Warrior QB Graunke wants to pass, not fail
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
First-year law students at Harvard are told: "Take a long look at the people on each side of you because one of them won't be here in two years."
That observation is applicable to University of Hawai'i quarterbacks.
Of the 19 recruits or transfers who came to UH to play quarterback since 1999, June Jones' first season as Warrior head coach, 10 quit or changed positions.
One who stayed put — Tyler Graunke — perhaps had the most reason to switch. Graunke will enter the 2006 season as a third-year sophomore and the top understudy to junior Colt Brennan, who led the nation in passing yards and touchdown throws in his first season at UH.
Graunke admitted he had considered a change during Brennan's breakout season. Two other quarterbacks from Graunke's recruiting class in 2004, Brandon Satcher and Taylor Humphrey, transferred last year.
"When I came here, I made a big decision," Graunke said. "I told myself I would be here five years, no matter what. I could work my way to the top. I guess the other guys weren't thinking the same way."
He added: "There was a time when I wasn't sure if I wanted to be here. But there's more to life than football. I figured I'd get my degree, and see where football takes me. If not, I'll have an education to back it up and I'll get a good job."
Jones reaffirmed that "Colt is our guy," but said Graunke "has shown he can play. Tyler is one play away from being a starter and getting an opportunity. When he gets his chance, it's his job to make sure nobody else gets in there."
Graunke, meanwhile, refuses to concede.
"I'm still trying (to be No. 1)," he said. "Last year taught me a lot. I've come to accept (the backup role), but at the same time, I'm not satisfied. I'm going to keep doing what I keep doing."
Graunke, who is 6 feet, spent the three months after the 2005 season trying to increase his strength and conditioning. He lifted weights, focusing on his lower body, ate seconds and threw often.
"I gained more than 15 pounds," Graunke said. "I'm 196, 197. I was at 180 for two years. I couldn't budge."
During recent team testing, Graunke squat-lifted 375 pounds, bench-pressed 225 pounds nine times, and performed 120 sit-ups in 120 seconds. He said he kept his right arm fit with flexibility exercises using light weights or an over-sized rubberband.
Dan Morrison, who coaches the quarterbacks, said Graunke has the strongest passing arm on the team.
"Tyler has really improved his game," Jones said. "He's worked his rear end off."
The only drawback in Graunke's training came when he experimented as a safety during unsupervised workouts. That's when he learned the difficulty in covering an All-American.
"She's a good athlete," Graunke said of Natasha Kai, now a member of the U.S. national women's soccer team. "She's fast."
Brennan said: "In all fairness to Tyler, it wasn't like he was out there going all out. We were out there doing some workouts. Natasha Kai was out there. We were having some fun.
"Tyler made the mistake of lining up and acting like he was going to guard her. She took three steps — boom, boom, boom — and she was gone. She left him high and dry. I don't think Tyler knew it was coming. I don't think any of us knew it was coming. She was really impressive. It was unbelievable."
BIG MAN ON THE BLOCK
The Warriors, as we know, do not use a tight end, so running back Reagan Mauia has been experimenting as a — wink, wink — blocking slotback in recent practices.
"Coach wanted a bigger person in there to block," said Mauia, who moved from nose tackle late last season. "I love banging those guys around. I miss blocking. It's good to get back into the trenches."
Last weekend, Mauia reached another goal when his weight dropped below 300 pounds. He weighed about 360 at the end of the 2005 season.
"I'm down to 298," he said. "I jumped on that scale and, man, I broke 300. I'm very happy."
A SPECIAL PLAYER
After spending the first eight practices of spring training as a wideout, C.J. Hawthorne moves to cornerback today.
Jones said he wanted Hawthorne, who transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast College in January, to learn the offensive plays before switching.
"I've already evaluated him," Jones said. "He's a player. We want him to make sure he has the best chance to do what he wants to do. After he's done with the spring (training), he'll make the call of whether he wants to be a defensive back or receiver. I think he can play receiver."
Hawthorne's preference, in fact, is to play special teams. During last month's team testing, he ran 40 yards in 4.4 seconds. Hawthorne, who is 5 feet 11 and 165 pounds, is projected to play gunner, the sprinter who leads the charge toward the punt or kick returner.
"I love special teams," Hawthorne said. "So many big plays can be made on special teams."
Jones said: "He'll be on pretty much all of them, I can tell you that. It says a lot about him that he wants to play on special teams. That's what wins football games."
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