Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, August 22, 2001


Warrior receivers
catching on

The UH wideouts dropped only
1 pass in practice yesterday

By Dave Reardon

June Jones doesn't keep track of stats -- especially at practice.

At this point, the University of Hawaii head football coach is more concerned that his young offensive players learn the finer points of the run-and-shoot. He's not into computing catches and yardage -- or even dropped passes.

"I don't pay attention to it that much. We have new guys thinking, and it's hard to run up the field fast when you're thinking, and it's hard to catch the ball when you're thinking," Jones said. "Once they know what they're doing, then I start to pay more attention to them."

But this number had to be heartening: One.

That's how many balls the Warrior receivers dropped during an efficient 1 1/2-hours of filling the air with passes yesterday morning. Yes, three throws -- including a couple that bounced off receivers -- did go into the hands of cornerback Gary Wright. But the pass-catchers put on a show.

Receivers coach Ron Lee was obviously happy, especially since an early season case of the dropsies contributed to UH's 3-9 season of a year ago.

"We've got to keep it up. I'm not going to be satisfied until I see that come (UH's Sept. 8 season-opener against) Montana," Lee said. "But we are a lot faster as a group and we're catching the ball better. We caught the ball pretty well at last year's camp. What I'm really pleased with is the competition, for all the spots. And I think that's what's going to make us better."

The starters are all back -- splits Ashley Lelie and Justin Colbert and slots Craig Stutzmann and Channon Harris. They played nearly all the downs for UH last year. But the Warriors are so deep this fall that Lee said a rotation system could be used.

"That's a great possibility. From what I see so far I think we could play eight to 10 guys. Gerald Welch is coming along. He's 20 pounds lighter, he's quicker, he's catching the ball well," Lee said. "Britton Komine and Clifton Herbert also look good at slot and Nate Ilaoa, a newcomer, is picking it up real quickly. On the outside, too, with Tafiti (Uso) and Neal Gossett. And they're making good decisions against the coverages.

"The QBs and receivers are on the same page and things are happening faster."

Stutzmann is happy with what he sees.

"We're coming along quickly," he said. "I think everybody came in here with the right mentality and we have better depth. If the younger guys step up, it'd be good because we can have fresh guys in the game at all times. Last year I think the newcomers were a little slower coming around. I'm impressed with Nate Ilaoa and some of the other new guys. They play like they've been around for a year. That's reassuring."

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