Funaki switch sign of spring


POSTED: Thursday, March 26, 2009

Change was an underlying theme of Greg McMackin's first season as Hawaii football coach.

A few more wrinkles appear in the works for year two.

The Warriors will give senior Inoke Funaki a new position—as well as a new number—this spring and rework their special teams.

Another facet McMackin is considering for his sophomore campaign, though one that probably won't be unveiled until fall camp, is the addition of a tight end to the Warriors offense in certain situations.

The Warriors return to the field for the first of 15 spring-practice sessions Monday at 4 p.m. They'll conclude with the Warrior Bowl at Aloha Stadium on April 25.

Funaki, who changed his number from 11 to 2, is listed as the backup to Leon Wright-Jackson at running back on the depth chart heading into spring practice.

Funaki had been a quarterback his entire career and started six games last season. But with Greg Alexander returning as the Warriors' starting quarterback, the coaches are looking for ways to utilize Funaki's running ability.

McMackin said Funaki will also get some work at slotback and perhaps on special teams.

“;If he feels comfortable and we feel he can contribute, then great,”; McMackin said. “;If not, we're going to move him back to quarterback and let him fight it out for the backup role.”;

Alexander will be followed by Brent Rausch and Shane Austin in the quarterback rotation in the spring.

McMackin said the Warriors aren't planning significant changes in their schemes on offense or defense, and probably won't work the tight end package into practice until summer. The coaches are looking at using defensive ends Tua Mahaley and Bo Montgomery and backup quarterback Steele Jantz in that role, with them learning one of the slot receiver positions. It will give the coaches the option of putting them in as a receiver or using them as part of the protection scheme.

“;Now you have this guy in the game who knows the routes,”; McMackin said. “;You see a blitz, now you bring him inside, so it gives you max protection.

“;I'm thinking it's more of an if-we-need-it type of thing. ... It's a wrinkle, it's something we can go to if we need to.”;

Hawaii hasn't used a tight end since 1998, the year before June Jones installed the four-receiver run-and-shoot system the Warriors have run since.

UH lost both starting slotbacks off last year's 7-7 team, with Jon Medeiros and Kealoha Pilares listed at the leading candidates at those positions.

McMackin said special teams will have a new look under first-year coordinator Chris Tormey, who has been given the task of overhauling their schemes in the kicking game.


Hoping for more

Two seniors from last year's team, running back Daniel Libre and receiver Nathaniel Nasca, remain on the spring roster as they pursue appeals to the NCAA for another year of eligibility.