KEAAU, Hawaii »If possession is nine-tenths of the law, the Hawaii football team is holding claim to its best possession receiver.
Two weeks after spending three months as the UH basketball team’s point guard, Miah Ostrowski has made an easy readjustment as the football Warriors’ No. 1 right slotback.
In yesterday’s scrimmage on the Kamehameha-Hawaii campus, Ostrowski caught two passes for 53 yards, including a 44-yarder for the event’s only touchdown.
"Tell Gib (Arnold, the basketball team’s head coach), ‘We’re not giving him back,’ " offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich mused.
Reminded that the basketball team will be touring Asia this summer, Rolovich said: "No passport. I have (Ostrowski’s) passport in my office."
Not wanting to take part in the playful exchange, head football coach Greg McMackin said: "Miah is a real good player, and he’ll play both sports. I want Miah to be happy. I have a lot of respect for him."
Ostrowski, who will be a junior in the fall, has not slowed down since returning to the Warriors. That was evident in the scoring play.
Backup quarterback Shane Austin and left wideout Darius Bright collaborated on a 28-yard, catch-and-dash play to advance the ball to the 44. David Graves then was summoned to replace Austin.
Ostrowski was instructed to run a "91 streak," a route with three options: stop after 10 yards, find a seam or run a post route. Ostrowski chose the third option, which Graves quickly recognized.
"I read his head and shoulder movements," Graves said. "I knew exactly what he was going to do based on his body language. We have a great connection from when we were on the scout team together."
Ostrowski said he has run the route hundreds of times in his three-year apprenticeship.
"It’s a read, and I took the post," Ostrowski said. "I had one-on-one with the safety, I set him to the corner, and I ran the post. That’s from working with David Graves all of the time. We’re on the same page."
Rolovich said: "That’s what we want to see."
Indeed, yesterday’s day trip to the Big Island was intended as a spread-the-aloha gesture for the state’s only Division I athletic program. Hawaiian Airlines picked up most of the travel cost, leaving ground transportation — priced at under $1,000 — as the Warriors’ only expense, athletic director Jim Donovan said. He said UH would have paid just as much if the event were held at Aloha Stadium.
The event also served as the most game-like conditions of spring training for the Warriors. Although the quarterbacks were off-limits, as always, tackling and hits were allowed — and encouraged.
"It was competitive," Rolovich said, "and the receivers and running backs held onto the ball."
Before about 1,500 fans on an overcast day, the Warriors addressed several areas. Austin already has established himself as the top understudy to starting quarterback Bryant Moniz. But Graves played well, completing six of seven passes for 111 yards. Best of all, Graves stayed put.
"Last spring, I was a little immature with the offense, and I’d run out (of the pocket) and use my legs a little bit," Graves said. "This spring, I’m staying in the pocket, going through my progressions, getting the ball out of my hands and to the receivers."
Ostrowski and Billy Ray Stutzmann have emerged as the successors to last year’s starting slotbacks, Kealoha Pilares and Greg Salas. Justin Clapp, Corey Paclebar and Donny King are grouped as the No. 2 slotbacks; the competition heats up again this summer when Promise Amadi joins the mix.
While Bright has claimed the left wideout job, Allen Sampson has played well there. Sampson, who moved from slotback, caught two passes for 54 yards yesterday.
The offensive line also is taking shape, with the biggest competition at right tackle. Levi Legay and Sean Shigematsu split the reps yesterday.
"There were a lot of good things out there," McMackin said. "The offense did some good things, and the defense did some good things. There were big plays on both sides."
Last season, the Warriors often struggled against hurry-up offenses. This year, they implemented a flexible defensive scheme utilizing the "elephant" — a position that earned its name because the first two letters stand for end and linebacker. The scheme calls for two defensive tackles, a defensive end and the elephant, a stand-up pass rusher playing on the line of scrimmage in a 4-3 front or in coverage in a 3-4.
"Instead of subbing, we want to go from four-man fronts to three-man fronts on the move," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "That way we don’t have to sub, and teams can’t no-huddle us. We have our people already on the field."
Darryl McBride, who is a converted safety; Art Laurel and T.J. Taiamatuia rotate as the elephant. McBride is 206 pounds; Laurel and Taiamatuia are each about 235 pounds.
"There are certain down-and-distances where Darryl is the guy, and certain situations where we want a bigger player like Art or T.J.," Aranda said.
Yesterday, McBride had three sacks and a body-slam of Clapp on a screen play.
"He’s playing fast, and he’s making plays," Aranda said of McBride.
In previous practices, McBride was given the yellow light.
Yesterday, McBride said, "They said we could hit. Why slow down? I wanted to drill them."
That attitude was widespread. Midway through the 51-play scrimmage, the offense drove to the 15.
"This is where you either put up or shut up as a defense," Aranda said. "You do all of that talking when you’re on the (offense’s) 20, but what are you made of here?"
Three plays later — a 3-yard pass, a no-gain rush and an incompletion — the offense was forced to go for the field goal.
"We made a stand," Aranda said. "The scrimmage was for situations like that. We learned a lot. I’m proud of them."