POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 14, 2010
SUMMERLIN, NEVADA » Ask any blackjack or poker player here. It's all about position.
Same with football -- especially at the college level.
When a college player gets injured, you can't pull someone off the waiver wire or make a trade with another team. But you do have more than 100 players. If you're really deep at one spot, a fourth-stringer there might help you more at another.
Three days ago David Graves was a reserve quarterback watching on TV in Honolulu as his Hawaii teammates beat Army at West Point.
An injury to starting safety Spencer Smith, a call from head coach Greg McMackin and a red-eye flight to Las Vegas later, and Graves is now a defensive back.
Don't expect the 6-foot, 202-pound second-year freshman to jump right into the mix in the secondary when Hawaii plays at Colorado on Saturday. But he could play on some special teams.
He arrived in time to join the team in its weightlifting workout yesterday. "I met briefly with Coach (Rich) Miano and Coach (Chris) Tormey (who coach the UH secondary) this morning at breakfast. They said, 'We're gonna make an athlete out of you.' "
RICHARD TORRES -- the starting nickel back who will likely play more with Smith's injury -- said Graves has the makings of an excellent safety.
"For him, the switch should be natural. We know David's a tough guy from spring (practice), when he was running up and down the field against us. He's athletic and strong.
"Quarterbacks make good safeties because they know what the quarterback is thinking," added Torres, who led Kahuku High to a state championship as starting QB. "The only thing he'll need to learn is the footwork."
Graves said he's ready to change from the orange practice jersey to the green.
"I played defense from the time of 8 years old through junior year of high school," he said. "Safety, corner and linebacker in high school. I feel like physically my speed is there. I have to learn when to anticipate, knowing when to hit a spot to make a play. I know how I play with the safeties to get them to do what I want them to do."
YOU MIGHT remember some of these position moves UH has made in recent years.
Ray Hisatake shifted from defensive to offensive line, and it got him into an NFL camp. Wayne Hunter did the same thing nearly 10 years ago, and he's still with the New York Jets.
Inoke Funaki went from quarterback to running back last year.
West Keli'ikipi and Reagan Mauia became fan favorites after they were switched from defensive line to running back. Mauia even got drafted at his new position.
Chad Kapanui and Matt Manuma came out of high school the same year as Tim Chang. After a few days of their first fall camp, Kapanui and Manuma were at different positions. Kapanui moved around a lot on both sides of the ball, never really finding a permanent home. Manuma was mostly a reserve safety.
GRAVES IS the kind of guy who is excited for a chance to get onto the playing field any way he can. But you can tell there's a part of him hoping he'll return to quarterback eventually, as McMackin says will happen.
Graves should keep in mind the football career path of Blane Gaison. He was a quarterback who moved to safety when UH needed him there -- and then back to quarterback as a senior. His versatility, leadership and clutch play made him one of the most legendary players in the program's history.
And moving around didn't hurt his professional opportunities; he played five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
As a safety.