NERDPOD: Running Backs (2018)
Jonan “Bubbah” Aina-Chaves, St. Francis
Measurables: 5-8, 170, Jr.
Crunch this: 3 games — Rush 67-657, 8 TD; Rec 10-128, 1 TD
Rushing yards per carry: 9.8
Rushing yards per game: 219.0
Receiving yards per reception: 12.8
Receiving yards per game: 42.7
Game by game ($ = Top 10 opponent):
@ Radford (Aug. 4) — rush 28-263, 2 TD; rec 3-9 = ¥48.2
McKinley* (Aug. 11) — rush 18-124, TD; rec 3-44, TD = ¥26.8
@ Waialua (Aug. 17) — rush 21-270, 5 TD; rec 4-75 = ¥74.5
@ Kaiser (Aug. 24) — CCL.
@ Pearl City (Aug. 31)
Pac-Five** (Sept. 15)
Kaimuki*** (Sept. 22)
Kalaheo**** (Sept. 28)
Kalani***** (Oct. 5)
@ Roosevelt (Oct. 12)
* Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium
** Aloha Stadium
*** Skippa Diaz Stadium
**** Alex Kane Stadium
***** Kaiser Stadium
Statistics to date: Rush 67-657, 8 TD; Rec 10-128, 1 TD
Points to date: ¥$149.50 / ¥$49.83 pg
The skinny: (Aug. 26) Hawaii has always been a hotbed for physical, contact-oriented bruisers whether they play linebacker or running back. The latest incarnation of a classic island player built for explosion and contact is St. Francis’ phenomenal junior, Jonan “Bubbah” Aina-Chaves.
He racked up major stats as a sophomore running back last season, but what truly separates the compact playmaker is his ability to rush off the edge on defense. Though he is listed as a linebacker — his work on both sides of the ball will be crucial for a tapered-down roster in 2018 — he proved almost impossible to stop during a trenchtown battle at Farrington in July.
The video below speaks for itself. Any burly Governor lineman who didn’t get to the outside first got beaten royally. Any Gov who lost balance while chasing the edge got frontal-forced out by the surging Aina-Chaves, who has incredible thrust and a very low center of gravity.
There are no statistics for Aina-Chaves defensively. Yet. Coach Kip Akana said he hasn’t played on defense yet. All three of St. Francis’ games so far have been decisive, so Aina-Chaves hasn’t been needed at LB. If he doesn’t get a shot at offense at the next level — I believe he has a chance to be a Chad Owens-level slotback in an offense like Hawaii’s — an innovative program will put Aina-Chaves to work on the defensive side. It’s a long shot, maybe, but he reminds me a lot of former Indianapolis Colts playmaker Bob Sanders. He wasn’t the tallest defender on the NFL field, but man, he made plays sideline to sideline like few others did. Aina-Chaves has that kind of motor, drive, athleticism and low center of gravity.
His numbers on offense? Not too shabby. In 12 games as a sophomore, he finished with 1,646 yards and 17 TDs on the ground, all on 229 carries. He also hauled in 28 passes for an additional 434 yards and one TD. While playing LB part time.
He is on an incredible run again in ’18 with 657 yards and eight TDs on just 67 carries through three contests. He’s still busy through the air waves (10 catches, 128 yards, one TD). But beyond numbers, especially against D-I and D-II competition, he simply aces the eye test. When I saw him in the trenchtown battle at Farrington — which was before the 7v7 that he fully participated in, as well — he seemed to be the most fit, most balanced and explosive athlete on either team, which is saying a lot given some of the talented linemen in both programs. But Aina-Chaves never tired.
The separation he creates with or without the ball is rare. I first got to see it during a St. Francis-Kaimuki scrimmage in preseason of 2017. He turned the corner with a toss sweep and burst into warp speed, something I hadn’t seen up close since the 1990s when Derrick Honda (no relation) was a running back at Hawaii Prep.
This season, he has the benefit of running behind two outstanding blockers on the left side: tackle Fa‘aope Laloulu (6-7, 340) and guard Siotame Haunga (6-2, 306).