Warrior hopes to hit fast Lane
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
The Hawai'i football team is receiving a boost from one of the nation's top kick returners.
And the Warriors' search began - and ended - with their own roster.
Last season, Malcolm Lane finished 10th nationally in kick returns, averaging 29.2 yards. He had two returns for touchdowns.
But he was not used on kick returns in the first three games this season. Lane, now the starting right wideout, was being saved for offense.
But with the Warriors' renewed belief that the first offensive play is the kick return, Lane has been reinstated as one of the kick returners. His roommate, Ryan Mouton, is the other returner.
Ikaika Malloe, who coordinates UH's special teams, said the return schemes were altered to fit Lane's running style.
"Malcolm is really a downhill runner," Malloe said. "For the type of scheme we're doing, he's one of the better ones for it because he takes a little weave step and then he hits it down."
With the revolving situation at quarterback and on the offensive line this season, the Warriors' passing attack has been out of sync. Last week, Lane played every offensive snap but did not catch a pass. Seven were thrown in his direction, but only one was considered to be catchable. Head coach Greg McMackin said adding kick-return duties gives Lane a chance to use his play-making skills.
"He's a very talented athlete," McMackin said. "His attitude is great. We haven't been able to get him the football. He's got to be more of a focus of our program because he's one of our weapons. He's a big guy (6 feet 1) who can run."
Lane said he welcomes the opportunity "to be more involved."
What's more, he said, "I can renew my competition - ha, ha - easily won by me."
It was a reference to the battle between Lane and Mouton for most kickoff returns for touchdowns. Mouton had one touchdown return last year, but noted that he had the higher return average (29.57 yards, fifth nationally).
"What competition?" Mouton said, laughing.
Malloe said: "We're really happy with Ryan, too. Ryan has a knack of knowing how to use his blockers. He's really good at that."
STARTING QB UNDECIDED
McMackin said he expects quarterbacks Tyler Graunke and Inoke Funaki to both play in tomorrow's Western Athletic Conference opener against San Jose State.
Which one will start, McMackin said, will be a "game-time" announcement.
Graunke appears to have made a strong recovery from an injury to his right (throwing) hand. He said the hand was hit several times during the Sept. 13 game against Oregon State.
The Warriors had a bye last week. Graunke resumed practicing the past Monday, gradually increasing his work each day. Yesterday, Graunke and Funaki split reps.
McMackin said he wants to keep San Jose State in suspense because Graunke and Funaki are "two different styles of quarterbacks." Adding to the mystery, McMackin closed practices to the public the past two days.
LB SOARES HURTS ANKLE
Any chance of linebacker Blaze Soares playing tomorrow was dashed when he suffered a sprained left ankle Wednesday.
Soares had not practiced since suffering a calf injury on the second day of training camp last month.
He was medically cleared to run this week. But Soares hurt his ankle while running. His left ankle was wrapped yesterday.
Even if he had not incurred this setback, McMackin said, "he wouldn't have played in this game. We're not going to put him out too soon. I'm taking advice from the trainers and the doctors. We're not going to do anything to hurry or hurt Blaze."
Soares was the No. 1 left outside linebacker. In his absence, Adam Leonard moved from the right side to the left, and Solomon Elimimian moved from the middle to the right.
Elimimian has been slowed because of soreness in his right quadriceps. But Elimimian is expected to start this week - at outside linebacker and the center on the kick-return unit.
McMackin said there are no plans for Soares to redshirt this season.
"I'm not even thinking about that," McMackin said.
McMackin added: "We want him (to play) when he's right. I'm not going to screw him up. He's got a future in this game. We have to get him ready."
LIBRE STILL HURTING
McMackin also said he is being cautious with running back Daniel Libre, who has a sprained right ankle. The injury is not in the same area as the high-ankle sprain he previously suffered.
Libre wore an ankle brace during yesterday's practice.
McMackin usually allows the players to have a vote in their availability. This time, McMackin is relying on the trainers and medical staff.
"Daniel would play with his leg cut off," McMackin said. "We have to play with the guys who are healthy, and let the other guys get good and healthy."
COUSINS COULD MEET
There might be an on-field family reunion tomorrow night. San Jose State left guard Isaac Leatiota and UH middle linebacker Brashton Satele are cousins.
They did not meet until last year, although Leatiota has followed another cousin, Samson Satele, a former UH center now with the Miami Dolphins.
"I always watch his games when he's on TV," Leatiota said.
Satele said he thinks Leatiota has a "little of the handsomeness of the Sateles."
NO PARKING AT FORD
Ford Island will be closed and not available for parking for tomorrow's game, Aloha Stadium manager Scott Chan announced.
He said it is not economically feasible to use it as an alternative parking site unless large attendance warrants it.
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