When able to play, Harvey Unga is a force on the Cougar offense. His presence not only provides a powerful and dynamic option for Coach Anae, but he also brings experience and a calming leadership to the offense that filters down throughout all facets of the team. This week, Unga has been practicing with the first-team, but with limited reps.
“It’s been just a little bit here and a little bit there, then a little more here and a little more there,” said Unga. “Coach Reynolds is a firm believer in the work ethic process: don’t push anything too hard and kind of take your time getting back. But it’s not only him, the trainers are working me back in slowly also, but Coach Reynolds has taken it upon him to monitor me.”
So how does the do-it-all Cougar running back feel now?
“I feel good, but it’s been a long, gruesome process trying to heal this thing,” Unga said. “I’m in no rush and I trust the guys that are there playing now.”
Although he’s seen limited reps, Unga says his hamstring hasn’t been much of an issue this week.
“It hasn’t acted up too bad,” he said. “It’s not doing anything too crazy or anything like that.”
During the Tulane game, Unga received limited action at the start of the contest. He was taken out of the game when it was apparent that his hamstring began tightening up.
“Yeah, the trainers saw me and even Coach Reynolds saw me and gave me a phone call from up top,” said Unga. “He just said for me to chill for now.”
Coach Reynolds’ relationship with and affection for his running backs is strong and often visible, and when he knows one of his players has a health issue but wants to do whatever it takes to get back on the field, Reynolds will resort to whatever means he can to keep them off the field.
“[Reynolds] knows I’ve been anxious to get out there and even help out with the special teams drills,” said Unga with a laugh. “He’s rolled out there in his golf cart and chased me around the field a few times. He’s always looking out for me, so yeah, he chased me and one of the other players one time from one of the drills we had.”
As for the Florida State game, Unga just might see the field. Coach Reynolds will leave it up to Unga, trusting he will make the right decision. And this time, he won’t chase Unga off the field with a golf cart.
“[Reynolds] knows that I know my body better than anybody else,” said Unga. “He knows that I know that better than any of the trainers as well, so he trusts me that I’ll make the right decision and be smart about it because we have a full season ahead of us. So Coach Reynolds trusts me that I’ll do the right thing and I trust me that I’ll do the right thing.”
It’s hard for an athlete to sit out of a game and not be able to help his teammates go to battle. Having the authority to pull himself out of the game based on how he feels can be a tough call when that decision is placed in the hands of the athlete.
“Yeah, it is [tough] because any athlete wants to go back in and play,” Unga said. “Anybody on this team would want to go back in and help the team no matter what. It’s frustrating having to sit out of games, but at the same time you have to be smart and know how to help your team out in the long run. If that means by sitting out now to help them in the future, that’s what you have to do.”
As for Florida State, Unga is impressed with the Seminole defense’s front-seven.
“Sheesh, from the linebackers to the defensive line, these guys are freaking athletes,” said Unga. “I was watching them and these guys can fly, jump, move well from side to side and are physical guys. I think they’re as good athletically as any team out there. We have to come out here and play disciplined football and make sure we cross our T’s and dot our I’s and work the X’s and O’s of the game, and I think everything will work out alright.”
Schematically, the Seminole defense reminds Unga of the defense of one of the Cougars’ Mountain West foes.
“What they do is a lot of what we’ve seen Colorado State run in the past, so there is a ton of familiarity there,” said Unga. “We’ve been watching film on them and they play a lot of man, but then again they play a little bit of zone here and there. They have a lot of blitz packages that they have, but they’re nothing crazy or unordinary that we haven’t seen. But on the other hand, these guys are athletes and want to make plays and are going to make plays. It’s on us to go out there and make plays as well and capitalize on when they don’t make plays. I’m excited.”