RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga, left, and Mel Purcell, right, mobbed Colin Wills in drills during UH's first practice Saturday.
It remains to be seen how much Chad Owens will be used as a kick returner this fall. But another Hawaii special teams standout, Sean Butts, figures he will be put in position to make an impact on the kicking game again this year.
Butts expects to» Warriors earn respect in running drill
continue impact on kicks
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Butts blocked four kicks and excelled as the first man downfield on punts last fall. He said he's been told he will likely continue to cover punts and remain on the field goal defense unit.
"A lot can change, but I'll most likely stay on the punt, and field goal block, the ones I like," said Butts, who is first on the depth chart at free safety.
A new NCAA rule changes the penalty for violating the punt returner's 2-yard "halo" from 5 yards to 10. That won't affect Butts, because he has learned how to stop quickly outside of the halo and keep himself in position to make the tackle.
"I actually like the halo rule. It's a good rule. It can be pretty dangerous for those return men," Butts said. "Ten yards? It's a fair rule. Sometimes it makes it harder because you have to break down (stop suddenly in front of the returner), but as long as it's not raining it's not bad."
Singletary returns: Defensive line coach Vantz Singletary is back after helping to usher the Houston Texans into the NFL. Singletary was an intern with the Texans this summer.
"It's always good to go home and work in your backyard," said the native of Houston. "I was five minutes away from my old house. I'd drive home and have lunch with my mom and my grandmother and run on back."
Singletary said he conferred often with head coach Dom Capers, a former Hawaii assistant.
"They really gave me a lot of opportunities to contribute," Singletary said. "The game's always evolving, so it's good to pick up what they're teaching and why they're teaching it, especially from the pass rush perspective. They're big on the Okie package, so I got to see a lot of that and maybe there's something we'll be able to use."
Action Jackson: Junior defensive end Kevin Jackson breezed through his 220-yard conditioning runs yesterday, proving he was doing more than church mission work in China and Japan over the summer.
"There's a world-class gym where I was in China, and in Japan, I was at a college where they had a football team, so I worked out with their players," Jackson said.
Jackson, who provides quality depth along with Houston Ala at one of UH's strongest positions, said he is excited about the upcoming season.
"We have a real opportunity to do some good things. This is my fourth season and this looks like one of the better teams we've had here," said the junior from Moreno Valley, Calif. "I'm real excited to see what happens. We have some big games and I think we can pull some of them out."
More receivers: Freshmen Ross Dickerson and Daniel Inferrera are among many new receivers trying to climb the depth chart; both got some action in Saturday's opening practices.
The St. Louis graduates are familiar with the run-and-shoot but are adjusting to the pace of the college game.
"Ross is quick, but he's got to work on his hands. Daniel's strong and fast, but still kind of tentative in his routes," receivers coach Ron Lee said. "He's kind of learning what we're doing. He's fast and strong, but he's got to work on his hands, too."
Four other new receivers -- Lamont Williams, Nainoa Kuna, Sean Stennis and Paumele Se'e -- are also getting some reps.
The chart-toppers continue to be, from left to right, Justin Colbert, Owens, Gerald Welch and Neal Gossett.
Nate Ilaoa, who is right behind Welch at right slot, is slowed by a left hamstring pull, but expected to return to practice early this week.
"By end of Saturday we'll have a real good idea of where we're at," Lee said.