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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Long Beach Poly LB commits

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

The best defensive player from one of the top high school football teams in California has accepted a scholarship from the University of Hawai'i.

"Yes, I'm going to be a Warrior," said George Daily-Lyles, Long Beach Poly's middle linebacker.

Daily-Lyles is 5 feet 11, 220 pounds and runs 40 yards in 4.7 seconds. He turned down an offer from Arizona. He also received interest from UCLA, Colorado State and New Mexico. Scouts liken Daily-Lyles to former Warrior linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, now with the St. Louis Rams.

"He's a tenacious football player," Poly head coach Raul Lara said. "The way he takes control of the game calling the signals and making plays it's pretty neat to watch him."

During the day, Daily-Lyles can be found at one of three places: the football field, weight room or class room. He has a 3.2 grade-point average, and aspires for a career in sports medicine.

"He's a great student, very diligent," said Monica Kim, the Jackrabbits' academic coach. "He's a great kid all around. He's very affable, and has great character."

Lara said: "Everybody likes him. He's the kind of person you would want to hang out with. He's trustworthy. And he takes care of business."

Daily-Lyles said he first started playing football at age 7. "I never thought (football) would take me some place," he said.

But he has developed into the top linebacker at Long Beach Poly, the defending CIF champion.

Last month, the Jackrabbits went to Miami, where they defeated 2007 national champion Northwestern High, 29-7.

The Jackrabbits are 3-0 this season, winning by a combined score of 69-9. Last week, they shut out Carson High, 14-0.

Daily-Lyles has 28 tackles this season, including nine against Northwestern.

Before being promoted to head coach eight years ago, Lara was Poly's defensive coordinator.

"I played linebacker at Poly, and that was the position I coached," Lara said. "We've had some great players, and George is in that group. It's really neat seeing him do things there."

Poly has a Who's Who of former students. Among the alumni are actress Cameron Diaz, rapper Snoop Dogg, tennis great Billie Jean King and Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn. The school also used to be a football pipeline to Manoa: quarterback Michael Carter, wideout Chris Roscoe, linebacker Mark Odom and safety Daniel Ho-Ching.

It was Ho-Ching who called Daily-Lyles last year to tell him to watch UH football games. Lara, who is close friends with Carter, also spoke highly of the Warriors.

When the UH offer came last week, Daily-Lyles said, "I decided to commit."

Hawai'i fits in with Daily-Lyles' new hobby: surfing. He surfs about once a month off Balsa Chica Beach.

"It's a good workout," he said.

FUNAKI STILL NO. 1 QB

Inoke Funaki will remain as the Warriors' No. 1 quarterback a position, he realizes, that makes him a visible target for critics.

"It comes with the territory," Funaki said.

In Saturday's 20-17 loss to San Jose State, Funaki had a hand in four of the Warriors' six turnovers. He was intercepted three times and was credited with a lost fumble when a Spartan kneed free a football from his grasp. Funaki drew boos from Aloha Stadium spectators.

"I'm harsh on myself, too," Funaki said. "I understand where they're coming from. There's nothing you can do about it. It's understandable. Fans will be fans. You can't be mad at them. They're fans. That's what they see. I can see it from their perspective, like, 'Dang, Inoke, you can't be doing that. You can't be turning the ball over. You have to be doing better.' I understand. You have to stay strong mentally, and try to do what you can."

Except for the turnovers which were a combination of miscommunication, broken routes and, yes, poor throws Funaki graded well during the game, especially in the first half. Funaki's improved play and Tyler Graunke's still-sore right hand led to the coaches' decision on the starting quarterback for Saturday's road game against 22nd-ranked Fresno State.

The top priority is limiting bad decision-making and the accompanying turnovers.

"I have to minimize that stuff," Funaki said. "Even if someone throws for 400 yards and four touchdowns, the four turnovers are going to kill (the positive plays). Obviously, I didn't throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns. I accounted for four turnovers. That will kill any offense."

Funaki acknowledged it is not easy following Colt Brennan. In 2006, Brennan had the best statistical season by a quarterback in NCAA history.

"There's always going to be negative vibes," Funaki said. "Even Colt, who is one of the best to come out of this program, despite doing so well, there were people out there criticizing (him) and stuff. For me, someone who hasn't even won a game yet, of course I expect a lot of people to be jumping on me. I jump on myself a lot, too. You have to try and clear it. ... I try to do the best that my coaches tell me to do."

MORE REPS FOR OTHERS

Head coach Greg McMackin said he will try to give more reps to quarterbacks Brent Rausch and Greg Alexander. The two junior-college transfers have received limited work in practice the past four weeks.

"They're both pure run-and-shoot quarterbacks with strong arms," McMackin said. "Just for our future, whether they play this year or not, we need to get them reps."

Rausch, who is 6 feet 4, has gained 15 pounds since the start of the season and now weighs 200 pounds. The increase came from "just lifting every day and these things," said Rausch, raising a protein-shake carton.

Rausch, who was initially announced as the No. 1 quarterback in mid-training camp, has remained upbeat despite a lack of playing time. "You can't get mad about that," Rausch said. "The better player has to play."

Alexander also appears to be upbeat. "You have to go with it and see what happens," he said.

LANE, PILARES ON MEND

Wideout Malcolm Lane and running back Kealoha Pilares both competed in conditioning drills yesterday and expect to play against Fresno State. Each suffered a concussion in the first half against San Jose State.

Lane said he was injured after catching a pass.

"On the first play, a curl route, I had the ball," Lane said. "I tried to get a couple of more yards. They had me in a pile, and my head was down. I felt a big ol' boom. I guess somebody hit me on the top of my head. My neck went down, I felt like my head exploded. It was weird."

He came out for two plays, then re-entered. But after Pilares' 34-yard scoring run, Lane went to the sideline in a daze.

"I was out of it," Lane said. "I didn't feel like myself."

Pilares suffered his head injury at the end of his second touchdown run, a 1-yarder in the second quarter, on an apparent helmet-to-helmet hit.

"I got hit right on top of the head," Pilares said. "I didn't know where I was. The trainers kept me out (of the game) for precaution."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.