SUMMERLIN, Nev. » In a symbolic fast start, speedy freshman Allen Sampson has been named Hawaii’s starting kick returner for tomorrow’s road game against Colorado.
"He’s a true freshman, but we need to play our best players, and he’s certainly one of them," said Chris Tormey, who coordinates the Warriors’ special teams.
Sampson and right wideout Royce Pollard shared kick-return duties in the first two games, each returning three.
With Pollard’s expanded role as a receiver, and Sampson’s production as returner (24.7-yard average), "it makes sense to have (Sampson) return kicks," Tormey said.
Sampson said: "They wanted to give me the opportunity, and I’ve been working hard at it."
In UH’s return scheme, middle linebacker Jake "Animal" Heun is aligned about 10 yards in front of Sampson.
"He tells me to run behind him, and I run behind him," Sampson said of Heun. "He’s crazy. He’ll kill anybody. I know when I get behind him, we’ll have a big play."
Heun said: "He’s really good about reading the blocks. The kid can freakin’ go. He’s fast."
As a member of Plant (Fla.) High’s team, Sampson was timed running 40 yards in 4.39 seconds.
While his speed earned him a scholarship, his best assets might be his eyes and heart.
"He has really good vision," Tormey said. "He makes those blockers look good If they can just get on someone, stick on someone, he’ll make a play. With his speed, quickness and vision, he can see what he needs to do, and he can do something about it."
Assistant coach Mouse Davis said: "He loves to play. He’s one of those kids who loves the game. He’s going to be a good punt returner, too, once he catches the ball better."
Sampson, who is 5 feet 8 and about 150 pounds, said he devoted the summer to working on improving his lower-body strength. His workouts included running up and down hills, and leg presses.
Sampson is humble and polite, addressing coaches as "Sir." But he has stood out because of his unique hairstyle. He kept the Mohawk he wore for Plant’s championship game. At Hawaii, he bleached the mohawk.
He also has undergone a nickname makeover. Known as "Turbo" since he was 2, that changed during the summer conditioning program. Wideout Darius Bright called him "Rabbit."
"I was thinking, ‘Rabbit?’" he recalled. "Then Coach (Greg McMackin) called me that one day, so I guess that’s my nickname."
During practices, the scout team tries to give the starters different looks — and none was more unique than defensive tackle Haku Correa playing safety during a drill yesterday at Palo Verde Football Field.
The scouts "needed help, and I helped out," Correa said.
With the travel roster limited to 66 players — 63 percent of the full roster — players take turns on the scout team that portrays the Warriors’ upcoming opponent.
"There are only a certain amount of us who can go on road trips," Correa said. "We try to give everybody rest and help each other out."
Slotback Dustin Blount practiced as a running back. Running back Hogan Rosehill worked out at tight end.
"I do what I have to do to help my team," Rosehill said.
To help simulate Colorado’s offense, the Warriors needed a second tight end. Miah Ostrowski volunteered.
He caught two scoring passes, drawing roars of approval from teammates.
Ostrowski is 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds.
"It’s fun to volunteer," Ostrowski said.
McMackin said he appreciated the contributions.
"It’s a we-are-one philosophy," McMackin said. "They want to win, and they find roles to help us to win. I have a lot of respect for this particular group. They have no egos. They look out for each other."
The Warriors, who have trained in Nevada this week, depart for Boulder, Colo., today. where they will have a walk-through at the Buffaloes’ stadium.