Cool under pressure

Tyler Graunke is having no trouble
withstanding the heat as he competes
for UH’s starting QB job

TYLER Graunke is no stranger to heat.

Graunke grew up enduring the searing summers in Tucson, Ariz., where the temperature hit triple digits with regularity this month.

So the climate on a typically sunny day at the University of Hawaii practice field is cool by comparison.

"It's 110 (in Tucson) right now, so I'm pretty glad I stayed here," Graunke says, standing in a shady spot nearby the field.

Rather than return to the desert, Graunke stayed in Honolulu over the summer to prepare for his shot at winning a job that tends to subject its holder to another kind of heat.

Graunke, a redshirt freshman, is the early front-runner in the race to replace record-setting quarterback Tim Chang as the Warriors open fall camp this week. And although the idea of stepping into the most scrutinized role on the state's most visible team could be unnerving, the prospect only motivates Graunke.

"He has a competitiveness in his nature, he has a will to win, and he isn't afraid of things," UH quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison said. "He looks forward to possibly being on the field and I don't think that concerns him as much as it excites him. There are some where it's a little daunting, and others really relish the opportunity."

Graunke knows having his name on the top line of the depth chart in August is a long way from being the first guy behind center when the Warriors open the season against defending national champion Southern California on Sept. 3 at Aloha Stadium.

But he intends to make it tough on the other quarterbacks trying to chase him down over the next month.

"I've never been a guy that sat on the sidelines and now that I'm on top of the depth chart I'm not planning on letting it slide," he said. "I'll just take this opportunity and make the best of it."

Like most of the other UH quarterbacks, Graunke enters camp with minimal experience at the college level. So winning the confidence of his teammates is part of his challenge -- one he's already started to address this summer as a regular participant in voluntary workouts.

"He's definitely built that trust because he's shown commitment and he's showing that he's ready to take that step," receiver Jason Ferguson said.

"The thing about Tyler is he's a fierce competitor. ... When he steps on that field he's a general. He doesn't hold his tongue. He tells you what you don't want to hear. If you drop the ball, it's straight up, 'catch the ball.' He's an intense leader."

Colt Brennan, a transfer from Saddleback Community College, opens practice right behind Graunke, followed by freshmen Inoke Funaki and Anthony Gardner and senior Jeff Rhode. Returnees Kainoa Akina and Jack Rolovich will rejoin the mix when school starts in late August.

All except Gardner, an incoming freshman, have been slinging the ball around the practice field this summer along with Graunke.

"I'm chasing him, that's pretty much the deal for the summer," Brennan said. "He's a good QB and he's got a great grasp for the offense and the guys have a lot of respect for him. So it's not going to be easy, but that's football."

At 6 feet tall, Graunke may be considered a bit undersized for his position by Division I standards. But he impressed UH coaches with his arm strength, and won't be shy about scrambling out of the pocket if he doesn't like what he sees downfield.

And he certainly isn't lacking in his belief that he can operate one of the nation's most productive passing attacks.

Tyler Graunke sits atop the depth chart at quarterback for UH, and he hopes to still be there when the Warriors face USC on Sept. 3 at Aloha Stadium.

Morrison said Graunke's demeanor is reminiscent of a recent UH standout, though one at a different position.

"He reminds me a little bit of Chad Owens," said Morrison, recalling the former Warrior receiver now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. "Chad had that same kind of want-to about him. ... Chad had that same kind of intensity in his eyes and body and relished the moment of being out there. It didn't intimidate him in any way."

"I think it's necessary, especially being a quarterback," Graunke said of the confidence he exudes. "You're in charge, you have to be confident. If you're not confident, it rubs off on everybody else and other people start second-guessing themselves and second-guessing us as a team.

"If we're together and we're all confident, we can do great things."

Graunke set a state record at Tucson's Salpointe Catholic High School by passing for 3,372 yards as a senior in 2003, but his height kept most college recruiters away.

He was considering scholarship offers from Idaho State, Massachusetts and Northern Arizona when he got a surprise phone call from Jones, who had reviewed tapes of Graunke sent by his high school coach.

"I was working out in our high school gym and my coach runs over to me and says June Jones is on the phone," Graunke recalled. "I didn't even know what to say. I knew all about him and I never figured I'd be talking to him."

He signed with the Warriors last year and spent the fall watching and learning as Chang completed his quest to become the NCAA's passing-yardage leader.

"He was always willing to help," Graunke said of Chang, now a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals. "He'd take reps and I'd go ask him questions and he'd just tell me exactly what he was thinking and what coverage it was. It helped me out so much and it started making sense a lot earlier."

Graunke's familiarity with the UH system gives him the early edge over Brennan, his closest competitor entering camp and one of his closest friends on the team.

Graunke and Brennan struck up a friendship early in the summer and will be roommates in the fall. So as both prepare to battle for the job, there's little venom -- if a bit of trash talking -- in the competition.

