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Sunday, August 14, 2005



WARRIOR FOOTBALL


art
JAM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH starting-quarterback hopeful Tyler Graunke looked sharp yesterday.



Graunke back up
after a couple
of down days

Tyler Graunke showed why June Jones still has him listed as Hawaii's No. 1 quarterback a week into fall camp.

After several days of inconsistency throwing the football, the second-year freshman was mostly on the mark to a variety of receivers yesterday.

The effort kept Graunke ahead of his hard-charging competitor, friend and roommate, sophomore transfer Colt Brennan. Brennan, who had a phenomenal day throwing the ball Friday, was zoned in again yesterday -- but not quite as much as Graunke.

Second-year freshman Inoke Funaki and senior Jeff Rhode, battling for third string, also saw considerable team action yesterday. All four exploited UH's pass defense, thanks to accurate throwing, acrobatic receiving and some new wrinkles in the pass routes.

"We added some new plays last night, probably my favorite plays so far," Graunke said. "We were kind of airing it out a little more, getting the ball downfield. The defense kind of knows our playbook, going against us all these years. We kind of put a little adjustment on it, put some twists on some plays. It opened up the receivers. We're just adding a little bit to make it not so easily read by the defense."

Graunke was consistent all morning. His best stretch was five complete passes during 7-on-7 drills that included a mid-air catch by Jason Ferguson for 25 yards that ended with him being drilled by safety Landon Kafentzis. On the next play, Davone Bess made a diving grab for 15 yards. While the catches were spectacular, the throws were where they needed to be -- away from the defenders.

Yesterday's effort was what Jones expected from Graunke, even after a couple of less-than-stellar days throwing the ball. He expects a lot of fluctuation in the quarterbacks' practice performance as UH continues to expand the playbook.

"Tyler's a real competitive kid. We're adding a lot of stuff, there's a lot of stuff going through their minds, both of them. Colt will have that same thing, he'll have a down day ... you get to start thinking your feeling good about everything, then we add some more stuff and you kind of unravel again. By the time we narrow it down two weeks before SC those kids will be OK."

Funaki and Rhode finally got some serious reps, especially Funaki, who took every snap of a 10-play team session. After a slow start (including a dropped interception by starting safety Leonard Peters) he went 5-for-9 for about 100 yards. On the last play, second-year freshman receiver Desmond Thomas turned a 5-yard slant into a long touchdown.

"It was nice to be in there to get a feel for what's going on, throwing against the defense and ... kind of getting out the jitters when you first go in," said Funaki, after his first team drill since last spring.

Jones said it was time to mix in Rhode and Funaki to make sure they're ready if needed.

"We'd given Colt and Tyler every rep since they walked on the field," said Jones, who has no immediate plans to move the athletic Funaki to another position. "Inoke has a little something about him that the great ones have. He has calmness and composure and he's accurate. So you gotta keep those guys alive so they stay plugged in."

Thomas, who missed spring practice with a knee injury, seemed like a forgotten man until yesterday. But he was the most active wideout, with several nice grabs on 7-on-7 passes from Brennan to add to his two catches for 80 yards from Funaki.

"I felt a lot of confidence today," Thomas said. "I got a little more reps than usual. I finally got warm and got into the rhythm a little bit. So I felt a lot better. When my chances come, I'm going to take advantage of it and try to make the most of it. Not making any mistakes."

Thomas is playing more because starting wideout Ian Sample is coming back gradually from a back injury, and Dylan Linkner is still out with a concussion.

"He's worked real hard in the offseason and he's a great kid," Jones said of Thomas. "You can tell he wants it and he's gotten a lot better from last year. I don't know when his opportunity will come. It may come this year, or it may come next year. But he's the right kind of kid and works really hard."



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