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The Running Game

Whether coaches call it “Run & Shoot,” “Run & Gun” or even “Run & Stun,” note the common word in all of these offenses. Yes, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will run the ball in 2020.

The running game has always been an integral part of the UH attack. Larry Price had his “Hula-T” offense. Dick Tomey had Wilbert Haslip and Gary Allen. Bob Wagner had Jamal Farmer and Travis Sims. Even the pass-happy June Jones era featured power runners like Nate Ilaoa and West Keliikipi. And don’t forget, even as Greg McMackin continued the run-and-shoot attack of his predecessor, the single most dominant performance of the Mac era was Alex Green’s school-record 327 rushing yards against New Mexico State.

So, yes, Hawaii will run the ball in 2020.

But who will lead the ground attack? Crowd favorite Dayton Furuta has graduated, and Fred Holly III has left the program via the transfer portal. Here’s a look at who we think will be carrying the rushing load this season:

The team’s top returning back is redshirt junior MILES REED, who emerged as Hawaii’s most reliable runner. Last season, as a redshirt sophomore, the 5-8, 185-lb. Reed ran for 908 yards on 174 carries (5.2 yards per carry). Reed played in all 15 games and saw his reps increase as the season progressed. His best four games came during the second half of the season, including a 124-yard, 1 TD performance against San Jose State on Nov. 19. He also led the team in rushing TDs, with 8. (By comparison, Holly and Furuta combined for 3 TDs.) Reed posses great field vision, a quick burst and the ability to change directions on a dime. It will be interesting to see whether the coaches will utilize Reed in the passing game more often; he only had 3 receptions for 16 yards in 2019.

Here’s a video highlighting Reed’s 2019 campaign:

The lone other returning running back is redshirt junior HEKILI KELILIKI. However, the 6-2, 225-lb. had only spot duty in the UH backfield in 2019. He did play all 15 games, but Keliliki was primarily used on special teams. He carried the ball 17 times for 85 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and no TDs. He could play a bigger role this season as a change-of-pace back, especially in goal-line situations.

The new kid on the block is incoming freshman DAVEON “DAE DAE” HUNTER, a three-star recruit out of Chandler H.S. in Arizona. Hunter signed with Hawaii last December, when Nick Rolovich was still the UH head coach. Hunter admitted that the coaching change made him unsure about his future, but a visit from new head coach Todd Graham reaffirmed his commitment to Hawaii.

“Coach G came down last week and we sat down for a couple of hours and we talked about everything,” Hunter told a reporter from the Arizona Republic. “The vibe I got was real. It felt real comfortable. I believe what he has going on. I believe why he’s going to be great and the team is going to be great. That’s what really had me. I’m going to stay.”

Last year, the 5-10, 200-lb. First-Team All-State performer ran for 1,758 yards and 33 TDs, averaging 11.5 yards per carry. In the state championship game, he exploded for 279 yards an 2 TDs, leading the Wolves to a 42-35 state title win.

Expect Hunter to make an immediate impact at UH, sharing carries with Reed to form a dynamic one-two punch. Hunter is an aggressive runner with superb balance and power. He’s one of the most promising talents in this recruiting class, and Hawaii’s lack of depth at the running back position should mean more opportunities for the freshman.

Check out Hunter’s 2019 highlights:

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