All of the questions about the University of Hawaii football team were not expected to be answered in yesterday’s first practice of training camp.
And they were not—even when a scheduled 2-hour practice went into a 45-minute overtime. (Players who did not complete the offseason conditioning program were required to run 50-yard sprints.)
But what was evident was quarterback Bryant Moniz is back to the form that helped him start eight games in 2009; left wideout Rodney Bradley’s surgically repaired left leg is healed; the "noose" has returned, and assistant coach Mouse Davis will work well with offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich.
"Absolutely," said Davis, who is architect of the run-and-shoot offense that is genetically linked to the Warriors’ four-wide offense. Davis was brought in to serve as a mentor to Nick Rolovich, who was promoted to offensive coordinator.
"That’s not our deal," Davis said.
Possessive about the offense he created?
"Hell, no," Davis said. "I told him I want him to take (the offense) and try to make it better. This is Rolo’s offense. I’m not looking to improve my friggin’ resume. I’m looking to improve his resume."
The first step was to go back to basics. Davis, who is coaching the receivers, made sure that pass routes were run as scripted.The Warriors worked on passing drills for more than an hour.
"He wants things done a specific way," left slotback Greg Salas said of Davis. "He wants everyone on their landmarks. He wants everything done the right way."
Davis implored each receiver to use the "noose" technique, in which the thumbs and index fingers touch, creating a circle. That technique makes it easier for a receiver to catch passes only with his hands.
"We’re bringing back the noose," said Salas, who was scolded for making a leaping one-handed catch. "Why did God give you the other hand?" Davis yelled.
UH head coach Greg McMackin had said the top four quarterbacks—Moniz, Shane Austin, Brent Rausch and David Graves—would receive equal work during passing drills for at least the first week. The top two quarterbacks will receive the bulk of the snaps in practices leading to the Sept. 2 opener against Southern California.
The attention was on Moniz, who went on personal leave for the final three weeks of spring training in April. Moniz declined to discuss specifics, saying, "It was something I had to take care of. Everything is all good now."
Before rejoining the Warriors for the offseason conditioning program, Moniz apologized to teammates. As for winning back the trust of teammates, Moniz said, "That’s a daily job. Since I missed three weeks (of spring training), I have some catching up to do."
Moniz threw well, and reported that his right (passing) arm was strong. Moniz was suffering from arm fatigue last season, leading to a restriction on his number of throws during practices.
Moniz said he spent the past two months working with a personal trainer.
"I did a lot of work on small muscles, shoulder muscles," he said.
Bradley, who missed the final seven games after he suffered two fractures in his left leg, ran full speed in passing drills yesterday. He was not used in the final 11-on-11 drill because of a sore right foot.
"I think I was going too hard because I was anxious," said Bradley, who indicated the sore foot will not keep him from practicing today. "I’ll be ready."
Right tackle Laupepa Letuli, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, also said he is physically fit. He missed the final 10 games of 2009 after injuring his left knee in a weight-room accident.
"I was doing a workout I shouldn’t have been doing, and I kind of tore (a knee ligament)," Letuli said. "I guess you could say it was my fault. It affected my team. I’m good now."
With the depth chart written in pencil, there still are positions to be awarded. Rausch, a fifth-year senior, is hoping to win the starting quarterback’s job that is supposed to be open. He did not take a snap last year after suffering a broken pinkie.
"My arm feels good, my hand feels good, it’s the same offense," Rausch said. "Hopefully, I can get some reps."
The angst of his first two UH seasons has passed, he said, noting, "What do you have to lose? That’s pretty much where I’m at. There’s a lot less stress actually. It’s cool."
Running back Sterling Jackson also is seeking an opportunity. He received recognition as a junior college All-American in 2009, but now is a nonscholarship player 4,500 miles away from his home in Georgia.
"We thank God for the opportunity," said his father, Steve Jackson, who is visiting. "We trust Sterling will work hard and make the opportunity work for him."