Options on the 'run'


POSTED: Saturday, August 22, 2009

Speed has long been one of Leon Wright-Jackson's main attributes. But the years have whizzed by all too quickly as he's struggled to gain traction in his college career. He began last season as a starter, but nagging aches cut into his playing time and limited him to 102 yards and one touchdown. So after tantalizing hints at his potential the last two years, Wright-Jackson arrives at his senior season looking for that elusive breakout.

Inoke Funaki, a quarterback since his Pop Warner days, moved to running back in the spring, and his athletic ability makes him an intriguing prospect in the backfield. Coaches have raved about Jayson Rego's toughness whether picking up yards or blitzing linebackers.





        » Returnees: Leon Wright-Jackson, Inoke Funaki, Jayson Rego

» Quick Hit: Backs need to turn potential into production


» Key Stat: Funaki ran for 215 yards as a quarterback last year




The seniors will be pushed by junior college transfers Chizzy Dimude and Alex Green, both bringing speed and impressive credentials with them to Manoa.

“;We really push each other. That's what I told all the new guys, push each other,”; Wright-Jackson said. “;We're not going to slack off on each other - we're going to make each other work.”;


Funaki's conversion gives the coaches some added flexibility, especially in the red zone. The Warriors gave a “;'Noke”; offense a look in the spring, with Funaki returning to quarterback to provide a dual threat in certain situations.




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The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Green brings a package of size and speed after rushing for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns to help Butte CC win a JC national championship. Dimude ran for 700 yards and 11 scores in JC.

Brian Smith takes over the running backs after coaching the offensive line last year. New line coach Gordy Shaw's background in the Big Ten could prove to be a boon to the backs.


Wright-Jackson's talents can be unlocked only if he stays healthy, an issue throughout last season.

After enjoying the protection of the running backs while sitting in the pocket, Funaki must quickly master the blocking assignments to be a regular contributor. Same goes for Green and Dimude.


Just as an effective passing game can open holes for the run, maintaining a threat on the ground will help keep defenses honest, thus slowing down the pass rush. Still, protecting the quarterback remains among their primary duties.






        By Coach Brian Smith

        “;The most positive thing has been the depth. Having five guys we feel comfortable giving playing time to is a good problem to have. Leon's looked outstanding in spring and early in camp. Inoke came in bigger and stronger. I've been impressed with both Alex and Chizzy. I compare them with Leon as far as a similar style of back.”;