"We get at each other a few times," Graunke said, "but when it comes to football, we have only one goal and whoever is the best guy for the job is going to get the spot and the other guy is going to accept that and be supportive."

WAC Team-by-Team

The following is a quick look at the nine WAC football teams, in the order the media predicts them to finish in the standings this year

1. Boise State

2004 Record: 11-1 (8-0 WAC, 1st, lost to Louisville 44-40 in Liberty Bowl)
Coach: Dan Hawkins (44-7 in 4 seasons at BSU, 84-18-1 overall)
Returning lettermen: 42 (21 offense, 20 defense, 1 kicker)
Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 8 defense, 1 kicker)
Plays Hawaii: Oct. 1, at Aloha Stadium
Notes: Athletic quarterback Jared Zabransky will be allowed more freedom this fall, and that's probably not good news for WAC defenses. He rushed for 13 touchdowns and passed for 16 more in 2004. Tackle Daryn Colledge comes into 2004 having started all 39 of his college football games. He helped the Broncos finish second in the nation in scoring (48.9 points per game) and fourth in total offense (492.7) in 2004. ... Linebacker Korey Hall (three interceptions against Oregon State last year) is back after leading an underrated defense that was proficient against the run (103.9 yards per game). ... Kyle Stringer is among the nation's best punters (41.6 yards per kick), but doesn't see much action. As always, Hawkins guards against complacency. "My spiel is pretty much the same. What happened last year doesn't mean anything. ... We have to go back to square one and start all over."

2. Fresno State

2004 Record: 9-3 (5-3 WAC, T3rd, beat Virginia 37-34 in MPC Computers Bowl)
Coach: Pat Hill (64-38 in 8 seasons)
Returning lettermen: 52 (26 offense, 24 defense, 2 kickers)
Returning starters: 17 (9 offense, 7 defense, 1 kicker)
Plays Hawaii: Oct. 29, at Aloha Stadium
Notes: Quarterback Paul Pinegar may be the most underappreciated player in the conference. He is 3-0 in bowl games and is 24-8 as a starter for the Bulldogs. ... The Bulldogs are seemingly loaded everywhere, with the riches most abundant at running back, where Bryson Sumlin (1,102 yards) and Wendell Mathis (995) are both back after stepping in for injured starter Dwayne Wright last year. Wright (1,038 yards in 2003) could be back by midseason. ... The line brings back all starters except Logan Mankins, who is now with the New England Patriots. Dartangon Shack, right guard last year, replaces him at left tackle. ... Tackle Garrett McIntyre (6 sacks in 2004) and cornerback Richard Marshall (3 TDs on interceptions in his career) headline a defense also loaded with experience and skill.

3. Hawaii

2004 Record: 8-5 (4-4 WAC, 5th, beat UAB 59-40 in Hawaii Bowl)
Coach: June Jones (48-30 in 6 seasons)
Returning lettermen: 49 (22 offense, 25 defense, 2 kickers)
Returning starters: 10 (4 offense, 5 defense, 1 kicker)
Notes: Jones expects a quarterback starter will emerge from between Tyler Graunke and Colt Brennan in camp, but he will likely play both in the season opener against USC anyway. ... If 2004 reserve Turmarian Moreland emerges as a solid starter at one corner, Hawaii could have a strong secondary, with safeties Leonard Peters and Lono Manners, and Kenny Patton at the other corner. ... Jones likes the potential in sophomore linebacker Brad Kalilimoku. He also says linebacker Solomon Elimimian and other true freshmen could vie for early playing time. ... Ross Dickerson is the only receiver who has started a game. He and running backs Kala Latuselu and Bryan Maneafaiga are the only returnees who scored points last year. They each had one touchdown. The offensive line is solid with four returning starters, and improved Dane Uperesa moving in at right tackle.

4. Nevada

2004 Record: 5-7 (3-5 WAC, T6th)
Coach: Chris Ault (168-70-1 in 20 seasons)
Returning lettermen: 43 (21 offense, 21 defense, 1 kicker)
Returning starters: 15 (6 offense, 8 defense, 1 kicker)
Plays Hawaii: Nov. 5, at Reno, Nev.
Notes: Ault is excited about the tailback tandem of B.J. Mitchell and Robert Hubbard running out of his new "Pistol" offense, a hybrid with elements of the shotgun and I-back option schemes. ... Junior quarterback Jeff Rowe has emerged as a leader in the weightroom, bumping his bench-press 50 pounds up to 350. ... He will throw to three returning starting receivers in wideouts Nichiren Flowers (91 catches, 1,126 yards, 6 touchdowns), Kamehameha grad Caleb Spencer (67-761-4) and tight end Anthony Pudewell (13-156-0). ... Tackle Adam Kiefer (6-4, 300) may emerge as one of the WAC's best offensive linemen this fall. ... J.J. Milan was a big-play guy last year at defensive end (10.5 tackles for loss) and Ault thinks he'll shine even brighter at outside linebacker as Nevada plans to play more 3-4.

