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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 23, 2009

UH FOOTBALL
You name it, Funaki can do it

Photo gallery: UH football practice

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Running back Inoke Funaki and safety Kenny Estes have a meeting of the minds. Funaki, an ex-quarterback, will be used in a formation the "Noke" that allows him to take a direct snap and run the option.

Photos by RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Freshman wideout Billy Ray Stutzmann soars for a catch as defensive back Lametrius Davis closes in on the play.

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Hawai'i running back Inoke Funaki remembered once asking his sister if she would name her son after him.

"It didn't happen," he said, laughing. "I don't think anyone or anything has ever been named after me."

That changed yesterday when UH head coach Greg McMackin unveiled the "Noke," an offensive scheme in which Funaki takes the direct snap.

McMackin said the position, in college, used to be called the "bulldog." In recent years, the NFL, most famously the Miami Dolphins, picked it up, calling it the "wildcat."

"I'm sick of 'wildcat,' " McMackin said. "All of a sudden the NFL has an 'original' idea. They're the last group that's going to get something original. They do it, and, all of a sudden it's the 'wildcat.' Shoot, we've been doing it for years."

McMackin said Funaki is the perfect candidate. Funaki played quarterback in his first four UH seasons, and he's a skilled runner. The "Noke" is best in short-yardage situations, allowing Funaki to run the option, with the running back as a blocker or a wingback. There also is a play in which quarterback Greg Alexander curls deeper into the backfield, setting up a double pass.

McMackin said the "Noke" is a complement to the base four-wide offense.

"Basically, it's a third-down, red-zone deal," McMackin said. "But with Inoke's talent, it can go beyond that."

As a running back, Funaki took snaps without the off-limits orange jersey used by quarterbacks, who are not allowed to be struck during practice. That meant Funaki played with a hit-me sign.

The defenders "were having a field day with this," Funaki said, smiling. "This is four years of all of this emotion they were bottling up. They finally got to let it out."

Funaki suffered a cut on the left side of his neck from linebacker Po'okela Ahmad.

Ahmad attempted a swim move, Funaki said, "and his hand didn't make it all the way over. Coincidentally, he had a long finger nail. It almost slit my throat. He went for the jugular."

Afterward, Ahmad said: "Did I do that? Everybody keeps telling me I did that. I'm going to say 'I'm sorry.' "

Funaki said he did not learn of his new role until a meeting before yesterday's practice. Brian Smith, who coaches the running backs, gave Funaki the basic plays.

"The run plays use the same reads as if I were a running back," Funaki said.

Does he report to Smith or quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich?

"I guess my coach is now Rolosmith," Funaki said.

ONE SCHOLARSHIP LEFT

McMackin announced that defensive tackle Tuika Tufaga would go on scholarship this summer. Tufaga is part of the three-player rotation at the two defensive tackle positions.

Earlier, it was announced that quarterback Shane Austin would receive a scholarship.

That leaves one available scholarship for a current walk-on. The leading candidates are slotback Jon Medeiros, running back Jayson Rego, linebacker Corey Paredes, defensive ends Victor Clore and Liko Satele, and kicker Brett Symonds.

HOPING TO SLIM FAST

Middle linebacker Brashton Satele's summer job is to lose at least 10 pounds.

Satele, who is 6 feet 1 and 260 pounds, has tested well in quickness and agility drills. But he noticed he had difficulty on longer runs.

He said his goal is to weigh 245 pounds when he reports to training camp Aug. 2.

He also hopes to strengthen his left shoulder. He suffered a subluxation last year, and was scheduled to have surgery in January. But after consulting with doctors, he was told he could rehabilitate the shoulder without an operation.

MIND MATTERS

It does not take a brain surgeon to understand football. But cornerback Steve Christian hopes to be a football player who understands brain surgery.

Christian is a pre-med major who is interested in neurology. In particular, Christian is intrigued by what causes dementia and Alzheimer's. His grandmother suffers from memory lapses.

"I want to see how the brain develops," Christian said.

Christian, who redshirted as a freshman last year, had a demanding first semester. An academic counselor has helped him better manage his class and football schedules.

With minor injuries to cornerbacks Jeramy Bryant (right ankle) and Tank Hopkins (back), Christian received extended practice time yesterday.

"I feel good out there," Christian said. "I'm feeling a little more confident."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.