2014 CFN Preview - Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Hawaii WR Scott Harding
Hawaii WR Scott Harding
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 8, 2014


Preview 2014 - Can Norm Chow finally get the offense going and make Hawaii a winner? (Getty Images)


Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Preview 2014
 

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By Pete Fiutak 

- 2014 Hawaii Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players
- VOD: College football breakdowns on Campus Insiders

Head coach: Norm Chow
3rd year: 4-20
Lettermen Returning
Off. 23, Def. 22. ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Hawaii Players
1. RB Joey Iosefa, Sr.
2. DE Beau Yap, Sr.
3. S Marrell Jackson, Jr.
4. WR Scott Harding, Sr.
5. CB Ne'Quan Phillips, Jr.
6. LB Jerrol Garcia-Williams, Jr.
7. C Ben Clarke, Jr.
8. QB Ikaika Woolsey, Soph.
9. S Trayvon Henderson, Soph.
10. QB Taylor Graham, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Washington
Sep. 6 Oregon State
Sep. 13 Northern Iowa
Sep. 20 at Colorado
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 at Rice
Oct. 11 Wyoming
Oct. 18 at San Diego St
Oct. 25 Nevada
Nov. 1 Utah State
Nov. 8 at Colorado State
Nov. 15 at San Jose State
Nov. 22 UNLV
Nov. 29 at Fresno State

If you’re Hawaii, be Hawaii.

Be that team that always wins at home after opposing teams see the beach, the life and the beauty and quit caring about football. Be that team that throws for a bazillion yards and finds ways to come up with big offensive performances that no one can seem to stop – at least at home. Be the team that has the right attitude when it comes to being one of the most unique programs in all of college football.

The passing game was okay in Norm Chow’s second season, but it wasn’t a killer. There wasn’t any efficiency and there weren’t enough big plays, and with a defense that couldn’t seem to come up with a key stop, not having a great offense to fall back on turned into a killer.

Recruiting isn’t an issue – it’s not like Hawaii was competing with the Ohio States and Alabamas of the world for talent when things were going well. The big question is Chow, who has the legendary name and the amazing resume, but hasn’t seen much success over the last decade.

The USC national title-level days were a long time ago.

Chow struggled in his time in the NFL as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, the UCLA/Rick Neuheisel experience was a stunning disaster, and 2011 Utah’s offense didn’t exactly rock. But Chow obviously knows how to get an offense moving and he’s an elite quarterback coach. In Year Three, though, it’s all about producing, and at the very least, being more interesting. Hawaii can lose, but it has to be entertaining.

There were signs that things might be improving with a nice finishing kick. The Rainbow Warriors lost two overtime games before finally coming up with their first win of the season against Army, and five of the losses overall were by seven points or fewer. Sometimes it takes a few years for a coach to get his pieces in place, and sometimes a rebuilding job has to be done. Maybe, just maybe, Chow needed to build to get to this point.

The defense has a good-looking secondary that could turn into a major strength with a little help up front, the line has a few nice pieces and linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams to build around. The offense might be missing a loaded receiving corps, but RB Joey Iosefa is back and healthy and the line could be far better with four starters back. If the quarterback situation is steady, and with all the other pieces looking good, all of a sudden, Hawaii could be interesting, entertaining, and most of all under Chow, it could start to win.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation has to be settled. Four quarterbacks had got in a few throws last year, and now there's even more confusion with former USC passer Max Wittek looking like he's coming aboard. He won't be ready to go until next year, and top passer Sean Schroeder is gone meaning former Ohio State transfer Taylor Graham has to be far better than he was when he started last year and Ikaika Woolsey needs to be sharper after struggling with his accuracy. Jeremy Higgins started out his career at Utah State, but the former superstar local passer needs to be lights out in fall practices to have any chance at the job.

What to watch for on defense: New defensive coordinator Kevin Clune knows how to stop a running game after coaching linebackers at Utah State, and while slowing down the run will be vital, just generating more turnovers and being more disruptive will be his main job. The Rainbow Warriors only picked off nine passes and came up with 15 fumble recoveries – that wasn’t enough to overcome the mistakes from the offense. Considering the linebacking corps needs some work after losing Art Laurel and Brenden Daley, Clune might be the perfect guy at the right time for a defense that allowed close to 500 yards and 39 points per game.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line can keep the quarterbacks from getting popped. It’s a function of an offense that threw the ball 519 times, but still, Hawaii has to figure out how to give the passing game more time to operate. The receivers have to be a little tighter and better at giving the quarterbacks something to work with, but it all comes down to a line that allowed 42 sacks a year after allowing 40 sacks – yeah, the Rainbow Warrior O line gave up 82 sacks in the first two years of the Norm Chow era. Improve here, and the turnovers and mistakes should slow down and the production should go up.

The Schedule: It’s a schedule full of streaks and runs, kicking things off with three straight home games against Washington, Oregon State and Northern Iowa all coming to Hawaii Airlines Field. And then it’s time to travel with three of the next four games on the road, finishing up the non-conference slate with Colorado and Rice before kicking off Mountain West play with Wyoming at home. There’s no Boise State from the East, but playing Utah State is rough – fortunately, that’s at home. The Rainbow Warriors have to rock in the middle of the season with three of the last four games on the road, finishing up at Fresno State.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Joey Iosefa. Hawaii will always be throwing and throwing and throwing some more under Chow, but one of the biggest keys to the season should be a healthy Iosefa running behind a veteran offensive line. The 6-0, 245-pound pounder was never quite right last year and played in just five games – he still led the team in rushing. Settling on the right quarterback on will be vital, and coming up with playmakers at receiver will be one of the team’s biggest keys, but as long as Iosefa is able to pound away, all of a sudden, the Rainbow Warrior offense will have a key part to work around.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Beau Yap. The line loses two starters and the front seven has to come up with a few new key parts, but Yap is the disruptive force who everyone will work around. The team’s top pass rusher by far, he’s not necessarily built for the position, but he’s quick off the ball and has a great motor that doesn’t quit. Overall, the stars of the defense will be in the secondary, and safety Marrell Jackson and corner Ne’Quan Phillips should be fantastic, but it’s Yap who’ll set the tone up front.

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Frank Loyd, Jr. Ben Clarke is a terrific center and guard Kody Afusia might be the team’s best blocker, but the biggest overall problem the last few years has been pass protection, needing to keep the quarterbacks upright and give them time to operate. Loyd is a 6-3, 285-pound veteran tackle who can play either on the left or right side, and he’s the most experienced returning blocker for the outside. It’s not just him, the entire line has to improve, but he’s the one who has to be a star pass protector.

The season will be a success if ... Hawaii wins five games. The winnable games are there. Northern Iowa, Wyoming and UNLV are all possible wins at home, and going on the road to face Rice and San Jose State isn’t bad. It’s going to take a few upsets to get close to five wins, and it’s going to take a major change in offensive production, but there has to be hope. 5-7 would be a springboard type of campaign, while anything less could mean a regime change.

Key game: Oct. 11 vs. Wyoming. The Warriors have to be better in Mountain West play, and they have to start out the conference slate with a win at home. The Cowboys won in overtime last year, but this is the first game in a run of three home games in four before closing out with three road games in four. If nothing else, the team has to reestablish itself as a threat at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium, and even though the first three games of the season are at home, this will be the one that matters.

2013 Fun Stats:
- 3rd Quarter Scoring: Opponents 132 – Hawaii 49
- Time of Possession: Opponents 33:21 – Hawaii 26:39
- Penalties: Hawaii 88 for 777 yards – Opponents 69 for 635 yards
 
- 2014 Hawaii Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players