Graunke running the show
Hawaii's No. 2 QB gets the reps with Brennan on crutches
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Hawaii football coach June Jones expects business as usual Saturday against Charleston Southern. That means Colt Brennan starting at quarterback.
Hawaii (3-0) vs. Charleston Southern (1-2)
» Saturday, 6:05 p.m.
» Aloha Stadium
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"He'll play this weekend," Jones said yesterday of his Heisman Trophy candidate.
But Brennan was still on crutches yesterday, dealing with the sprained right ankle he incurred last Friday. He accounted for five touchdowns in UH's 49-14 victory at UNLV on Saturday, but now Brennan must rehab the ankle in order to play three days from today.
"It's going good. The swelling is going down really well. There's a lot of pain and soreness, but the MRI and X-ray say everything's fine. I just have to stay off it as much as possible and let it heal up so I can go on Saturday."
With Brennan on the side, junior backup Tyler Graunke assumed the No. 1 position yesterday, with sophomore Inoke Funaki No. 2 and true freshman Shane Austin No. 3.
Graunke started two games in 2005 and had a stellar season as Brennan's backup in 2006. Despite a slow start this fall, he has the confidence of Jones as well as Brennan.
"He's a veteran in a sense. It's real comforting from Coach's standpoint and mine to know that Tyler is the guy," Brennan said.
Graunke reacquainted himself with the first team offense yesterday.
"Yeah, the comfort level is there," he said. "A lot of those guys have been my guys the last few years. I think I can play with anybody on the field, anybody on our team, we got a bunch of good guys."
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tyler Graunke ran the first-team offense yesterday in practice while Colt Brennan sat out.
Tyler Graunke went back in time yesterday.
It was like August 2005, when he was the Hawaii first-string quarterback.
Then, he was competing with newcomer Colt Brennan for the open starting spot, but Graunke, who had been at UH a season, was No. 1 -- until Brennan won the job two games into the season.
Yesterday, Graunke took most of the reps as Brennan stood by watching on crutches with a sprained right ankle. It's Graunke's offense again, if just for a while.
"It felt good man. Every week I need to get my head in the game, get mentally prepared," Graunke said. "But today was different than any other Tuesday. ... I'm the one in there taking most of the reps. It's cool like, what we do on film then come out here and do it on the field. It's different than any other week because I'm kind of sitting in the background every other week."
Yesterday he was the focal point of the first string.
"I have my own group of receivers and my own group of linemen. Today, I got thrown in there with the 1's and it feels good," Graunke said. "Put everybody on my back and let's go, let's do it. I get to be a leader and get to show everybody what I can do."
Brennan said the swelling on his ankle is down, and tests showed no major damage. The Heisman Trophy candidate hopes to practice by the end of the week and play Saturday when No. 19 Hawaii (3-0) hosts Charleston Southern (1-2).
But he also has high hopes for Graunke.
"Typical Tyler," said Brennan when asked to evaluate his backup's practice performance. "He always goes in there and does well.
"If I'm ready to go Saturday, my intention is to get in there and get my reps and then let the younger guys go. I won't really know until Thursday or Friday, but I have every intention of playing. But whether I play or not, I expect Tyler to have a big game."
Graunke shined in 2006 as Brennan's backup, with a 74.4 completion percentage, four touchdowns and no interceptions in seven games. This season, the numbers aren't as good: 45.5, one touchdown and two picks.
Quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison said the stats don't mean anything at this point, and the increased practice time this week will improve Graunke's timing and confidence.
"With most offenses the person who gets most of the reps gets better. You see things better and get more comfortable. Just the fact of getting more reps this week than in a long time will help him," Morrison said. "He's got the attributes, it's just getting in there and getting in the rhythm when it's meaningful."
In addition to the on-field practice, Graunke is studying arduously what little good tape there is available of the Charleston Southern defense.
"I still gotta be mentally prepared, that's the main thing," the fourth-year junior said. "I've been here a long time, and if I'm not mentally prepared by now, then I shouldn't be here. I'm obviously ready to go physically, I can make all the throws and all the decisions, I just have to get my head ready to be a starter, because I could be possibly this weekend."
He does know Brennan may very well be healthy enough to start Saturday. It wouldn't be the first time Graunke got himself ready for the starting role only to have circumstance take away the opportunity -- it happened when Brennan decided to return for his senior season.
"That's been the most difficult thing for him, the long wait," Morrison said. "He's handled it very well. He and Colt are very competitive, and it's very difficult for him to wait and almost get there and have to wait again. He's grown up and matured with it and will probably be better because of it."
After two interceptions against Northern Colorado and no playing time at LaTech, Graunke came back at UNLV to throw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Lane -- UH's longest scoring strike of the season.
"Oh, I needed that so bad, to get my confidence back," Graunke said. "Hopefully if I get to start this week I'll just take that momentum and just roll with it. I think I can make the plays and get the win for us."
BACK TO TOP
2008 UH schedule nearly complete
The Hawaii football team's schedule next season will again include an early date with an NCAA Division I-AA opponent and close with a team from a BCS conference, athletic director Herman Frazier said yesterday.
Frazier said the Sept. 6 opening, the Warriors' 2008 home debut, will be filled by the lone Division I-AA team on a 13-game schedule that will include seven home games. He said the team will be announced once the contract is finalized. The game at Aloha Stadium will be sandwiched by road trips to Florida and Oregon State.
Frazier said he is in discussions with two teams from BCS conferences for the Dec. 8 regular-season finale to follow a Nov. 29 home game against Washington State.
"We've got to fine-tune a couple of other things," Frazier said. "There's two teams still involved and we expect to get that done very quickly. For the most part, with the offers we had on the table they've pretty much been accepted. We just have to work out some kinks."
The Warriors' 12-game regular-season schedule this season has games against two I-AA opponents and closes with Washington, the lone BCS representative on the slate.