Preview 2017: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Previewing and looking ahead at the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Hawaii Offense
It’s going to have to keep on cranking up the production to make up for what should be another mediocre defense.
The emergence of QB Dru Brown cranked up the passing game. Even without leading receiver Marcus Kemp, there are plenty of targets to work with – they just have to start stretching the field a little more.
The line could grow into a quiet strength, with three starters back – including the entire left side – coming off an okay year. This group will be good enough overall, and at times, it should be terrific for the running game that gets back 1,000-yard back Diocemy Saint Juste, but needs the depth to appear right away.
Biggest Key To The Hawaii Offense
The passing game has to keep on bombing. It’s assumed the Hawaii offense cranked up the air show every time out, but that had to be fixed under the new coaching staff. The results were terrific, with far better accuracy, more than twice as many scoring passes, and six fewer interceptions. But it has to happen every game.
In the seven wins, Hawaii threw for two touchdowns or more in all of them, and went 6-0 when throwing for three scores or more. The loss to UNLV was the only time hitting the two-TD mark and not getting the W.
What You Need To Know About The Hawaii Defense
Just call it a work in progress.
An equal opportunity offender, the run defense allowed 234 yards per game, the secondary got hit for 227, and it relied on the offense to save the day in shootout after shootout.
Other than DT Samuel Akoteu, there isn’t a ton of bulk in the front four, but there’s decent hope for more of a pass rush from the ends, along with a dangerous linebacking corps.
Jahlani Tavai might be the Mountain West’s best defender – at least statistically – as part of a group with the top three tackling linebackers returning. The secondary has a few hitters, too, but it’ll still need a little time with an interesting mix of the very young and the very experienced.
Biggest Key To The Hawaii Defense
The secondary has to be stronger. The defense came up with just three picks in 2015 and upped it to 11 last season, but it allowed far more yards. Even with games against run-only New Mexico and Air Force teams, this was still a disastrous pass defense stat-wise, allowing close to 3,200 yards on the season with 29 scores and 11 picks.
The last part of the season was ugly, giving up three touchdowns or more in four of the last five games. Hawaii will be involved in plenty of shootouts – the secondary has to occasionally hold its own.
Hawaii Will Be Far Better If …
The penalties slow down. The Rainbow Warriors aren’t good enough to be as bad as they were in turnover margin, stopping third downs, and giving away yards on big penalties. They were tagged with the second-most flags per game, getting hit more than eight times per game for a whopping 72 yards, with double-digit penalties in each of the last four games with 101 yards against UMass and 114 in the bowl win.
Best Hawaii Offensive Player
QB Dru Brown, Jr. – The 6-0, 200-pound JUCO transfer out of California turned out to be the right guy to pick up the offense. The Hawaii QB situation hasn’t seemed to be settled for years, but that all changed after the first part of the season as Brown stepped in and finished with 2,488 yards with 19 scores and seven picks, while adding a little pop to the ground game running for 306 yards and four scores.
He might not be all that big, and he might not be an elite athlete, but he’s a baller who became deadly over the last part of the season, throwing five scoring throws in the key win over UMass, and four more in the bowl win over Middle Tennessee.
2. OT Dejon Allen, Sr.
3. RB Diocemy Saint Juste, Sr.
4. WR John Ursua, Soph.
5. WR Dylan Collie, Jr.
Best Hawaii Defensive Player
LB Jahlani Tavai, Jr. – One of the best all-around defenders in the Mountain West, the 6-4, 235-pounder led the Rainbow Warriors with 129 tackles with seven sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss with a pick. All over the place, he came up with double-digit stops in eight of the 14 games, with 14 against UNLV and 13 more against Cal and Air Force. A playmaker of an outside linebacker, he could be used as a pure pass rushing hybrid end if needed.
2. S Trayvon Henderson, Sr.
3. LB Malachi Mageo, Jr.
4. DE Meffy Koloamatangi, Sr.
5. DT Samiuela Akoteu, Soph.
Key Player To A Successful Season
PK Alex Trifonovitch, Soph. – And punter Stan Gaudion. Rigoberto Sanchez was fantastic last year, hitting all 13 of his field goal attempts and 49-of-50 extra points, while averaging almost 45 yards per punt. How do you replace one of the nation’s best all-around kickers?
Trifonovitch is a local kicker and punter who’ll handle the placekicking, but will have to battle with Gaudion – an Australian with a huge leg – for the punting gig. Considering Hawaii won four games by seven points or fewer, the kickers should play a big role.
The Hawaii Season Will Be A Success If …
The Rainbow Warriors are in the Mountain West title hunt late in the regular season. There isn’t enough in the bag to pull it off and win the league, but the schedule isn’t bad – there’s no Boise State or Air Force from the Mountain – and Nick Rolovich has things on the right track. With UNLV, Fresno State and Utah State to close things out in conference play, Hawaii could and should be a player.
Key Game To The Hawaii Season
Sept. 23 at Wyoming – Is Hawaii going to be a factor or not? It’s an interdivisional game – there are bigger battles down the line – but it’s a road test to open up the Mountain West season. Win in Laramie, and with three of the next four games at home, and the remaining three road games against teams that didn’t go bowling last year, everything works out very, very well.
2016 Hawaii Fun Stats
– Field Goals: Opponents 19-of-25 – Hawaii 13-of-13
– First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 137 – Hawaii 65
– Penalties: Hawaii 116 for 1,003 yards – Opponents 96 for 915 yards