2008 Hawai'i Preview - Offense

Posted Apr 23, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Hawai'i Warrior Offense

Hawaii Warriors

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Hawaii Preview | 2008 Hawaii Offense
- 2008 Hawaii Defense |
2008 Hawaii Depth Chart
2007 CFN Hawaii Preview | 2006 CFN Hawaii Preview 

What you need to know:
This won't be the juggernaut of the past few seasons, but it won't be that bad. The offense that led the nation averaging 43.48 points per outing and was third overall averaging 512 yards per game is undergoing a total overhaul in the passing game. It's a four-way battle to replace QB Colt Brennan with Inoke Funaki taking the slight lead. A slew of JUCO transfers will make a big impact at quarterback and receiver, but they'll have to hit the ground running to push out the veteran backups who have been waiting their turn for the last few years. There won't be too many changes to the run-and-shoot, but there will be a little more running and fewer shotgun formations. The line will be fine, but nothing special.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tyler Graunke
90-137, 1,234 yds, 10 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Kealoha Pilares
68 carries, 388 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Kealoha Pilares
26 catches, 249 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior C John Estes
Player who has to step up and become a star: The starting quarterback
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Daniel Lofton
Best pro prospect: Estes
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Estes, 2) QB Inoke Funake or Tyler Graunke, 3) WR Malcolm Lane
Strength of the offense: Receiver speed, quarterback options
Weakness of the offense:
Veteran skill players, running production


Projected Starter
The door was open this spring for Inoke Funaki, and he kicked it in. The 5-11, 195-pound junior took advantage of his chance and turned out to be a strong, effective passer in practices. He saw a little bit of time last year as the third teamer, completing 10 of 15 passes for 136 yards and a three touchdowns, but what separates him is his mobility. He's one of the best runners the Warriors have had under center.

Projected Top Reserve: It appeared obvious that senior Tyler Graunke was going to take over for Colt Brennan, but after struggling with his schoolwork and after getting suspended, now there's a fight for the job. The 6-0, 185-pound veteran was the starter coming out of 2005 spring ball, but quickly gave way to Brennan. He has seen a little bit of time here and there, and completed 90 of 137 passes for 1,234 yards with ten touchdowns and six interceptions last year, and ran for three scores, but he'll mostly be known for leading a comeback win over Nevada last season, and for stepping in and producing in the Sugar Bowl once the dogs were called off.

On the way is top JUCO transfer Greg Alexander, a 6-5, 240-pound bomber who threw for 3,487 yards and 40 touchdowns with just six picks last year for Santa Rosa College. With a huge arm and next level skills, it wouldn't be a shock if he took the job right away.

6-4, 190-pound Brent Rausch is another top JUCO transfer, and while he has 6-4, 190-pound size and a great arm, he's not the prospect Alexander is.
A better runner than Alexander, Rausch adds an extra dimension to the mix to go along with his accurate passing arm. He could quickly be the No. 2 quarterback.

Watch Out For ... the battle to go on up until the last second. Funaki has the inside edge, but Alexander has the upside and the talent while Graunke has the experience. It'll be one of the toughest decisions any coaching staff anywhere has to make.
Strength: Accuracy. Everyone can throw the ball incredibly well. Any of the four can start from day one and complete 65% of his throws.
Weakness: Being the main man. Graunke has been great off the bench, but he hasn't thrived as the true No. 1. Alexander and Rausch have to prove themselves at the next level, while Funaki has to be more than the good third option he has been.
Outlook: The loss of Colt Brennan is obviously a huge one, but the cupboard is far from bare. The Warriors might not get 5,713 yards and 51 touchdown passes out of the position, but the starter, whichever one of the four gets the call, should be able to toss for 4,000 yards and 35 scores in this offense. There are four good options and there's no wrong answer.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starter
There's a plan to run the ball a bit more, and junior Leon Wright-Jackson should see a bit more work. The 6-1, 210-pound former Nebraska Cornhusker didn't exactly take over the ground game as expected, but he arrived late on campus last year and finished with 219 yards and two touchdowns with a 6.6 yard-per-carry average. While he's a nice receiver, catching 16 passes for 146 yards, there are better options out of the backfield. He's a strong runner who could carry the workload when needed.

