With the departure of Diocemy Saint Juste and the return of the ‘run-n-shoot’ offense, an extreme makeover has taken place in Manoa regarding the running backs.
The second of 15 spring training camp practices for the University of Hawaii football team was held Thursday morning and following the workout coaches were pleased with the enthusiasm from the back field.
“I think it starts with being a really good room. There’s a lot of rest good kids in there that has done a good job coming up underneath Diocemy who is a really talented back, so a lot of those younger kids didn’t get a chance to play much and it never phased them and they always put their heads down and grinder and studied and tried to get better” said running backs coach Brian Smith.
Between Saint Juste and Ryan Tuiasoa who was also a senior, the Rainbow Warriors lost 337 carries and 1,882 yards of production from a season ago in a rush-heavy offense.
Redshirt sophomore Freddie Holly is the only player in the RB core that has playing experience, after totaling 30 yards on nine carries.
That means just 2-percent of the team’s running back carries and one percent of its production returns for the 2018 season.
Looking to fill the enormous void brings many options with multiple players that share similar features are in the mix.
Holly, who is considered a speed-back is joined by Miles Reed, as both appear more than capable of taking advantage of the open space that the ‘run-n-shoot’ often creates.
“It excites me a lot. There’s a lot of space and opportunity. The receivers are going to be running down the field and even on our run plays, they’re going to be jetting down the field. The defensive backs are going to be chasing, so at that time it literally turns into a track meet. It’s real exciting” said Holly.
Power-backs Hekili Keliliki, Kaiwi Chung and Dayton Furuta bring the most size to the unit, with Justice Augafa, Elijah Dale, and Genta Ito often being described as versatile.
According to head coach Nick Rolovich, although the “pass happy” run-n-shoot offense puts a spotlight on quarterbacks and receivers, running backs are held to high expectations within the offense much beyond pass protection.
“Coach Ron Lee told me this, he said we should look for 150 yards out of the running back position every game. I think there’s still production, it’s hopefully bigger yards per carry. Hopefully it’s receptions on screens out of the backfield that turn into big plays” said Rolovich.
“I’m real excited. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to play, especially in this position. It’s a real physical spot, especially with the stuff like the RPO that we’re going to be running and some of the pass protection. They need a big body back there, I fit the role and it’s great to be back there” said Chung.
Spring practices will continue on Friday morning at 7:00am at Cooke Field.