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Pilares enlists as a ‘gunner’ on the punt team

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Kealoha Pilares hauled in a 48-yard touchdown pass from Bryant Moniz against Army

LAS VEGAS » Changing a job description is not always easy, and it becomes more complicated when it involves one of the top University of Hawaii football players.

Word on the boulevard was that right slotback Kealoha Pilares, who leads the Warriors with four touchdowns this season, was interested in competing on special teams.

"We had to go through the proper channels," said Chris Tormey, who coordinates UH’s special teams. "I did a little negotiating with the offensive staff, and I approached coach Mack about it."

With head coach Greg McMackin’s blessing, Pilares was enlisted to serve as a "gunner" on the punt unit. Pilares is aligned on the far left side.

"It’s basically like I’m a receiver out there," said Pilares, whose job is to race directly toward the punt returner.

Pilares said he is not concerned about safety risks. "I played defense in high school," Pilares said.

Tormey said the move is beneficial to both the Warriors and Pilares.

"He’s a guy who has a chance to play at the next level," Tormey said. "As a senior, it’s only going to help his stock if he can play on special teams, too. We’re trying to use him wisely, but we want to get as much speed as we can on the punt team, and Kealoha is very fast."

Hardy-Tuliau has a knack for blocking kicks

During yesterday’s practice at Palo Verde Football Field, John Hardy-Tuliau blocked Alex Dunnachie’s punt, then raced over and jumped to touch the goal post’s crossbar.

Soon after, Tormey asked Hardy-Tuliau not to block any more punts to allow the Warriors to work on their coverage schemes. That sequence and ensuing warning demonstrated Hardy-Tuliau’s athleticism and knack for blocking kicks.

As a high school senior in 2009, Hardy-Tuliau blocked 13 kicks. In UH’s 31-28 victory over Army Saturday, Hardy-Tuliau blocked a field-goal attempt.

He said the key is a quick start. By watching videos of opposing kickers and punters, he determines the blocking angle.

Hardy-Tuliau is ascending the charts at cornerback and nickel back.

"A lot of the older guys are helping me out," he said.

Associate head coach Rich Miano said: "John Hardy(-Tuliau) is moving up rapidly. He might get a chance at nickel or a corner. We feel he has a bright future, and the future could be now."

Graves feels comfortable in defensive backfield

Quarterback David Graves, who was summoned as the injury replacement for strong safety Spencer Smith, practiced as a quarterback and defensive back yesterday.

"It was a good first day," said Graves, who played safety through his junior year of high school before moving to quarterback as a senior. "I was listening to coach Miano while he was coaching up the guys for the game plan this week. It was making a lot of sense to me."


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