The top 10 Hawaii football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. DE Kennedy Tulimaseali
A bit short and squatty for the true defensive end, the 6-1, 285-pound senior is able to use his frame to hold up against the run, get leverage without a problem, and get around the edge with a low base. The best player on the line that needs to be far better against the run, Tulimaseali finished the year with 63 stops, while doing most of his work behind the line with 18.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He got rolling late in the year doing more and more to get into the backfield. Now he’s the anchor and star for a line that has to be far better and more consistent.
2. RB Paul Harris
Hawaii might be known as a passing school, but Harris turned into the team’s best offensive weapon running for a team-high 1,132 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 5.75 yards per carry, while catching 14 passes for 151 yards. The Columbus, Ohio native went JUCO going to Ventura College after first going to Toledo. As last season went on, he showed what he could do with four straight 100-yard games, including a 190-yard day against UNLV and 179-yard performance against San Jose State. Not all that big at 5-11 and 190 pounds, he’s quick, and he can handle the workload.
3. OG Dejon Allen
The running game was the star of the offense, and Allen became the key blocker starting most of the season at left guard and seeing a little time on the right side. From Los Angeles, he’s a 6-3, 290-pound run blocker who can move just well enough to be solid in pass protection – he’s at his best when he gets a head of steam. An All-Mountain West performer, he’s the star of a veteran line that returns four starters.
4. P Rigoberto Sanchez
The Butte College transfer turned into a huge find right away, taking on all the team’s kicking chores averaging over 45 yards per punt with 28 inside the 20, while hitting 8-of-11 field goals including a 50-yarder against Nevada. As the season wore on, he started to take over more of the kickoff duties, too. He’s got a big leg and is consistent, with the ability and potential to start trying out more deep field goal attempts. Most importantly, he’s able to bail the team out of jams with timely punts.
5. WR Marcus Kemp
The team’s best receiver, Kemp came off a good sophomore season – catching 56 passes for 797 yards and three scores – to lead the way with 36 grabs for 563 yards and two touchdowns. His drop in production came more from the quarterback play than his abilities, averaging 15.6 yards per try with 116 yards and a score against Colorado and 119 yards and a touchdown against UC Davis. He didn’t score over the last 11 games, and he was held to under 45 yards eight times, but with his size and his skills, he’ll be the No. 1 target.
6. QB Ikaika Woolsey
Woolsey came to Hawaii from City College of San Francisco as a different type of Hawaii quarterback. A baller, he can run well, can make plays happen on the move, and he can throw. Max Wittek might have taken on the gig last year, but Wolsey had his moments throwing for 908 yards and five touchdowns.
Consistency and accuracy are his problems, throwing six picks last year and hitting just 49% of his throws, and giving away 22 interceptions with 18 touchdowns over his three seasons. At 6-1 and 215 pounds, he’s not all that big, but he’s experienced enough to step in and produce.
7. LB Jerrol Garcia-Williams
The team’s second-leading tackler, Garcia-Williams made 89 stops on the inside, with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss before missing the last three games. The 6-2, 235-pound Las Vegas native made 67 stops as sophomore, but missed almost all of 2014 with a knee injury. He bulked up, and now he’s set to be the team’s leading tackler after coming up with 17 stops against Air Force and making ten tackles in four of the ten games. The former speedy option has become a plugger.
8. WR Devan Stubblefield
Coming back from a knee injury that forced him to redshirt in 2014, the 6-0, 190-pounder had a good first season in a middling passing attack catching 30 passes – finishing second on the Warriors – for 351 yards and four scores with 100-yard games against UC Davis and San Jose State. A terrific recruit who was kept at home, once he gets better and more consistent quarterback play, he should be a huge statistical star.
9. LB Jahlani Tavai
At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Tavai has good size and looked great as a pass rusher from the outside making three sacks along with his 56 tackles. The tools are in place to become an ideal hybrid defender who can do even more to get into the backfield, but in his first year he proved he could hold up as a consistent run stopper. Able to play anywhere in the corps, he’s going to soon be a defensive leader.
10. RB Steven Lakalaka
A huge recruit for the program in 2012, he’s never been able to bust out rushing for 468 yards and four scores in his first season and 646 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore. Last year he ran for just 187 yards before getting hurt. At 5-10 and 210 pounds, he’s got decent size and has the quickness to be a bigger factor when healthy, and now he’s getting one final shot with the new coaching staff.