Now all the key
parts are gone. Colt Brennan is off to the NFL. The top wideouts
either graduated or bailed out early with the ship starting to take
on water, and most painful of all, head coach June Jones, the one
who made the program prominent, made a lateral move to take over SMU
because of money, and the potential of what Hawaii football can
While not on a shoestring budget, Hawaii isn't exactly awash in
pocket change it can throw at the football program. The facilities
are lousy, there's a limited ability to recruit on the mainland, and
the team mainly has worked as well as it has by mixing in a cast of
misfits with as many top local talents as it can keep. Now the goal
isn't just to maintain the high standard but to not crash and burn.
New head man Greg McMackin isn't going to try to reinvent the wheel,
Hawaii is still going to throw the ball, but with so many changes
and such a massive turnover in personnel and key players, the
situation is as good as it's going to get to start fresh with a few
new ideas. Like defense.
Lost in all the pyrotechnics and passing numbers was a defense that
was the second best in the conference and the best at getting into
the backfield. The offense will put up numbers, but it'll be
impossible to be as clutch and as consistent as Brennan and the boys
were. Of course, all the negativity will be attempted to be spun in
the team's favor.
Get ready for the no-one-believes-in-us rant, because no one will
believe in Hawaii as a WAC title contender. Likely to be picked in
the middle of the pack by everyone, the motivation will be there to
prove the world wrong and to show that it wasn't all Jones, Brennan,
Davone Bess, and the rest of last year's cast of characters. It's
not going to be easy.
What to watch for on offense: A bit less from the shotgun.
The offense isn't going to change up from the formula that's worked
so well over the last several years, but depending on who the
starting quarterback will be, there might be less shotgun, a few
more running plays, and moments now and then when the attack looks
just like everyone else. The leading quarterback option going into
fall, Inoke Funake, was far better under center, so if he's the man,
there could be even less shotgun.
What to watch for on defense: The new corners. It's not like
former corners Garard Lewis and Myron Newberry were bad, on the
contrary. They were two tough defenders on the outside who combined
for 104 tackles, six interceptions and 14 broken up passes with
Newberry earning first-team All-WAC honors. However, those two
weren't as talented as seniors Ryan Mouton and Jameel Dowling, who
each have NFL potential. Dowling, a former Oregon Duck, has 6-3,
205-pound size and excellent speed, while Mouton has warp wheels but
hasn't been able to show them off as much as he'd like. Banged up
last year, Mouton could be a superstar, lock-down defender.
The team will be far better if …
the kick coverage teams show up. This was
a problem two years ago and it became a glaring weakness last year.
While Hawaii averaged an impressive 12.4 yards per punt return, it
gave up 17.9 yards per try. The kickoff coverage wasn't much better
allowing 23.9 yards per attempt with two touchdowns.
The Schedule: Remember, this isn't the Hawaii of last year. Also remember that Hawaii
has one of the best home field advantages in college football and could
lose to anyone away from Honolulu. Remember how many close calls there
were on the mainland last year against mediocre teams? Forget about the
season opener at Florida and the trip to Oregon State will likely be too
much to handle. The piper must be paid for last season's schedule with
road dates at Fresno State and Boise State which could likely end the
WAC title hopes by mid-October, and playing at Utah State and New Mexico
State won't be a plus making it three road games in a four-game stretch
with the home game a tough one against Nevada. Closing with Washington
State and Cincinnati at home will be the equivalent of bowl games.
Best Offensive Player:
Junior C John Estes. For a team that'll be among the nation's
leaders in passing, the star of the show is a (zzzzzz) lineman?! Others
will put up the big numbers to end up on the all-star teams, but it's
Estes and the line that needs to give everyone time to work, The 6-2,
290-pound junior is a great technician and a perfect quarterback for the
Best Defensive Player:
Senior LBs Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard. Leonard made 105
tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions, taking two
for scores, and he wasn't quite healthy with a knee and thumb giving him
problems. Meanwhile, Elimimian was seemingly in on every tackle making
141 of them. When the two careers are over, if healthy, these two will
combine for over 750 tackles and 35.5 tackles for loss.
Key player to a
The starting quarterback. Inoke Funake has the inside track on the job
after a good spring, and with his combination of mobility and accuracy
he wouldn't be a bad option. Tyler Graunke had academic issues, but he's
the most experienced option and has proved he can win games. Ready to
throw their hats into the ring are JUCO transfers Greg Alexander and
Brent Rausch, two talented prospects who came to Hawaii to play right
away. Alexander is the better of the two.
The season will be a
... Hawaii wins eight games and goes back to a bowl game. There isn't
enough in the bag to win the WAC, and even last year's team would've
wilted against the 2008 schedule, but that doesn't mean this can't be a
successful season. The key is to make sure things don't completely go
into the tank. A 4-9 season would show that Jones, Brennan and company
really did mean everything.
Sept. 27 vs. San Jose State. The WAC opener isn't the sure-thing win it
might appear to be. The Spartans are far better this year and will be
far more polished early on, even though they have quarterback issues of
their own. With road trips to Fresno State and Boise State coming up
quickly, Hawaii has to come up with a win against Dick Tomey's club to
avoid a disastrous start to the conference season.
2007 Fun Stats:
- Touchdown passes: Hawaii 51 – Opponents 16
- Time of possession: Opponents 32:06 – Hawaii 27:54
- Third down conversions: Hawaii 74 of 157 (47%) – Opponents 59 of 198