POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 14, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:51 a.m. HST, Apr 14, 2011
One of the bright spots of Hawaii football spring training has been receiver Allen Sampson — almost as bright as his fluorescent green cleats.
Sampson said he had difficulty finding comfortably fitting football shoes.
"I had to get soccer cleats," Sampson said of the shoes that appear to have been created with a green highlighter.
"They have long enough spikes so I can grip the ground. They just happen to look good, too."
Sampson also sports a self-cut Mohawk. His friend applies pink or copper dye.
"When I left Tampa, I wanted to switch it up a bit," Sampson said. "Everybody does it here."
From Mohawk to green cleats, Sampson is generously listed at 5 feet, 6 inches. What makes him stand out is his emergence as a big-play wideout.
"He's having a great spring," offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said.
Sampson enrolled at UH last June as a highly regarded receiver/returner from Tampa's nationally ranked Plant High. Last season, he appeared in 13 games, mostly on special teams, and caught one pass when being used as a slotback.
"I didn't play like I should have been playing because I was trying to learn the offense," Sampson said.
This spring, it was decided to give him some work as a wideout. He has responded so well — he made two catches for 54 yards in the Hilo scrimmage Saturday — the move will be permanent.
Sampson is listed as the No. 2 left wideout behind Darius Bright.
"I like it outside," Sampson said. "There's more space. (As a slotback) in high school, they didn't jam as much. In college ball, they try to jam you.
"I'm small, so a lot of times they knocked me off my route. But as far as outside, there's a lot more space."
Sampson, who weighed 145 pounds during the 2010 season, said he hopes to add 15 to 20 pounds this offseason.
"I'm going to work on getting stronger and using my hands better so I can get off the jam," he said.
With Alema Tachibana moving to defensive end and Corey Paredes, UH's leading tackler in 2010, recovering from shoulder surgery, the Warriors were set to enter spring training with six linebackers.
It was then decided to finalize Jordan Monico's move from running back to middle linebacker.
Monico was born to hit. His father, after all, is former UH baseball standout Mario Monico. What's more, Monico made 26 tackles — all on special teams — last year.
"He's a natural bright guy," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "He's got some good football sense to him, and his instincts are suited for defense, especially linebacker. He has that sense for the football."
Aranda has worked on helping Monico "take command of the middle of the field."
"We challenged him, and he is getting progressively better," Aranda said.
For now, Monico is the No. 2 middle linebacker, behind George Daily-Lyles.
In training camp, Paredes and Daily-Lyles will rotate in the middle. Paredes also will play on the weak side.
"It's a pretty big jump," said Monico, who was a quarterback at Moanalua High. "I'm learning. I'm trying to get the coverages and the keys."