HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last year Marcus Kemp was a favorite target for quarterback, Dru Brown. The six-foot-four senior racked up more than 1,000 receiving yards en route to becoming the team's MVP in 2016. But now Kemp is graduated and turning heads at camp with the Kansas City Chiefs, while the 'Bows receiving corps is using this preseason to find a way to fill the void he left behind.
"That's a tough replacement due to the fact that he brings such a long ball threat," said sophomore receiver, John Ursua, who's emerged as one of Hawaii's top receivers in fall camp. "I think with the weapons that we brought in, as well as what we got coming back.. we can play off of that."
"I think the nice thing is there's a lot of different weapons with that group and guys that do different things well," added offensive coordinator, Brian Smith.
Hawaii returns a number of receivers who have shown the ability to be play makers both last season and in fall camp. In addition to Ursua, U.H. brings back junior, Dylan Collie. But, with both listed at five-feet 10-inches they lack the length that Kemp brought as a wide out. However, Ursua says the Rainbow Warriors have made adjustments accordingly.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be us running deep routes," said Ursua. "It has to be slants... little out routes and make plays off of that."
Smith, Ursua and Collie are just the receivers to execute that style of play.
"When you're talking our complete receivers, Dylan's going to jump out to you. I think John Ursua is a tremendous play maker with a ball in his hands. He can stretch the field vertically."
But, Smith has been clear, he's not going to abandon the deep ball either. U.H. has a number of targets they can turn to in those situations as well.
"Guys on the outside that have been doing well are Marcus Armstrong-Brown," said Smith of Hawaii's promising JUCO transfer. "I think Ammon [Barker] is a big solid target. We're starting to split-out Tui ['Unga] more and give him some opportunities away from the line of scrimmage. He's showed some good things doing that."
Smith says that if there's one positive to losing Kemp, it's that this year there's no crutch for Brown, who at times he says may have forced passes to Kemp. Additionally, he says the corps he has this year brings both versatility and experience to the offense.
"That group is really diverse," said Smith. "Being able to move those guys around and put them in different spots has been great so far."
Smith added that this year, Hawaii's receivers head into the season with one advantage they didn't have in 2016. They've now had a full year working with starting QB, Brown, who Smith says has worked tirelessly over the summer to continue to build chemistry on and off the field with his teammates.