Colt to regain reins of UH Warrior offense
|Photo gallery: UH football practice|
|Video: Coach Jones talks about Brennan’s status|
|Video: UH linebacker Adam Leonard talks touchdowns|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Hawai'i quarterback Colt Brennan has declared himself physically fit to play in Saturday's Western Athletic Conference road game against Idaho.
Cornerback/kick returner Ryan Mouton, who has a sore left knee, said he expects to play.
Left wideout Jason Rivers is questionable because of lower-back tightness.
And freshman safety Le'Marcus Gibson is out for the season because of a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Because of a sprained right ankle, Brennan did not play in Saturday's 66-10 rout of Charles- ton Southern. Brennan attended yesterday's conditioning drills, wearing soft slip-on shoes. Although he did not run sprints, he showed off his healing right ankle to reporters. There was slight swelling, but no bruises.
Asked about the ankle, Brennan grabbed a reporter's tape recorder and said: "It's good. It's great. It's terrific. It's absolutely awesome."
Brennan said he will resume practicing today.
"I'm set to go," Brennan said. "I think it's a little swollen from Saturday, because I got it ready to play. I went out there and warmed up. I paced up and down the sideline for the first half. But I'll be ready to practice by (today), and I'll definitely be ready to play by Saturday."
Mouton, who underwent an MRI yesterday morning, was optimistic about his chances of playing. The MRI was performed to eliminate the possibility of a strained medial meniscus.
"I'm cool," Mouton said. "I'll be all right."
Against CSU, Mouton scored on a 90-yard kickoff return. Serving as a gunner on kick coverage, Mouton took on two blockers, freeing teammate Ryan Keomaka to make the tackle. Mouton also played cornerback.
"He's a player," defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said of Mouton, who transferred from Blinn College in Texas. "We knew that from the beginning. He had to get his reps. He's a legit player."
During a combine at Blinn, Mouton said, he ran 40 yards in 4.28 seconds.
"All of the scouts came out to watch," Mouton said.
The coaches have told Mouton to harness his speed. Too often on kick returns, he is running upfield before the wedge of blockers can be formed.
"Sometimes I have to slow down and be patient and pick up a couple of blockers," Mouton said.
Rivers, meanwhile, hopes to make a speedy recover from lower-back tightness.
"I never had anything like this before," Rivers said.
Rivers did not practice in the week leading to the CSU game. He did not start, but played in the first half, catching three passes for 46 yards. He lost a fumble. He did not play in the second half.
"I wanted to play," Rivers said. "During warmups, I was running fine. In the first quarter I was fine. As it dragged on, my back got stiff.
"It's fine now," Rivers added. "Once I start running around, it tightens up."
Jones said: "He's not well. I feel bad for him. ... I probably should have held him out."
Jones said the Warriors will prepare as if Rivers won't play this week.
But Rivers is hopeful that some training of the core — abdominal muscles and back — will enable him to play.
"Hopefully I can heal up this week, and be at least 95 to 100 percent," Rivers said. "I want to get some practices in."
Gibson, a freshman from Mississippi, is prepared to undergo surgery to repair the partially torn ACL in his left knee.
He will seek a medical hardship. If granted, as expected, he will have four years to play four seasons.
"I'll still be a freshman next year," Gibson said.
Gibson said he suffered the injury while practicing in Houston two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, linebacker Blaze Soares is expected to play this week.
In training camp, Soares was named the starting strongside linebacker. But he has not played a down because of a hamstring injury and shoulder stinger.
Soares resumed practicing last week, but was not activated for the game. Linebacker Brad Kalilimoku started his fourth consecutive game.
"We felt we were prepared for this game, and why take a chance on getting him injured?" McMackin said. "He was ready to go last week, but what was the point? We want to make sure he gets his reps. He'll be ready to go this week."
DOME SWEET DOME
Brennan said he looks forward to returning to Moscow, Idaho, site of his first UH win — 20-0 over the Vandals in 2005.
Brennan remembers the Kibbie Dome having an "intimate but loud crowd. I'm excited to go back."
IT'S A BOY FOR LEONARD
Defensive tackle Josh Leonard and Christa Sariaba welcomed their first child, Blayne Richard Leonard.
Sariaba went into labor at 8:30 Sunday morning. The couple's son was born at 1:38 p.m. yesterday.
Blayne is 21 inches, and weighs 8 pounds, 12 ounces.
"I can't explain the feeling," said Leonard, who had a successful debut as Lamaze coach. "It was great."
The UH coaches selected right tackle Keoni Steinhoff, linebacker Adam Leonard and Mouton as the Warriors of the week. Each will receive special helmet decals.
"I didn't expect anything," said Steinhoff, a junior from Damien Memorial High School. "I don't expect O-linemen to get awards."
The Warriors did not allow a sack in 41 pass attempts. Quarterback Tyler Graunke was touched only three times — all after releasing passes.
"It was a good feeling knowing I did well and helped out the offense," Steinhoff said.
Steinhoff, who was placed on scholarship last month, said that "after a few games, rough times, I'm feeling really comfortable. I just have to correct a few things."
KEOMAKA MAKES GRADE
It didn't seem possible three weeks ago, but cornerback Ryan Keomaka is now competing for a berth on the Warriors' 64-player travel roster.
At the end of spring training, Keomaka was regarded as a No. 1 cornerback.
But Keomaka missed all of preseason training, and by the time he rejoined the team, he had fallen off the depth chart.
"He just had that deal to take care of," McMackin said.
The "deal" was Keomaka needed to earn a C in sociology of religion class. He received an extension to finish an assignment.
Keomaka turned in the work. But his professor, who was visiting from New York, returned to the Mainland. After the professor finished a week-long vacation, he sent an e-mail in which he gave a C to Keomaka.
But the professor failed to enter the revised grade in UH's computer system.
"He sent me e-mails telling me everything was good," Keomaka said.
Finally, the grade was entered. After the athletic department confirmed the grade, Keomaka was allowed to rejoin the team.
"He had a setback because he wasn't able to go to camp," McMackin said.
But Keomaka started to impress the coaches, first with his work on special teams, then as a speedy cornerback.
"He's doing a lot of good things," McMackin said. "He gives us more depth, which is good."
Keomaka said: "I'm working my way up the ladder. I missed a whole camp. It was my fault. I didn't take care of business when I should have. Little by little, I'm coming back. Once I get my opportunity, I'm going to make the most of it."
Keomaka has kept active by starting a reward system for defensive backs on the scout team. He bought small gold stars. Keomaka and cornerback A.J. Martinez created a point system for good plays in practice. Each point is worth a gold star, which is placed on the practice helmets.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.