Unfortunately, this pretty accurately, in my opinion, sums up the vibe around the Hawaii football program currently. Rumor has it that the administration is dangerously close to following in UAB’s footsteps and closing down the program. Hopefully, they will find a way to save this once proud program. Lest we forget, this team has been to a Sugar Bowl in the last decade.
Hawaii does have a nationally familiar face at quarterback. Any of you guys remember Max Wittek? For those that need a refresher, Wittek is the guy who started for an injured Matt Barkley for USC against Notre Dame in 2012. He also guaranteed a victory against the Fighting Irish who were undefeated and number one in the country at the time. The Men of Troy lost that game. Anyway, Wittek got beat out by Cody Kessler the following year and now he’s here. Max was highly recruited out of high school, and clearly has plenty of bravado, so maybe the Warriors have a star at quarterback for the first time in a little while.
Max Wittek also should have a decent group of receivers to spread the ball around. Quinton Pedroza and Marcus Kemp led the team in receptions and receiving yards last season. Both caught over 50 passes and Kemp was an 800-yard receiver. The Warriors, or ‘Bows as some call them, will also get a big boost from the return of Vasquez Haynes. Haynes missed the 2014 season recovering from shoulder surgery, but caught 29 passes for 354 yards as a freshman. Adding Haynes to the mix should push the receiving corps at least into the upper half of the conference.
Other than three-year starter at left tackle Ben Clarke, there is only modest experience to spread around the offensive line. Dejon Allen has 11 career starts at right guard and should start there again in 2015, and there is a competition at center between two guys who have starting experience. Brendan Urban has started six games at center, while John Wa’a started two games as a freshman last season. LG Leo Komoamatangi has started three games in his career, while RT R.J. Hollis didn’t play at all last year.
The running game will see two of the same faces in the backfield this season, but will see them in reversed roles. Steven Lakalaka led the team in rushing attempts and yards last season, however he has been bypassed in spring practice by Diocemy Saint Juste. Lakalaka should still see plenty of touches; he just might have to relinquish his role as the lead ball carrier. Saint Juste proved to be the more explosive back last year rushing for a whole yard more per carry, and had one more rushing touchdown than Lakalaka despite having less than half the carries.
Much like the receiving corps, this defense should be helped by the return of an injured veteran. Jerrol Garcia-Williams was a solid linebacker for Hawaii in 2013, but tore his ACL in the second game of the 2014 season. He’s back now and should assume one of the outside linebacker positions in the 3-4 defense. He’ll be joined at linebacker on the inside by Simon Poti, who led the front seven in tackles last year, and Bennetton Fonua, who was modestly productive, but played in all thirteen games. The other outside linebacker will be Lance Williams, who was somewhat less than modestly productive playing in all thirteen games last season, but has apparently impressed the coaches enough in the offseason to win the starting job.
The secondary should at least have plenty of experience heading into the season. Trayvon Henderson and Ne’Quan Phillips will return to their starting roles at safety and cornerback respectively. Henderson is the leading returning tackler on the defense and Phillips had an interception, six pass break-ups, and three sacks (What the…?). That’s right with three sacks last season a cornerback is the leading returning sack man for this defense…
As some of you may have anticipated, that means there isn’t much coming back to this defensive line. In fact, the two starters at defensive end are the only defensive linemen who played a down last year. Two guys. That’s it. Needless to say, there isn’t much depth up front. Kennedy Tulimasealii may be one of the stronger pieces of the defense though. Last season, he led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss, and is the second leading returner in sacks with 2.5 in 2014. Luke Shawley, the other defensive end, is the other lineman who can boast 2014 playing experience.
This is probably going to be a rough year on the island. Wait, actually no it isn’t, you still live in Hawaii don’t complain too bad. If you are an avid Hawaii football fan though it will be a rough fall at least. This team went 4-9 last season, but the numbers suggest that they were fortunate to get to four wins last season and there isn’t a whole lot of improvement across the board to anticipate. Add that to the fact that Hawaii is having to play at Ohio State and Wisconsin to help raise revenue to keep the team afloat and a rough season seems like it should be the result.
Credit Cover Photo to USATSI