UH offense looks forward to first test


POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sleep comes a little easier to Ron Lee this time around.

A year ago, Lee was heading into his first season as Hawaii offensive coordinator with a unit still under construction and staring at a schedule that included trips to Florida and Oregon State in the season's first three weeks.

After enduring growing pains that lingered for much of the season, Lee has a more experienced crew to work with this fall. And although there were some spotty performances in preseason scrimmages, he's encouraged by the progress of the offense heading toward the Warriors' opener against Central Arkansas on Friday at Aloha Stadium.

“;I think we're right on schedule,”; Lee said after putting the receivers through some extra drills after Friday's practice. “;We're giving the first two units all the reps (this) week to really sharpen up the timing with the QBs.

“;We dropped a couple passes (during Thursday's practice). That's why we stayed after working on our hands. But I think we're right on schedule. We just need to go play.”;

One of the facets that might cause Lee some anxiety is the lack of game experience for most of the receiver corps aside from returnees Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares.

Jovonte Taylor, Jon Medeiros, Royce Pollard and Joe Avery combined for 15 catches last season. Rodney Bradley, a projected starter at wide receiver, is looking forward to his Division I debut, as are redshirt juniors Ryan Henry and Dustin Blount.

“;They're talented as can be and they understand what we're doing, but we're going to see how they play on (Friday),”; Lee said. “;We're coming along nicely; we're ahead of last season by a bunch. It's just a matter how they show up when the lights go on.”;

Lee said performing under the lights at Aloha Stadium last Thursday night helped them adjust to the environment and work out some nerves. Now, after installing the package over the three-plus weeks since the start of camp, the Warriors' emphasis turns to the game plan for Central Arkansas starting with today's practice.

“;It's going to be a different mind-set. This week is going to be more about Central Arkansas and focus more on them,”; quarterback Greg Alexander said.

“;I think everybody's excited. We've been going against each other since the start of spring, I think we're kind of sick of seeing each other's faces in practice and want to get into seeing some other faces.”;

Lee said the quarterback rotation in practice will remain the same heading into game week. Alexander will get the bulk of the snaps, with Brent Rausch and Bryant Moniz splitting the backup reps.


Stepping in, stepping up

Injuries thinned the cornerback unit in recent practices, though most are expected back early this week.

In the meantime, redshirt freshman Kawika Ornellas has gotten more work with the top units. He spent most of fall camp rehabbing from a knee injury, but impressed the coaching staff since joining the team late in camp.

“;If he was here from the beginning of camp, he'd be challenging for a starting job and he still is because of some of the injuries,”; said associate coach Rich Miano, who concentrates on working with the cornerbacks. “;He's a capable replacement, we don't think we drop off with Kawika Ornellas, it's just a matter of getting him reps.”;

Jeramy Bryant is the leader at one of the cornerback spots. With Tank Hopkins sitting out most of last week's practices, Lametrius Davis has been working with the first team on the other side.


Tailgate time

Fans will have another hour for tailgating, with the Aloha Stadium parking lots set to open earlier this season.

With Friday's kickoff set for 7:05 p.m., the Lower Halawa lot (Gates 3 and 4) will open at 1:30 p.m. All other lots open at 2:30 p.m. Turnstile gates open at 4 p.m.

UH's four Western Athletic Conference home games were moved to 5:05 p.m., shifting the parking lot openings to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.