Graunke works out as Warriors' No. 2 QB
|Photo gallery: UH football practice|
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
Making the most of yet another chance, Tyler Graunke yesterday worked out as the Hawai'i football team's No. 2 quarterback.
"I'm happy to be back, and happy the coaches gave me reps," Graunke said. "It shows a lot of faith and a lot of trust in me."
Last week, Graunke was reinstated after missing all of training camp while dealing with unresolved "academic issues."
Graunke, who did not make the season-opening trip to Florida, started two games last season and served as the top understudy to Colt Brennan the past three years.
"I apologize to everybody, especially myself," Graunke said. "I apologize to the people of Hawai'i, the coaches, my teammates, pretty much everybody. I know I didn't do my part. That's part of being on a team: doing your part, doing your job. It took me longer than most people to do my job."
Earlier this year, the fifth-year senior was suspended from participating in the offseason conditioning program because of academic shortfalls.
He met those requirements, and was reinstated for spring training. Graunke and Inoke Funaki, a fourth-year junior, exited the 15 spring practices as co-No. 1 quarterbacks.
It was announced Aug. 2, two days before veterans were to report to training camp, that Graunke would be withheld from team activities until he dealt with his academic issues.
"It's not really my second chance — or my third, or my fourth," Graunke said. "I've had a lot of chances. It's really humbling. I didn't realize how lucky I was until I didn't have it any more. It's a real humbling experience. I'm happy to be back with the guys. Every day, every experience with the guys, I'm taking it in, and loving it."
Funaki yesterday took the majority of snaps in 7-on-7 and team drills. Graunke took the remaining snaps.
"It felt OK," Graunke said. "The balls weren't really going where I wanted. I didn't have the velocity I expected to come out with. (But) I'm seeing the field well, and taking advantage of the mental reps."
Graunke showed flashes of promise. During the team drills, head coach Greg McMackin huddled with the defensive starters. Soon after, McMackin called for a double blitz, with safeties Keao Monteilh and Erik Robinson shooting through the B gaps (between the guards and tackles). Graunke accurately read the blitz, and lofted a screen pass to running back Leon Wright-Jackson, who sprinted for a long gain.
"He knows what he's doing," said Nick Rolovich, who coaches the quarterbacks. "He has a good feel for it. It's a matter of him getting into better shape."
McMackin, Rolovich and offensive coordinator Ron Lee had decided they wanted to give extensive work to Graunke yesterday. The Warriors have their most intense practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"We wanted to see where he was," Rolovich said. "I thought he did pretty good. I don't think he was lights out, but I think he was on time. He was rusty throwing the ball a little bit. But it's good to have him back. He gives us experience."
Graunke entered the season as the only Warrior quarterback to have started a Division I-A game. He also was the only Warrior to throw a touchdown pass in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
Graunke said he could not train fully during the summer while he worked on his school situation. As the problem continued, "I was frustrated (and) I was a little depressed," said Graunke, who was not allowed to participate in any team activity.
He said the reinstatement "boosted my spirit."
Graunke and Funaki are friends, and each has been supportive of the other.
"He's going to do a good job," Graunke said of Funaki's first collegiate start. "It fires me up, seeing his whole career, and how far he's come. He's really a fan favorite, and he makes plays when he goes in there. I'm so proud of the guy. I couldn't feel better about him being able to start."
The coaches declined to say when — or if — Graunke will play against Weber State.
"I don't want Inoke looking over his shoulder," Rolovich said. "We're going with Inoke until we feel it's time to make a change."
Graunke said he is content with his role.
"I'm in favor of doing anything that will help us win," Graunke said. "If I'm not on the field, I'll help the new guys as much as I can."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.