Tuileta thrives in any Buffanblu-print

Punahou QB Larry Tuileta. (Krystle Marcellus / Star-Advertiser)
Punahou QB Larry Tuileta has thrown 16 TD passes so far this season. (Krystle Marcellus / Star-Advertiser)

Ask any QB if he’d rather be a game manager or a playmaker, and the smart ones will say “Yes.” No QB in his right mind assumes that a championship requires the role of only one or the other. Often times, it is both.

I bring this up because the statistics of Larry Tuileta — his performance DNA, to an extent — reflect a leader willing to follow. The Punahou Buffanblu are under a different directive, a new blueprint, in 2013. The other one that helped them reach the state final in 2012 was more than adequate, and “Tui” turned out magnificent numbers.

2012 (11 games)

• 157-244-4, 2,592 yards, 29 TD
Completion rate: .643
Yards per attempt: 10.62
QB rating: 189.52

His most productive game was in the state semifinals against Mililani. Tuileta threw for 420 yards and five TDs. Three scores were out of the four-wide set and two were out of the offset-I.

The 2012 stats make his 2013 numbers look modest in comparison. It would be easy to point to a few elements in play. A somewhat inexperienced offensive line. The graduation of versatile running back Ryan Tuiasoa. A wide-receivers corps with some new, if talented, pieces.

2013 to date (after eight games)

• 89-157-3, 1,558 yards, 16 TD
Completion rate: .567
Yards per attempt: 9.92
QB rating: 169.85

The final stat that may tell more than anything: Tuileta’s rushing. In 2012, he was hardly touched, let alone sacked. He had 22 carries in all of ’12 for just minus 14 yards.

This year, he’s been chased out of the pocket much more — especially early in the season. He has 31 rushes for minus 113 yards. MINUS. Even though he gets rid of the ball as well as anyone in the state, normally finding a receiver in 2 to 2.3 seconds out of the pistol.

It’s interesting to note that of his -113 rushing yards, 103 yards were lost in three of Punahou’s first four games. The progress since is remarkable: just nine rushes for -12 yards in four games.

Punahou’s emphasis on the running game, putting that formidable sledgehammer three-back formation to work, has been a godsend for Tuileta and his receivers. While they won’t necessarily line up in four-wide formations as often as last year, getting open has become a simpler task for them, particularly top target Kanawai Noa and tight end Dakota Torres, because of the sledgehammer and offset-I sets.

(I like to think of their pistol-I and pistol-offset I as hammers, and the pistol power-I set — particularly with 6-5, 310-pound Semisi Uluave at fullback — as a sledgehammer, a bludgeoning weapon to say the least.)

That’s why, as you probably noticed, that his pass attempts are down, even with plenty of football left in the season. Tuileta averaged more than 30 aerials per game in 2012 and is slinging less than 20 this year. The trend, obviously, has been down in the passing game. But that’s not the end of it.

Though the running game is more pronounced than last year when Tuiasoa was called on only occasionally to carry the offense, the Buffanblu are still as reliant on the aerial attack.

In Punahou’s biggest games — Mililani, Helix, Kamehameha and Saint Louis — Tuileta has been as prolific as last year.

2013 big games

vs. #4 Mililani: 20-31-0, 255 yards, 2 TD
vs. Helix: 13-31-2, 233 yards, 1 TD
vs. #2 Kamehameha: 15-29-0, 202 yards, 1 TD
vs. #4 Saint Louis: 20-34-0, 290 yards, 5 TD
Total: 68-125-2, 980 yards, 9 TD
Completion rate: .544
Yards per attempt: 7.84
QB rating: 140.82

That’s 17 completions per big game in 31 attempts, 245 yards per.

2012 big games

vs. #1 Kahuku: 17-38-0, 251 yards, 1 TD
vs. #5 Kamehameha: 17-26-1, 358 yards, 3 TD
vs. #4 Saint Louis: 21-25-0, 359 yards, 4 TD
vs. #8 ‘Iolani: 10-19-0, 142 yards, 2 TD
vs. #7 Saint Louis: 20-28-0, 259 yards, 4 TD
vs. #5 Kamehameha: DNP
vs. #3 Mililani: 24-35-0, 420 yards, 5 TD
vs. #1 Kahuku: 17-32-3, 171 yards, 0 TD
Total: 126-203-4, 1,960 yards, 19 TD
Completion rate:: .621
Yards per attempt:: 9.66
QB rating:: 170.12

That’s 16-for-25 per big game, 245 yards per.

Again …

2012: 16-for-25, 245 yards per big game.
2013: 17-for-31, 245 yards per biggie.

The formations, the protection, the players are different to an extent. Even Tuileta has changed a bit, now standing at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. But it’s astounding how certain numbers remain the same. And, above all, the biggest number for any QB: wins. Punahou is 8-0.

Tuileta is 19-1 as a starting quarterback in the past two seasons, but clearly is no one-trick pony. His metamorphosis has been a pleasure to watch. He’s is a pure shotgun or pistol signal caller, but that’s not all he is. He’s fine under center, too. He’s ready to be a handoff machine and equally ready to be a launcher of bombs. Then there’s his deft skill at Punahou’s latest weapon: the triple option out of that sledgehammer set. Merciless.

More on that later.


  1. Philip Enos October 18, 2013 1:35 pm

    Shouldn’t the smart QB say Both instead of yes? Lol. Whenever I ask my son a non yes or no question and he says yes, I know he wasn’t listening to me haha

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