Hawaii football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Warriors, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About Hawaii’s Offense
Remember when Hawaii had an offense? Four starters are back on the line and 10 starters return overall – experience won’t be an issue for an offense that’ll try to get back to its high-flying ways. The new coaching staff is going to try getting the passing game going again after a woefully inefficient season. Almost all of the top receivers return, but they need to be far more explosive – Hawaii came up with just 12 touchdown passes last season. The quarterback situation has to be settled in a hurry, but having 1,000-yard runner Paul Harris to hand off to will help.
Key To The Hawaii Offense
Former Hawaii receiver Craig Stutzmann is taking over the O as Nick Rolovich’s guy. Does that mean the passing game is finally going to work again? The offense that used to pop 5,000-yard passing seasons like M&M’s has been a shadow of its former self, throwing just 12 touchdown passes in 2015 and hitting fewer than half of its passes. This year the attack is going to start speeding up the pace and spreading things out – the passing game is going to be back. Now it needs to figure out the right pieces.
What You Need To Know About Hawaii’s Defense
Defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa spent the last few seasons working with the Boston College secondary, and now the longtime assistant will try to get bring the swagger back be generating more of an attacking style. The secondary wasn’t bad last season, but the run defense didn’t work. The entire front three is back, but now it has to hold firm against the power teams to help out a revamped linebacking corps that loses three starters. The secondary should be a plus with three starters back, but it would be nice to come up with a big play here and there – the Rainbow Warriors picked off just three passes.
Key To The Hawaii Defense
The defense has to find a few difference-makers, especially up front. The pass rush wasn’t bad, and there were plenty of tackles behind the line, but it didn’t seem to matter for a defense that couldn’t ever seem to generate the one big play needed on third down, or the momentum-changing takeaway to turn around a game. The idea behind bringing in defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa from Boston College was to generate more pressure and key plays, but he needs the talent to do what he wants.
Hawaii Football Will Be Far Better If …
It doesn’t get destroyed in turnover margin. It’s one thing to be mistake-prone, but it’s another to be dead last in the nation in turnover margin, giving away 34 on the year and giving up just 11. Hawaii on the battle just once, going a +1 against Colorado in the stunning win in the opener. After that, it was -2 or worse seven times, and -4 four times. The Rainbow Warriors just weren’t good enough to be -23 on the season.
Best Offensive Player
RB Paul Harris – This might be a passing team by nature, but the most dangerous weapon is in the backfield. The 5-11, 190-pounder from Columbus, Ohio, is a quick, tough back who did whatever he could to try carrying the offense. While he’s not a true workhorse, he has excellent speed and burst when he gets into the open field. The JUCO transfer ran for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns, and caught 14 passes for 151 yards. Combining with Steven Lakalaka, who’s coming off an injury, Harris will be the right back for what the new coaching staff wants to do.
Best Defensive Player
DE Kennedy Tulimaseali, Sr. – The run defense has to be better and the line has to be far stronger, starting by working around Tulimaseali on the end. The 6-1, 285-pounder isn’t the normal defensive end, built more like a 3-4 defensive end, but he’s a fixture in the backfield making 18.5 tackles for loss last season. He’s not a pass rusher, but he’s disruptive.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Ikaika Woolsey – Or sophomore Beau Reilly, or redshirt freshman Aaron Zwahlen. Who’s going to be the one who opens up the offense and makes the passing game roll? Woolsey is the one with the experience, but he’s not a big bomber and he’s not all that accurate. No matter who the main man for the attack is, he’ll be responsible to throw and throw some more. Sticking with one guy – and not going through a carousel like there’s been in the past few years – is vital.
The Hawaii Season Will Be A Success If …
The Rainbow Warriors come up with five wins and start to look more explosive. This is a reloading year with the new staff, and while the schedule is too daunting to do anything big – Cal, Michigan, Arizona, San Diego State and Boise State, as a base of nasty games – five wins would be a great start. More importantly, Hawaii has to start scaring defenses again with a high-octane attack. It has to go back to being Hawaii on offense.
Oct. 1 vs. Nevada – Hawaii could be a surprise and play better than anyone could dream, and it’ll still be 1-3 to start the season playing Cal, Michigan and Arizona, around a sure home win against UT Martin. The Mountain West opener against Nevada is in Aloha Stadium, with Nick Rolovich going against the team he left in what should be a wild shootout. Win this, and with San Jose State and UNLV up next, there’s a chance to get off to a shocking conference start.
Fun Stats From 2015
– First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 104 – Hawaii 31
– Interceptions Thrown: Hawaii 21 – Opponents 3
– Time of Possession: Opponents 36:30 – Hawaii 23:30
Prediction For 2016
What’s going to happen to Hawaii football this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …