Hawaii’s football version of the X Games has become an intriguing competition.
The coaches face difficult decisions as Rodney Bradley, Joe Avery and Darius Bright continue to play well at the left wideout’s position known as the "X."
Bradley’s full recovery from leg surgery could impact Bright, who has an unspent redshirt season.
"There are all kinds of possibilities," Warriors coach Greg McMackin said. "We have a lot more work to do in training camp. We have a lot of personnel decisions to make. The No. 1 thing is to win, and to find the players who give us the best chance to win."
If healthy, McMackin said, Bradley is easily the top left wideout. Before suffering fractures to his fibula and tibia in his left leg in the sixth game of 2009, Bradley had 31 receptions for 575 yards and five touchdowns. More important, his yards-after-catch (YAC) average was 11.96.
"If he’s healthy, he’s outstanding," McMackin said. "And right now, he’s healthy."
Bradley declared himself physically fit while training with his cousin, former New England Patriots receiver Bethel Johnson, this summer in Red Oak, Texas.
"I was working on my routes, and when I came out of a break, I didn’t feel any pain." Bradley said. "I kept working on my routes."
The final test came as he prepared to return from Dallas, where he spent part of the summer. As he walked through security, there was the sound of silence.
"It didn’t go off," Bradley said of the metal detector. He has a metal rod in his left leg.
The coaches had hoped to ease Bradley into drills in training camp. But after the first few workouts, it was apparent, offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said, that "Rodney was back."
That leaves the Warriors with a nice dilemma involving the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Bright, who transferred from City College of San Franciso in January.
During spring drills, when Bright appeared to be a one-play receiver — fade routes — redshirting was a favorable option. But Bright reported to training camp in better shape — he credited a strict running and weight-lifting program — and a better grasp of the four-wide offense.
Bright made the slight adjustments, such as learning to start off with his right foot in front instead of behind. He also learned to make better decisions on his routes based on the defensive coverage.
"Execution is the key," Bright said. "It’s not about how fast you run a route, it’s about how you execute it."
With his work on special teams — he is on four units — it is becoming increasingly difficult to put him on the shelf for a year.
"On special teams, Darius is really tearing it up," McMackin said. "He’s a talented guy, and he’s working really hard."
Further complicating the situation is the improvement of Avery, a fourth-year junior. Avery has always had the build (6-feet-5) and speed (sub-4.5 seconds over 40 yards) for wideout, but he lacked consistency in pass-catching. Avery works out daily with the JUGS machine.
"No matter how fast you are or what routes you run, you have to end up catching the ball," Avery said. "The biggest priority every day is catching the ball."
With the depth at left wideout, one option would be to move Bright to right wideout. But Rolovich said, for now, Royce Pollard and Billy Ray Stutzmann are better suited for that spot.
A more practical option will be to rotate receivers. Rolovich said there is a plan in which the starters would play 75 percent of the snaps.
"We’re looking at a lot of things," Rolvich said.