Projected Top Reserve: Part wide receiver, part running back, 5-8, 185-pound senior Daniel Libre saw a little bit of action late in the year and finished third on the team with 190 rushing yards and an 8.3-yard-per-carry average. Even though he's a speedster, he was more of a possession receiver making nine grabs for 76 yards. He did most of his work in the key win over Washington running for 82 yards and catching six passes for 61 more, and now he'll be the No. 2 rushing option.

Yes, there might be an occasional call for a fullback, and veteran David Farmer will be the main man. The 6-1, 225-pound senior is a thunder back who ran for 41 yards as a short-yardage man, and caught nine passes for 95 yards and a score. By far the best blocking back, he could be used in a variety of roles.

5-11, 230-pound junior Mario Cox is more of a power back behind the speedsters. He ran for nine yards and caught two passes for 15 more, but he could be used more to soften up defenses from time to time.

Watch Out For ... more production. Only Duke, Syracuse and Texas Tech had less rushing production than the Warriors, who finished with a mere 944 yards and 16 touchdowns. The backs will get more work and there be a wee bit more balance, although not too much more.
Strength: Power. While there's speed and quickness among the top options, there's enough size to go with a power running game from time to time. This isn't going to be a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust ground attack, but it'll pound between the tackles when needed.
Weakness: Production. The offense simply isn't built around running the ball on a regular basis. The back has to be used to being an afterthought, and while Wright-Jackson and Libre have potential, they'll never get the ball enough to get into a groove.
Outlook: For what Hawaii does, the backs will be just fine. The overall numbers should improve, especially if there's a mobile quarterback taking over for Colt Brennan, while Wright-Jackson and Libre should tear off enough big plays to keep defenses honest.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters
Senior Michael Washington was supposed to play a relatively big role as part of the rotation last season, but he was lost in the shuffle with all the great receivers in front of him. The 5-7, 175-pound speedster only caught three passes for 51 yards and a touchdown, and he averaged 20.8 yards on his five punt returns thanks to an 80-yard touchdown against Northern Colorado. With 4.3 speed, he needs to get the ball in his hands on a regular basis.

Junior Malcolm Lane has the athleticism and the talent to be a number one receiver. At 6-2 and 185 pounds he has the size to be physical inside and out, and he has the jets to get deep as an outside receiver. He caught 14 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by an 81-yard scoring play against UNLV, and he averaged a whopping 29.2 yards per kickoff return with two touchdowns.

In a jack-of-all-trades slotback role will be sophomore Kealoha Pilares, the team's leading rusher last season with 388 yards and three touchdowns. A great receiver no matter where he was lined up, he caught 26 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. Now he'll be asked to be a go-to guy as both a runner and as a receiver.

While the Warriors don't use a true tight end, 6-3, 200-pound sophomore Daniel Lofton will be a big target at the Y. After signing with Cal and taking a redshirt year, he sat out last year to be ready to roll for the Warriors and potentially be the team's most dangerous all-around receiver. He has the size, next-level speed, he was a California state high school champion sprinter, and limitless upside. He's the son of NFL Hall of Famer, James Lofton.

Projected Top Reserves: Needing to add some instant depth are JUCO transfers Mike Tinoco, Dustin Blount, and Javonte Taylor. The 5-9, 165-pound Blount made 74 catches for 1,103 yards on his way to being named the Western State Conference co-player of the year. Phenomenally quick, he should be all but uncoverable on the inside.

The 5-9, 185-pound Taylor runs a 4.2 40 and should become a home-run hitter as both a receiver and a return man. He was a California State sprint champion who'll be used in a variety of spots to get his speed on the field. Oregon wanted him, and Hawaii got him.

