesterday. A quarterback at McKinley and a member of the 2008 signing class, Sione expected to play receiver or defensive back this season. But after putting on close to 30 pounds since high school, he reported for practice with the defensive ends yesterday.

“;It's going to be a long learning process,”; said Sione, who weighs around 220. “;I'm trying to gain a lot of weight first and I'll learn the plays as I go along.”;

Sione is not on scholarship and was slated to join the team when classes start on Aug. 24. But the Warriors, who began camp one short of the 105-player maximum, welcomed Sione to camp yesterday.

“;It's different,”; he said, “;a lot different from high school.”;

Short yardage

Safeties Aaron Brown and Mana Silva both sat out yesterday's practice, but head coach Greg McMackin expects them back soon. McMackin said several Warriors are dealing with “;little strains, preseason practice-type stuff.”; ... McMackin said former Kapolei defensive back Kalani Brackenridge, part of this year's signing class, will pursue a professional baseball career. Brackenridge was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft in June. He would have grayshirted this season and joined the team in the spring.