GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Former Chaffey College standout Jeremiah Cockheran, now a UH star, returned to Ontario, Calif., to high praise from his former coach. "Jeremiah Cockheran is one of the better players we've ever had here," coach Carl Beach said.
Former players, coach
ONTARIO, Calif. >> It seemed like visitors' day at Hawaii's three-hour football practice this morning at Chaffey College, two days before the Warriors visit Nevada-Las Vegas.
The list included former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye, former UH special teams coach Dennis McKnight, former Hawaii players Jeff Duva, Jack Wright and Dustin Owen, former UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida and the fathers of current Warriors Kevin Jackson, Mike and Ray Bass and Ryan Stickler.
With a shaved head now, McKnight strikes an even more imposing figure than when he was special teams coach for the Warriors in 1999 and 2000. He spent some of the morning joking with junior kicker Justin Ayat, who was coached by McKnight during his redshirt season in 2000.
"I'm still running my car wash business and coaching at Grossmont College," McKnight said.
Duva and Wright are partners in a college placement service for high school scholar athletes. Both played on the 1978 UH team that lost 21-5 to a stacked Southern California team that went on to win the national championship. They tried to compare that USC team to the one that beat UH 61-32 last Saturday.
"We won't know until later, because the team that we played ended up having so many NFL superstars," Wright said. "But this USC team is definitely loaded with talent, too."
Owen, who played center for UH in 1998 and 1999, is an assistant coach at his JC alma mater, nearby Mt. San Antonio College. It's the school that produced current Warriors Kelvin Millhouse and Michael Miyashiro.
"We went unbeaten and won the national junior college championship in 1997," Owen said. "So I went up, down and up again real fast."
Owen said he plans to take one more shot at arena football.
Hurt list: Sophomore defensive end Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan did not practice today due to sore ribs. He is also mourning for his father, Robert Akpan, who died in Nigeria yesterday.
Sophomore defensive back Kenny Patton and freshman wide receiver Jason Rivers returned to practice today, testing their tender hamstrings.
Sophomore defensive end Mel Purcell practiced some, but probably won't play Friday on the artificial turf at Sam Boyd Stadium with his sprained elbow.
Welcome back: Chaffey College coach Carl Beach is happy to host Hawaii this week, especially since one of his former players is Warriors senior wide receiver and co-captain Jeremiah Cockheran.
"Jeremiah Cockheran is one of the better players we've ever had here. Not only that, he's a better person than most of the kids we've had here. He's a great individual," Beach said. "Being captain is unique for a junior college player. He's been a great ambassador for Chaffey."
After two games, Cockheran is among the nation's leading receivers statistically.
"They've developed him in many, many ways. He obviously chose the right system with Coach (June) Jones," Beach said. "He's flourishing right now and enjoying it. I hope he gets a shot at the next level."
Chaffey sophomore outside linebacker Andrew Ilo'ilo, a cousin of UH sophomore receiver Nate Ilaoa, is a potential Warriors player, Beach said.
The Warriors will take a look at Ilo'ilo, but they don't offer many scholarships to linebackers.
Rivers flowing: Warriors true freshman receiver Rivers is adjusting to the college game.
He caught his first two career passes against USC. After a 2-yard loss on the first reception, Jason Whieldon found him for a 14-yard touchdown with 1:41 left in the 61-32 loss.
"Every game now is really a big game," Rivers said. "The atmosphere is different. The game speed is way faster."
The Saint Louis School graduate said he doesn't find the nine-day road trip overly long.
"I don't mind. I've been on that island forever. It's good to get away for a while," he said. "I'm just using the down time studying and spending time with my teammates."