Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Warriors seem to have settled on receiving corps

By Stephen Tsai


At the halfway point — yesterday's eighth of 15 spring football practices — Hawaii's offense took shape.

Entering the final two weeks of spring training, the Warriors' No. 1 receivers are left wideout Darius Bright, left slotback Billy Ray Stutzmann, right slotback Miah Ostrowski and right wideout Royce Pollard. Pollard is the only returning full-time starter. Stutzmann started two games last year, at left wideout.

"We felt putting the best four together right now was our goal," offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said.

The Warriors were in full pads for yesterday's 2-hour practice on the grass field. During a scrimmage-like period between the top defense and top offense, the 6-foot-4 Bright made two leaping catches over 5-11 cornerback John Hardy-Tuliau in the end zone.

"It's definitely good competition to go against him," said Hardy-Tuliau, who has emerged as one of the Warriors' best defensive backs. "He's a big, physical receiver. You have to play up to his standards."

Both plays were corner routes. Bright said he received tips from student-assistant Ashley Lelie, a former Warrior receiver who was the Denver Broncos' first-round draft choice in 2002.

"He told me to do a little stutter, then jab, and go," Bright said. After that, "it's up to me to make the play. I tell them to put it up there and I'll go get it."

Bright, who is 232 pounds, has a 36-inch vertical jump. In meetings on and off the field, Bright has bonded with UH quarterback Bryant Moniz, and has adjusted to the wideout position known as X.

Of the alley-oop pass to Bright on the corner route, Moniz said, "There's not much (a defender) can do. From a defensive standpoint, it has to be timed perfectly to break up the pass. Otherwise, it's hard to defend."

Rolovich said: "X gets the square. One of Mo's things is getting comfortable with Darius. Darius is bigger than a receiver like (former Warrior) C.J. Hawthorne, who's going to go by and you're going to have to hit him in stride because he's a little shorter. Darius is more, 'throw it up there and give me a chance.' They're working it out."

Rolovich praised Stutzmann's "understanding" of the four-wide offense. Stutzmann is adjusting to playing in tandem with other receivers; at wideout, he was bracketed next to a sideline.

"It's a comfort-level thing he's working out," Rolovich said.

Ostrowski completed his first week back after spending three months on the UH basketball team. Rolovich said he hopes Ostrowski's point-guard leadership translates to football.

"It's a different door for Miah," Rolovich said. "Now it's time for his personality to be injected into the offense. What we saw on the basketball court, we're encouraging him to bring that to the field."

Sterling Jackson, who redshirted in 2010, remains as the No. 1 running back. Jackson has both speed (10.7 seconds over 100 meters) and strength.

"He's just a tough runner," Rolovich said. "He's very physical when he runs."

Running back Hogan Rosehill, who had surgery for a torn ACL last year, resumed practicing this past Monday. But yesterday he suffered a "stinger" to his left shoulder. He was wearing a sling.

"It's a precaution," Rosehill said.

The No. 1 offensive line also has remained intact: left tackle Clayton Laurel, left guard Brett Leonard, center Matagisili Lefiti, right guard Chauncy Winchester-Makainai and right tackle Levi Legay. But during team drills, freshman Sean Shigematsu took half the reps at right tackle with the first-team offense.

Offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said right guard David Lefotu and left tackle Jordan Loeffler will get to practice with the No. 1 unit this coming week. Loeffler missed the past two practices because of "knee issues" but is expected to be cleared to work out tomorrow.

"We're giving them some opportunities to compete with the ones," Shaw said, adding there are up to 13 linemen who are in the mix for playing time.

Rolovich said David Graves and Cayman Shutter will continue to receive extended work at quarterback. But neither has replaced Shane Austin as the primary backup to Moniz.

"Shane understands the offense," Rolovich said. "He's gotten a lot of reps the past few years. It's not over, but I wouldn't say the young guys have unseated Shane."

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