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It’s hard to corner
"They told me on Friday that they were switching me over," Matano said after yesterday's practice, his first with the UH offense. "It's cool, they know what's best for the team so I'm just trying to help the team out."
Matano spent much of his first day as receiver watching the UH offense run through passing drills. Once he picks up the nuances of UH's run-and-shoot scheme, he'll compete at slotback.
"He was kind of observing because he doesn't know all of his stuff yet, but he'll be in there (today)," UH receivers coach Ron Lee said. "He has good hands, he's quick and he's kind of what we look for on the inside. I think he's going to help us.
"This is what spring is about, to kind of see where we can put players and help the team. I think before we get done with spring he'll be a player, but we'll see."
Although he's new to playing offense, Lee said Matano's background as a defensive back can help him make the adjustment.
"In this offense you need to know defenses," Lee said. "He knows if it's cover-three where the weaknesses are, so that's going to help him pick up this offense."
Matano is the latest UH basketball player to try out with the football team. Nkeruwem Akpan and Ikaika Alama-Francis played with the Rainbow Warrior hoops squad before joining the football team as defensive ends.
Matano played football as a youngster but turned his attention to basketball in high school. After attending University High for two years, he moved to New Jersey to get a taste of East Coast ball and enrolled at Paramus Catholic while living with his aunt and cousins.
After concentrating on basketball his junior year, he returned to football as a senior and earned a spot as a cornerback and kick return specialist at Siena College.
But shortly after his freshman season, Siena discontinued its NCAA Division I-AA program, putting Matano's football career on hold.
"It just came as a surprise because they did it right after the Christmas break," he said. "They didn't tell none of us. We came back and we found out, so we didn't have a chance to look for a new school or anything."
While on the mainland, Matano kept in touch with childhood friend Bobby Nash, now a UH shooting guard. When Matano transferred to UH, he decided to join Nash on the basketball team as a walk-on.
He redshirted this season and played with the scout team. The 5-foot-11 Matano often ended practice by showing off his 42-inch vertical leap by throwing down windmill dunks.
"It's only going to get better," Matano said. "Once I gain a little weight and get a little stronger, it'll get better."
Stepping out: Senior Kila Kamakawiwo'ole has a new role that is actually a return to his natural spot.
Kamakawiwo'ole started at defensive end last season, but is playing outside linebacker this spring. He played the position while at Kaimuki High School and is relishing the idea of not having to engage an offensive tackle on every snap.
"That's the position I played in high school so it feels good," Kamakawiwo'ole said. "There's a lot more running and it gets me away from the O-line."
Kamakawiwo'ole played in 12 games as a junior and recorded 48 tackles, including three sacks.
Welcome back: After working his way back into good academic standing, cornerback A.J. Martinez is trying to work his way up the depth chart this spring.
Martinez, a heralded recruit out of Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) High School in 2002, rejoined the Warriors after sitting out last year to improve his grades.
Martinez redshirted as a freshman in 2003 and hasn't played a game for UH yet. But the sophomore is hoping to get his playing career back on track starting this spring.
"I'm definitely down on the bottom of the totem pole, but hopefully my hard work will pay off at the end of the spring," Martinez said.
"I'm very, very rusty right now. But hopefully as spring goes on and as we get into the summer, I'll be back to 100 percent again."
Short yardage: The Warriors have workouts scheduled for today through Thursday. The two-hour practices start at 7 a.m.