Warriors continue to beef up backfield
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
For the University of Hawai'i football team, the running back position continues to grow by heaps and pounds.
Nose tackle Siave Seti is the latest to enlist, a move that makes the 6-foot, 298-pound Reagan Mauia the Warriors' second-heaviest running back.
"I should ask to be paid by the amount of pounds I coach," running backs coach Mouse Davis said.
Seti is 5 feet 11 and 305 pounds, but "he's tough and he's got a little quickness for his size," UH coach June Jones said.
While Mauia enjoys the full benefits of running back, such as running pass routes, the immediate plans call for Seti to serve as a backfield blocker.
"That's fine with me," Seti said. "I want to do what I can to help out the team."
In Jones' four-wide offense, an offshoot of Davis' run-and-shoot offense, there is no tight end. Instead, the running back is designated to block the defensive end or linebacker who sneaks past the offensive line.
In the early 1980s, when Davis and Jones were coaching the Houston Gamblers of the U.S. Football League, they decided to move tight end Todd Fowler to running back.
"They thought we were nuts," Jones recalled. "That ended when Todd Fowler rushed for (208) yards in a game. Then they said, 'Wow.'"
When Jones was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, his top back was 280-pound Craig "Ironhead" Heyward. At UH, Jones converted West Keli'ikipi into a 266-pound running back. For the 2005 season finale against San Diego State, Mauia, then weighing 360 pounds, switched from nose tackle.
"If you think about how Reagan Mauia was in our offense for five days last year, but averaged, what, 7, 8 yards a carry against San Diego State?" Jones said. "We're a little bit different."
This training camp, Jones wanted to create an opportunity for Seti, who redshirted last season after transferring from West Los Angeles College. Seti was buried on the depth chart behind seven other nose tackles. Jones thinned the position by moving Keala Watson and Fale Laeli to defensive end, and Clarence Tuioti-Mariner to center. Renolds Fruean, who also moved to defensive end, is working this semester and will rejoin the team in August.
"We thought Seti had the skill to play running back," Jones said of this week's move.
Seti was used as a tight end on goal-line situations in junior college. "I never played running back," he said. "I'm not really a running back here. I'm more of a fullback. But I like it, and I'm learning a lot."
Seti can bench press a maximum 400 pounds, as well as bench 225 pounds 30 times.
"He's a strong guy," Mauia said. "He's going to help us."
BUMPS AND BRUISES
Slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins and inside linebacker Timo Paepule are expected to miss the final week of spring practice.
Grice-Mullins, who was known as Grice-Mullen during his first two years at UH, suffered an apparent pulled hamstring yesterday. He was on crutches after practice.
Paepule's left arm was in a brace after he suffered a dislocated elbow during Friday's practice.
"I'll be out for a couple of weeks," he said.
Paepule received a medical hardship as a freshman after he suffered an injury to his left shoulder. "It's the same arm," he said of the current injury, "but I'm lucky, really lucky this time. I don't need surgery."
Starting nose tackle Michael Lafaele (strained left calf) and strong safety Brad Kalilimoku (pulled left hamstring) are expected to resume practicing on Monday.
Kalilimoku, who was a starting inside linebacker this season, has not participated in six consecutive practices. Michael Malala has played well in Kalilimoku's absence to secure the job as top understudy. Jones said he expects Kalilimoku to remain as the No. 1 strong safety entering training camp in August.
"He was one of our best defensive players last year," Jones said. "This spring was obviously important to him because he was switching positions. But we knew after the first four or five days he could handle it."
Despite Jones' assurances, Kalilimoku said: "If anybody's disappointed, it's me. I'm (irked) I'm not playing. It's how the game goes. I'm going to try and come back on Monday. You never know what will happen until you try."
Yesterday, Jones scolded Kalilimoku, who tried to watch practice from the defensive secondary.
"Coach had to tell him to get off the field," Malala said. "You can see in Brad's eyes how much he wants to play. Some (injured) guys will come to practice, cruise on the sideline and talk story. Not Brad. He's always asking what the play is."
MCKNIGHT MAY BE BACK
A strange situation took another twist when former UH assistant coach Dennis McKnight returned to his home in San Diego yesterday.
Jones had arranged for McKnight to attend spring practice as an "observer" even though there are no coaching vacancies. McKnight attended meetings and film sessions, but watched the practices from a golf cart on the sidelines.
All signs point to McKnight eventually rejoining the staff. He was UH's special teams coach in 1999 and 2000. During that stint, he split time between here and San Diego. McKnight recruited two players now in the NFL, punter Mat McBriar and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.
UH assistant coach Dan Morrison drove McKnight to the airport yesterday. Before stepping into Morrison's car, McKnight yelled to a reporter: "I'll see you in August."
FINAL WEEK OF PRACTICE
The Warriors practice tomorrow through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and conclude spring training with Saturday's workout from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Saturday's practice will feature a 60-play controlled scrimmage. It will be held in conjunction with a "Football Ohana Festival," featuring an autograph session, contests, fun activities and contests.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.