LAS VEGAS » In a surprise move, quarterback David Graves has been summoned as the injury replacement for University of Hawaii strong safety Spencer Smith.
Graves is scheduled to arrive today in Las Vegas, where the Warriors are training through Friday in preparation for Saturday’s football game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo. Graves will practice as a safety.
"Any way I can go out and help the team, I’ll do it," said Graves, who was a receiver and defensive back through his junior year of high school.
Smith is expected to miss between six and eight weeks of games after suffering a fractured right forearm when he fell awkwardly during Saturday’s 31-28 road victory over Army in West Point, N.Y.
Smith returned to Ho-nolulu, where he is expected to undergo surgery this week.
"It hurts your heart to see a guy who’s worked this hard, to get to this point, get hurt," UH head coach Greg McMackin said. "Spencer is a great motivator on our team. He’s a leader. He’s a great hitter."
At the team banquet in December, Smith was named the Warriors’ top defensive player for 2009.
"That’s just a big loss for us," McMackin said.
McMackin said the "logical" successor would be nickel back Richard Torres, who was listed as Smith’s primary backup on the depth chart announced last week.
Torres started at free safety in a special defensive scheme designed to slow Army’s triple-option offense. But Torres also is valuable as a nickel back. For about half of their defensive situations, the Warriors employ schemes involving five defensive backs.
After a coaches’ meeting late Saturday, it was decided to give an opportunity to Graves.
"He’s an athlete," McMackin said of Graves, a second-year freshman from Folsom, Calif.
Bryant Moniz, Shane Austin, Brent Rausch and Graves form the "top tier" of UH quarterbacks. But in team drills, Graves gets mostly "mental reps."
"Why not get him on the field?" McMackin said. "We can get him on special teams."
Smith was a member of several special-teams units.
Graves said he received a call from McMackin early yesterday.
"He told me, ‘We want you to play safety,’" Graves recalled. "I said, ‘OK, whatever you need me to do.’ … Football is a beautiful game. Any opportunity to play some football, I’ll do it."
Graves said he is not concerned about the risk of injury.
"If you get hurt, it happens," he said.
As a safety, Graves said, he can offer the perspectives of both a defensive back and quarterback.
"Whatever I can do, I’ll do to the best of my ability," he said.
Graves said he will seek advice from associate head coach Rich Miano, who coordinates the defensive secondary. He also will use tips from his father, who played at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
McMackin said the move is not permanent.
"He’s a quarterback," McMackin said. "I told him we brought him in to be a quarterback. He’s on the verge right now. He has time. He’s only a freshman."