[ UH FOOTBALL ]
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Michael Brewster broke loose during a controlled scrimmage yesterday at UH.
Hawaii running back John West got a lift last week from another former Leilehua Mule.
When former NFL 1,000-yard rusher Adrian Murrell came out of retirement to play for the Dallas Cowboys, West -- who always has a smile on his face, anyway -- lit up a little bit more inside.
"I feel really good about Adrian Murrell," West said. "I remember him coming back to Leilehua and talking to me and he's a good role model. I think I'm destined for something good like he's had, so I just work hard and hope for the best."
Good running backs are like gifted artists. No one really knows the true source of their most inspired work. Murrell had that special quality and West seems to have been touched, too.
He was spectacular at times last season, when he led the Warriors with 451 yards on 59 carries, and he was in yesterday's scrimmage when he carried thrice for 61 yards.
But West finds himself part of a seven-man brood battling for playing time in UH's one-back offense. The knock on him last year was his blocking wasn't as good as it needed to be to play regularly in the run-and-shoot; when West came into the game, the entire stadium knew a draw play was coming.
"I think my blocking's gotten a lot better," said West, a 5-10, 180-pounder. "It was just a matter of me taking the time to listen and believe in what my coach (Wes Suan) had to say, and it started to work."
Suan said the transfer from Yuba City (Calif.) College was always a good student of the blocking schemes; it just took time for him, as well as the other backs, to absorb the information.
"It's just like anything. With time you develop the instincts," Suan said. "With blocking a lot of it is repetition."
This is West's senior year, but he said he doesn't mind the likelihood of sharing playing time with underclassmen Michael Bass, Michael Brewster, Pesefea Fiaseu, and perhaps even newcomers Kala Latuselu, Doug Wylie and West Keliikipi.
He sees UH's running back by committee as a poisonous potluck for opposing defenses.
"I feel like I'll bring something different to the table, and I feel like everybody has a chance to bring something to the table," he said. "I feel like you're going to get a dosage of different looks in different situations. We're all ready to go."
Good timing: Defensive end Elijuawon Thompson had to wait for paperwork verifying his associate's degree from Los Angeles Southwest College before he could suit up.
The information arrived in time for Thompson to play in yesterday's scrimmage. His action was limited, but Thompson looked smooth and made a tackle late in the session.
Just like Dad: Defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis didn't look like a basketball refugee in yesterday's scrimmage. He looked like someone who knows how to tackle and he made two solid stops. The 6-6, 215-pound second-year freshman's technique appeared to be sound, although he didn't play varsity high school football.
He said his father, Joe Francis, a former NFL quarterback and coach at Pearl City High School, has worked with him on fundamentals.
"I still have a lot to learn," Alama-Francis said. "I'm trying to focus on the basic things. Leverage helps, but (you) have to be smart. I just try to play as hard as I can, try to improve on it."
Defensive coordinator George Lumpkin said he wasn't surprised.
"He's played football before. I expect him to be further along than a guy like Tony Akpan," Lumpkin said.
Akpan, another basketball crossover, never played football until he came out for the Warriors last spring.
Hanging on: Junior slot receiver Blake Harano has made many a spectacular grab in camp. But sometimes the 5-5, 145-pound transfer from Santa Ana (Calif.) College didn't tuck the ball away and a defender popped it out.
Yesterday, though, Harano made two tough grabs in traffic. He held on for gains of 8 and 30 yards on passes from Jeff Rhode. Harano absorbed solid pops from Lono Manners on both, with A.J. Martinez assisting on one.
"Blake stepped up, made some nice plays," said backup quarterback Jason Whieldon. "He's holding on to the ball. He got blasted, the defense did its job, but he held on. Making those catches when you got two guys around you, that says a lot."
Catch of the day: Second-year freshman Ross Dickerson -- who always seems to shine in scrimmages -- took in a pass from Rhode about 40 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He juked one defender, and gained about 5 more yards after taking a solid whack from Martinez.
Dickerson, a slot receiver, has had an impressive camp. It will be hard for the coaches to keep him off the field this year, even though he's behind veterans Chad Owens and Nate Ilaoa.
"That's just how it is when you're part of the best receiving corps in the nation, baby," Dickerson said.
Dickerson has also been working out with the kick returners.
Short yardage: Whieldon completed five of 11 passes for 66 yards. He threw two nice deep balls, but speedy Daniel Inferrera's hip is still tender and he wasn't able to catch up. ... True freshman cornerback Ray Bass did not play in the scrimmage due to a sore quad. ... The Warriors suffered no new injuries in the scrimmage. They have today off and return to two-a-day practices tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.