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UH’s Ursua, Collie fill all the slots on the field

Updated: 
August 2, 2017 - 12:05am

The intended destinations remain the same for Dylan Collie and John Ursua. Those would be the first-down marker and ultimately the end zone.

But the starting point could vary this season for the University of Hawaii receivers. Both operated exclusively out of the slot last year but they’ve been taking plenty of reps at the wideout spots since spring practice.

Marcus Kemp led the Rainbow Warriors with 73 catches, 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. But the 6-foot-4, 200-pound wideout completed his eligibility, finishing ninth on UH’s career receiving yardage list with 2,570.

Meanwhile, as a freshman Ursua caught 53 passes for 652 yards and three touchdowns. Collie, as a sophomore, latched on to 33 for 322 and four scores.

Those numbers might have been bigger, but at times they kept each other off the field. Unlike during the pure four-receiver spread era for UH, the hybrid offense of second-year head coach Nick Rolovich doesn’t always have two slot receivers in the lineup.

“Arguably, last year Dylan and John were our two best receivers,” said Craig Stutzmann, UH’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, who is a former Hawaii slot receiver himself. “When we run (offenses) without two slots we want to be able to have both of them on the field.”

Receivers coach Kefense Hynson echoed Stutzmann.

“I want to be able to play the best three guys,” he said. “I don’t want John Ursua or Dylan Collie not playing just because on paper they’re both slots.”

Early in preseason camp, Hynson said the depth chart is far from solidified. He used Isaiah Bernard and Ammon Barker as examples of other potential starters he doesn’t want pigeonholed as either inside or outside receivers.

Physically, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Barker and 6-1, 190 Bernard are closer to the prototype for the outside receiver. Ursua is listed at 5-10 and 165. Collie is the same height, but 175 pounds.

Some of the more notable receivers who have played outside and inside for UH in the past decade include Ryan Grice-Mullins, Greg Salas and Billy Ray Stutzmann.

Hynson expects all the receivers to have at least a basic understanding of the slot and outside positions.

“Usually the second or third week of practice we’ll have a day when we switch everybody up. It usually creates a little juice, but you don’t want to slow up practice with a bunch of mental mistakes.

“I don’t drill wideouts and slots differently,” he added. “Ideally I want all of them to know all the positions so they can do it in a game. If they are blessed to have a chance to play at the next level they’re going to have to be versatile.”

In the offseason, Collie and Ursua worked on strength and skill needed to handle the physical press coverage wideouts often get from cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage.

Collie — who always wanted a chance to play wideout, anyway — worked out over the summer to prepare for the new role with his brother Austin and Austin’s brother-in-law, Jordan Pendleton. Austin Collie is a former NFL receiver and Pendleton played outside linebacker at BYU.

Ursua has also embraced the challenge.

“There are so many reads you have to make off the defense,” he said. “So learning both is important, even if it’s just for your player’s IQ.”

Stutzmann said Collie and Ursua have been “excellent” so far performing from the outside.

“There’s a comfort level with having them both out there. As quarterbacks coach, I never want them off the field. I know (starting quarterback) Dru (Brown) wants them on the field,” Stutzmann said. “They make big play after big play. We’re lucky.”

The Rainbow Warriors have eight starters back on offense from the 2016 team that got UH’s first bowl win in 10 years. But they know some tinkering needs to be done to replace Kemp’s production.

“That’s the kind of thing we have to do to go from 7-7 to Mountain West champions,” Collie said.

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