The 6-2, 200-pound Tinoco is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous leaping ability and big-time speed. He has all the measurables and all the tools, and now he has to put it all together at the outside X position.

Senior Aaron Bain and sophomore Greg Salas were part of the mix in mop-up duty last year, with the 5-9, 190-pound Bain making five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, and the 6-2, 205-pound Salas coming up with three grabs for 35 yards and a score. They have been around long enough to know what they're doing, but they could have a hard time beating out the JUCO transfers.

Watch Out For ... the new guys. Tinoco, Blount and Taylor has phenomenal speed and the experience to step in right away and shine. If these three are as good as advertised, there might not be a drop-off in overall production.
Strength: Speed. Is there anyone in the corps who can't move? Hawaii, like most schools, tends to shave a .1 or so off of 40 times, but these guys really are fast.
Weakness: Veterans. Everyone is gone. Pilares is the only receiver returning with any appreciable experience, and he was mostly a runner. The receiving corps is starting from scratch.
Outlook: Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Jason Rivers and C.J. Hawthorne combined for 367 catches for 4,671 yards and 44 touchdowns. No big deal. Any one of the four would be the number one receiver going into this year, but it's not like there's not talent returning. There's speed, size, and upside, but the production has to come even though this is a less talented corps. The numbers will be better than the talent.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
The line should be good, but it'll be tough to replace all-star Hercules Satele at left guard. Looking to give it a try will be 6-1, 315-pound senior Keith AhSoon, a tackle by trade who started every game on the left side. Now he'll likely move one spot over where he can better use his girth and decent feet and a natural position.

With AhSoon moving to guard, 6-5, 300-pound junior Aaron Kia will take on a bigger role at left tackle. A former star high school swimmer, he's a great athlete who has seen enough time, 15 games, to be ready to step in and produce right away.

The star of the show is 6-2, 290-pound junior John Estes, a first-team All-WAC performer who started every game and was the leader of the veteran line. Initially considered a guard, where he saw time as a true freshman, he turned into an athletic blocker in the middle and he should now be the anchor.

Taking over at right tackle will be 6-7, 285-pound JUCO transfer Kainoa LaCount, an all-star at College of the Canyons who can run block reasonably well, but is mostly a nasty pass protector. He's a big, long blocker who's great at locking on to a defender.

Working at right guard will be 6-0, 285-pound senior Lafu Tuioti-Mariner, a phenomenally strong weight room star who should be able to push some people around in the running game. He saw time in every game last year and should be a decent replacement for Larry Sauafea.

Projected Top Reserves: Able to step in at either tackle spot is 6-3, 280-pound senior Keoni Steinhoff who returns starting every game at right tackle with mixed results. He's not a bad athlete, but he was an inconsistent pass protector and now has to beat out LaCount.

6-3, 315-pound junior Ray Hisatake is one of the team's bigger linemen, but he slimmed down a bit over the last year after redshirting. The former JUCO transfer will work behind Kia on the left side, but he could play either spot.

Watch Out For ... LaCount. While it's a bit of a stretch to call him the key to the line, if he turns out to be consistent enough to start at right tackle, then AhSoon can play guard full-time and the line should have its best players in the correct spots.
Strength: Estes. This is a good line, but it needs a leader like Estes to revolve around. He's an All-WAC star who's the perfect quarterback up front.
Weakness: Pass protection. Georgia's line had a field day against last year's group. Yeah, the offense put the ball in the air 663 times, but 35 sacks are still a lot to give up. This year's line has less experience and a less experienced quarterback under center. Don't expect a big improvement.
Outlook: The line will be fine even with some key losses. It's good enough to be at least as productive as last year's group, and if some of the reserves emerge early on, there should be a better rotation than last year. There are plenty of options to play around with in the lineup, and with the returning bulk and size, there should be more production for the ground game.
Rating: 6.5