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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2001

Shift in defensive position turns Hunter into hunted

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

University of Hawai'i football player Wayne Hunter understands the frustrations of being caught in the middle.

Hunter, who believes he is best suited to play defensive end, was moved to defensive tackle because of a shortage of interior linemen.

At defensive end, Hunter had the freedom of battling an offensive tackle in an open area. In UH's scheme, the defensive tackles are instructed to draw two blockers, opening the way for the linebackers to swoop in for tackles.

"There's not enough space," Hunter said of the trenches. "There's nowhere to run. Once I get past one guy, there's another guy waiting."

The best way to fend off an offensive lineman is to drive under the block. "It's a big problem for me," the 6-foot-6 Hunter said. "It's hard to stay low. I guess that's why you don't see many 6-6 (defensive) tackles."

Still, Hunter does not appear to have suffered from a one-year hiatus. The Radford High graduate played at California in 1999, then transferred to UH. But the Golden Bears refused to grant Hunter a scholarship release, which would have allowed him to receive financial aid from UH last year. He paid for his tuition, books and meals while redshirting last season. Now, Hunter is receiving a football scholarship.

• Timeout for a receiver: Isaac Rodrigues, an all-state wide receiver from St. Louis School in 1999, has decided not to play football this season.

Rodrigues, who competed in spring practice in March, will focus on academics, assistant coach Ron Lee said.

"He worked all summer and decided to take a break," Lee said.

• Auditions continue: While Mike Bass is a strong contender for the starting job at running back, he no longer appears to be in the running to return kicks.

Bass, a freshman from California, said he is concentrating on improving his blocking skills as a running back.

UH coach June Jones said three Californians — Clifton Herbert, Justin Colbert and Omar Bennett — are the top contenders to succeed Jamal Garland, who completed his eligibility in December. Chad Owens, a 2000 Roosevelt High graduate, also is in the mix.

"They all (returned kicks) in high school, and they were all productive," Jones said.

Jones said this year's returner will be faster than Garland. "Jamal had great quickness, but he didn't really have breakaway speed," Jones said.

• Injury update: Defensive tackle Mike Iosua said nothing should be made of a minor sprain in his right rotator cuff.

"I'm fine," he said, a claim backed by UH's medical staff, which insisted he will not miss any games. Tests did not show any tear.

• Assistant hired: Bianca Tokumoto was named the administrative assistant for football operations, a job that includes managing the football budget, organizing recruiting visits and coordinating road trips.

"She's got a real feel for the work," Jones said of Tokumoto, who previously worked at Panda Travel. "She's probably the most organized person I've been around."

One thing she won't do is handle Jones' schedule. "She wants to take over my daily planner," he said, "but that's something I like to do. I like to plan my own schedules."