5. Louisiana Tech

2004 Record: 6-6 (5-3 WAC, T3rd)
Coach: Jack Bicknell (33-38 in 6 seasons)
Returning lettermen: 45 (15 offense, 26 defense, 4 kickers)
Returning starters: 11 (5 offense, 4 defense, 2 kickers)
Plays Hawaii: Oct. 8, at Ruston, La.
Notes: Jonathan Holland (22.2 yards per catch in 2004) is one of the fastest receivers in the nation. He was clocked at 10.26 in the 100 meters. ... The starting linebackers all return, including WAC first-teamer Byron Santiago (82 stops). But three of the tackles in front of them must be replaced. ... Bicknell says powerful Mark Dillard (5-11, 205) and fast Freddie Franklin (75 yards against Auburn last fall) are the running backs most likely to take over for 1,774-yard rusher Ryan Moats, who left early for the NFL. ... Matt Kubik did most the quarterbacking last year, but Donald Allen, who was injured, will get another long look, Bicknell says.

6. New Mexico State

2004 Record: 5-6 (4-3 Sun Belt, T3rd)
Coach: Hal Mumme (1st year at NMSU, 97-64-1 in 14 seasons)
Returning lettermen: 47 (23 offense, 23 defense, 1 kicker)
Returning starters: 16 (9 offense, 6 defense, 1 kicker)
Plays Hawaii: Oct. 15, at Aloha Stadium
Notes: Linebacker Jimmy Cottrell has led the Aggies in tackles three straight seasons. ... Versatile Paul Dombrowski moves from part-time quarterback and receiver to full-time slotback. ... Mumme wants to choose between juniors Joey Vincent and Royal Gill quickly at quarterback. "We don't like splitting up reps, don't like coaching two quarterbacks. We'll make a decision in the first 10 days (of camp)." ... The Aggies threw 81 passes in their spring game, and the only interception was via receiver error, Mumme said. ... All three starting receivers are back from last year, including Tim Tolbert (team-leading 28 catches for 420 yards). ... Guard Nick Cole (6-1, 348) is among four returning starters on the offensive line.

7. San Jose State

2004 Record: 2-9 (1-7 WAC, 10th)
Coach: Dick Tomey (first year at SJSU; 158-110-7 in 24 seasons)
Returning lettermen: 36 (14 offense, 21 defense, 1 kicker)
Returning starters: 14 (6 offense, 7 defense, 1 kicker)
Plays Hawaii: Oct. 22, at San Jose, Calif.
Notes: The WAC has a tradition of first-year coaches supplying spectacular results at previously doormat programs, and many think Tomey will continue it. But the former Hawaii head man isn't promising overnight success. "We're trying to build a program. We're going to put it together the right way. We're not trying to take shortcuts to get it done." ... Defensive tackle Kinji Green is a two-time WAC All-Academic honoree. ... Josh Powell (200 career tackles) is considered one of the best safeties in the nation. ... Two former Hawaii assistants and a former UH player -- Ken Margerum, Tom Williams and Joe Seumalo -- are on Tomey's staff. ... Tiny running back Lamar Ferguson (5-5, 151) is the leading returning rusher (150 yards).

8. Utah State

2004 Record: 3-8 (2-5 Sun Belt, T7th)
Coach: Brent Guy (first year)
Returning lettermen: 41 (17 offense, 22 defense, 2 kickers)
Returning starters: 13 (5 offense, 6 defense, 2 kickers)
Plays Hawaii: Nov. 12, at Aloha Stadium
Notes: Guy met with every player when he got the job and asked why the Aggies can't win. On thing they told him was something he'd gleaned from the stats; Utah State did not run the ball well (838 yards in 11 games) and did not stop opponents from doing so (2,111). ... The Aggies are good on special teams, especially the return game. Kevin Robinson won multiple honors as a freshman last year after finishing second in the nation in punt return average (22.5 yards per). He also led the Aggies in receiving with 44 catches for 602 yards. ... Guy wants to develop an offense in which the quarterback is a threat to run. Leon Jackson is the top candidate.

9. Idaho

2004 Record: 3-9 (2-5 Sun Belt, T7th)
Coach: Nick Holt (3-9, 1 year)
Returning lettermen: 42 (18 offense, 23 defense, 1 kicker)
Returning starters: 17 (9 offense, 8 defense, 1 kicker)
Plays Hawaii: Sept. 24, at Moscow, Idaho
Notes: Junior college transfer Steven Wichman is battling incumbent Michael Harrington at quarterback, and both might play, Holt says. "It's made Michael Harrington better. He's being pushed." ... Leading rusher Jayson Bird (859 yards) is back, as is No. 2, Rory Lumbala (614). ... Mike Anderson moves back to linebacker, his natural position, from defensive end. ... Linebacker Cole Snyder is the inspirational and statistical (136 tackles in 2004) leader of the defense. ... Idaho played 12 games without a bye last year, and 15 true freshmen got on the field. ... "We're still very, very young. We have depth issues at offensive line," Holt says.

Dave Reardon

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