POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 31, 2011
To glimpse wide receiver Darius Bright go up and over frustrated defensive backs to make catches and then bolt down the sideline this spring is to appreciate the luxury he was for the University of Hawaii football team last season.
In the 13 years of the run-and-shoot offense at UH, there have been, maybe, just two seasons where the Warriors could reasonably keep someone with Bright’s 6-foot, 3-inch height, 230 pounds, speed, hands and considerable potential on the shelf as a redshirt.
And last year, blessed with a starting lineup of Greg Salas, Kealoha Pilares, Rodney Bradley and Royce Pollard, was one of them.
But as the Warriors prepare for the challenge of 2011, Bright has moved from the luxury category to more of a necessity as he sheds the status of a redshirt.
How UH fares in its last go-around in the Western Athletic Conference will hinge on some key areas, among them the restocking of the starting receivers ranks.
Gone are Salas, Pilares and Bradley, three of the top four pass catchers on what was the nation’s most accomplished passing team.
With Pollard returning at wide receiver on the right side, Bright's emergence on the left would give the Warriors the kind of explosive, double-barreled outside threat they haven’t enjoyed for a while.
“He gives us a big target, which is something we can use,” quarterback Bryant Moniz attests. “And, he is a lot further along in the playbook now.”
That possibility was part of the thinking last year when the Warriors debated whether Bright — a junior college transfer with three seasons in which to exhaust two years of eligibility — should be employed immediately as a backup or saved with a redshirt season.
The issue wasn’t whether he could make a contribution, but if, playing behind the more attuned Bradley and Pollard, it would pale in comparison to what he might be able to deliver a season hence.
It was a decision the Warriors held open until after the season began, taking Bright to the Army and Colorado road games while they observed whether Bradley was sufficiently recovered from fractures of his left leg to hold down the left outside position.
To be sure, the uncertainty made for some early frustrations as Bright pawed the ground around the bench.
“If you saw me on the sidelines, especially in that Southern California game, I was going crazy,” Bright said. “I just wanted to get in that game so badly.”
But with the passage of time, Bright came to grasp and even embrace the wisdom of the strategy. Not to mention understanding the paucity of passes that might have come his way.
“The more I thought about it, there was a lot of upside for me redshirting,” Bright acknowledges. “"Not only for working on my grades, but to better understanding the offenses and improving my techniques.”
This season, opportunity finally knocks loudly for Bright, whose patience gives way to a pledge of readiness.
“I’m gonna be ready to go — and go hard,” Bright vowed. “I know what Rolo (offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich) and the team expect from me. I know what I expect, too.”
No longer, he understands, is his absence from the lineup a luxury these Warriors can afford.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.