Michael Eletise blends discipline and physical play for the University of Hawaii offensive line

  • Hawaii running back Calvin Turner (7) runs behind from Michael Eletise against San Jose State on Dec. 5. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

As part of his physical education, Hawaii offensive lineman Michael Eletise is embracing forward-thinking concepts.

“What offensive line doesn’t like running the ball?” Eletise said of the difference between drive blocking on runs and impeding a defender on pass protection.

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In the move toward a more physical offense, the Rainbow Warriors have stressed a balanced attack with the run-and-gun offense. This season, the Warriors have rushed on 48.4 % of their plays, including slightly more than half the first-down snaps. In the previous season’s four-wide offense, the Warriors ran 39.9%, including 39% on first down.

“Passing the ball, there’s only so much I can do,” Eletise said. “The defense has way more moves when it comes to pass (rush). Running the ball, I get to impose my will onto the dude. Passing is the other way around.”

Eletise, who has started six games at left guard, has adhered to head coach Todd Graham’s mantra of playing with elite discipline. Eletise has committed only one penalty, with officials ruling he strayed too far downfield when he thought quarterback Chevan Cordeiro was running instead of passing. That lapse was in the third week. Since then, Eletise has learned to adapt to Cordeiro’s scrambling.

“I mean, sometimes it’s tough to know when he’s going to go or not, ” Eletise said. “(We) try to keep on our toes. Sometimes he’ll run out of the pocket when he doesn’t see anything open. Hard to block for him (in the open field). He’s faster than all of us. So, the next thing you know, he’s 5, 10 yards downfield, and it’s like, ‘bye.’”

Eletise, who was the state’s top offensive-line prospect as a Kaiser High senior in 2016, has proven to be adaptable. After two years at Arizona, he transferred to UH. And then waited… and waited…

It was not until the sixth week of the 2019 season that the NCAA granted a waiver allowing Eletise to play.

“Last year was stressful,” Eletise said. “It was a little bit irritating.”

That was a prelude to the uncertainty of this season, where the on-campus locker room is off limits, masks are required for weight-lifting sessions, and the schedule was redrawn. Eletise noted: “This year, it was, ‘are we going to play? Are we not going to play? Are we going to have a season? Are we going to have a game?’ Like (last week), how (San Jose State) had to come here. We didn’t even know if we were going to have a game or not. It’s been a stressful time the past year. But it’s a fun time being home, being with family.”

Eletise, who is listed at 6-4 and 350 pounds, was admittedly heavier during the offseason. “I mean, I gained a little bit, ” Eletise said. “Looking at the pictures, I had a little bit more of a muffin top…. Being back home, eating all the time, cooking, so much good food, I’m not going to lie.”

But Eletise adhered to the coaches’ instructions to “eat healthier, and I did. They had a really good workout plan.”

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Eletise shed the extra weight and gained knowledge of the new offense. This season, Eletise is the lone offensive lineman not to commit a false-start penalty.

“Coach really preaches zero defects, try your best, ” Eletise said. “It’s more trying to stop worrying about making mistakes, and trying to do what’s right. I don’t really think about penalties or stuff like that. I think about the game.”

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