CFN Preview 2013 - Hawaii Warriors
Hawaii RB Joey Iosefa
Hawaii RB Joey Iosefa
Posted Jun 24, 2013 2013 Preview - Hawaii Warriors

Hawaii Warriors

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Norm Chow
2nd year: 3-9
Returning Lettermen: 44
Off. 22, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 30
Ten Best Hawaii Players
1. S Marrell Jackson, Soph.
2. LB Art Laurel, Sr.
3. DE Tavita Woodard, Sr.
4. SS John Hardy-Tuliau, Sr.
5. WR Billy Ray Stutzmann, Sr.
6. C Ben Clarke, Jr.
7. WR/KR Scott Harding, Jr.
8. QB Taylor Graham, Jr.
9. DE Beau Yap, Jr.
10. RB Joey Iosefa, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/29 USC
9/7 at Oregon State
9/21 at Nevada
9/28 Fresno State
10/5 San Jose State
10/12 at UNLV
10/26 Colorado State
11/2 at Utah State
11/9 at Navy
11/16 San Diego State
11/23 at Wyoming
11/30 Army
Maybe that was just a step back to take a leap forward.

Hawaii went 3-9 in 2000, but it was a building-block season before going on a terrific run of four straight seasons with eight wins or more and with six victories or more in every season but one ever since. However, after Norm Chow took over the reins, nothing seemed to work quite right.

Chow might be a legendary offensive mind and, seemingly, the right fit for the program, but at 67 this is his last stop in a great career and he needs something positive after a decent stint as the Utah offensive coordinator, a disastrous stretch as the UCLA OC, and mediocre production heading up the Tennessee Titan attack. If anyone deserves a great finishing kick after finally getting a shot at a head coaching gig, it's Chow.

It's Hawaii. Colt Brennan, high-powered passing game, video game statistics, Timmy Chang, receivers running wild, points in bunches – Hawaii. Unfortunately, the production dropped off the map in Chow's first season with a line that couldn't protect the passer and few big plays from the skill players. But will everything change after the overhaul?

Experience might translate into production offensively, while the defense that got no support whatsoever from the offense and couldn't stop the run should be even more aggressive and more dangerous after a good season of getting into the backfield.

So what really has to happen to make it all work?

The Mountain West is getting nastier, and life outside of the WAC wasn't exactly a positive, but there was hope late in the season with two easy wins over UNLV and South Alabama after getting blown out in game after game. To be a player in the new West division, Chow has to get the passing game to click from Drive One. It didn't matter in the past when everything else broke down, when Hawaii could throw well, it was a factor. Now there's no signature and now there's nothing to fear after last season. One big offensive performance right away at home against USC – even in a loss – could change that.

If nothing else, Hawaii has to be fun again. If the program shows the potential for staying power as it takes a step forward, that would be fun, too.

What to watch for on offense: An improved passing game. It wasn't Sean Schroeder's fault that the offense didn't move – he didn't get any time to work – but scoring became a big problem and there weren't any big pass plays coming even when he did have time. Enter Taylor Graham, a transfer from Ohio State who should be able to do wonders for the nation's 118th attack in passing efficiency. Getting back targets Billy Ray Stutzmann and Scott Harding should help, but having a healthy, veteran offensive line might do even more to crank up the production.

What to watch for on defense: Even more attacking. The Warriors will never hold up well against the better running teams, and there will be times when the D just can't get off the field, but it has to keep improving the pass rush to help everyone else out. The aggressiveness last year was great, but it didn't lead to enough takeaways and didn't always save the secondary. The defense has to make up for giving up big rushing yards with more third down stops. That will come from veterans Tavita Woodard and Beau Yap on the outside up front, while the linebackers will be involved as well.

The team will be far better if … The turnovers stop. The pass protection has to be night-and-day better, the defensive front seven has to hold up better against the run, and more big plays have to come from both sides of the ball, but there's no chance of improving without cutting down on the mistakes. Hawaii finished 106th in the nation in turnover margin mainly because the offense couldn't stop fumbling it away. There were only two games without a turnover – Lamar and UNLV – and the Warriors won both games in blowouts. It was a disaster the rest of the time with two fumbles or more in eight of the 12 games and two or more picks thrown five times.

The schedule: It's going to be really, really rough early, but it eases up a wee bit. There are just enough winnable games to hope for a better year, but it's too tough a slate to be a factor in the conference title chase. Missing Boise State from the Mountain is a plus, and getting Colorado State and Utah State isn't bad, but that's about the only break. Starting out against USC and at Oregon State is tough enough, but the non-conference kickoff is made worse by a Mountain West opener at Nevada and followed up by a nasty showdown against Fresno State. There's a rough second half stretch of three road games in four weeks, made even rougher with one of the trips to Maryland to play Navy.

Best offensive player: Junior C Ben Clarke. Receiver Billy Ray Stutzmann is the crafty veteran who'll be the leader and star of the passing game, and quarterback Taylor Graham should make a big difference for the attack, but the key is the improved play on the line that has to start with Clark in the middle. The 6-7, 315-pound veteran is built like a perfect left tackle, but he's very smart, very tough and with good upside to do even more. There's pro potential with more seasoning.

Best defensive player: Sophomore FS Marrell Jackson. There's a chance for veteran linebacker Art Laurel to be the star of the show after a bit of a down season, and pass rushing terror Tavita Woodard should be the team's most disruptive force, but it's Jackson who'll join forces with John Hardy-Tuliau to give the Warriors a safety tandem to work everything else around. Jackson stepped up as a true freshman and turned into the team's leading tackler, and with his range and instincts he should be even more of a statistical star.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OT David Griffin. It might sound like a broken record, but nothing on the offense will start to click without the line playing better. The front five isn't good enough to need just one missing piece, but it could use one big piece to change up the team's success. It's an improved group with good-sized veterans for all five spots, and that includes Griffin, a JUCO transfer who has to make the left tackle job his right away.

The season will be a success if … the Warriors go back to a bowl game. There can't be any slip-ups against teams like Colorado State and Army, and it'll take at least two upsets to get close, but after winning three games, winning six would be a huge jump. However, with so many veterans returning and so much potential for big improvements, it's not asking for too much to start being the Hawaii of old on the way to a post-season game for the first time in three years.

Key game: Oct. 5 vs. San Jose State. The Warriors will likely start out the season 0-4 after facing USC, at Oregon State, at Nevada and Fresno State, but San Jose State, even with all the improvements and even with David Fales at quarterback, is a winnable game. With UNLV and Colorado State to follow, the chance will be there for Hawaii to go on a bit of a run if it's good enough to beat the Spartans.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Rushing Touchdowns: Opponents 34 – Hawaii 12
- 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 119 – Hawaii 55
- Fumbles: Hawaii 29 (lost 20) – Opponents 21 (lost 10)
- 2013 Hawaii Preview | 2013 Hawaii Offense
- 2013 Hawaii Defense | 2013 Hawaii Depth Chart