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August 5, 2008
HONOLULU ? Hawaii quarterback Tyler Graunke waited patiently for long seasons behind Colt Brennan and filled in well when called upon. With Brennan gone to the NFL, this season was supposed to be Graunke's opportunity to lead the Warriors.
Graunke, however, has been held out of the start of fall camp while he resolves undisclosed issues. It's unknown when the senior will rejoin the team, putting his status for the season opener at Florida in jeopardy.
First-year Warriors coach Greg McMackin said Graunke's absence has not and will not affect the team.
"We've just moved on," he said Tuesday. "If somebody's not here, we just move on. If somebody gets hurt, we move on."
McMackin would not disclose why Graunke wasn't with the team, citing student privacy laws, only adding "Tyler has some things he needs to take care of."
The Honolulu Advertiser reported Tuesday that the problems are related to academics.
Graunke has not officially been suspended by the team, as he was earlier this year. He was suspended because of academic reasons but was reinstated just before spring workouts.
Graunke is, by far, the most experienced quarterback on the young Hawaii team. He appeared in 10 games last year, throwing for 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In two starts, he threw for 358 yards and two TDs to lead Hawaii to a come-from-behind victory over Nevada. He also passed for 285 yards and three TDs against Charleston Southern.
He even outperformed Brennan in the Sugar Bowl, throwing Hawaii's lone touchdown. He was 13-of-19 for 142 yards and was one of the few bright spots for the team, even if it was late in the game against Georgia's backups.
Graunke came to Hawaii the same year as Brennan following a heralded prep career in Tucson, Ariz., where he set the state's single-season passing record with 3,372 yards. He was listed ahead of Brennan and started his first game at Hawaii against No. 1 Southern California, led by Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
With Graunke's absence, Inoke Funaki and junior college transfers Greg Alexander and Brent Rausch will compete for the starting job. Funaki, a short and mobile quarterback, is the only one of the three with playing time at Hawaii. He was 10-of-15 for 135 yards and three touchdown last year.
McMackin said a starter will be selected about two weeks before the Aug. 30 season opener at The Swamp and will get about 75 percent of the reps in practice.
Center John Estes, one of just three returning full-time starters on offense, said he has "full confidence" in the new quarterbacks, who just need experience.
"We've got great players at quarterback because everybody wants to come and play quarterback here," he said.
Running back Leon Wright-Jackson said Graunke's absence has been a minor distraction and the team has remained focus.
"We have to move. We have to," he said. "It's unfortunate because Tyler is like our older brother and he knows everything. So it's just unfortunate, but we just have to move forward."