COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
MWC West Division PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Norm Chow, 3-9 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Aaron Price | DEF. COORDINATOR: Thom Kaumeyer
For the second consecutive season, Hawaii will look to an inexperienced transfer quarterback from a BCS conference school to lead its offense. This time it’s former Ohio State backup Taylor Graham, a junior who has the size (6'5", 235) and pedigree (father Kent was an NFL quarterback for 11 seasons), but he has not taken a snap in three years of college. If Graham is to be more successful than Sean Schroeder, who came from Duke to start 11 games last season, the Rainbow Warriors will have to provide much better protection and a more substantial running threat.
The offensive line returns just two seniors, left guard Mike Milovale and utilityman Chauncy Winchester-Makainai. Finding a left tackle to replace Blake Muir, who transferred, will be key. Junior Sean Shigematsu, who started five games at right tackle in 2012, emerged from spring atop the depth chart. Center Ben Clarke, an all-conference honorable mention pick as a freshman, is the top offensive lineman.
Hawaii’s ground game ranked 111th in the nation last season with a meager 108.6 yards per game. Junior Joey Iosefa, who rushed for 463 yards and a touchdown, is the leading returning rusher. Redshirt freshman Steven Lakalaka is the top backup, though incoming freshmen Diocemy St. Juste and Aofaga Wiley will get a look.
Hawaii’s receivers need to create better separation at the line of scrimmage and add yards after the catch. Billy Ray Stutzmann is the top returnee with 35 catches in 2012.
Linebacker Art Laurel, who topped the MWC in tackles for a loss (13.5), returns from offseason surgery to lead a defense that had its moments until injuries and a lack of depth took their toll.
Hardest hit was the interior line, where four players, including starters Moses Samia, Siasau Matagiese and Calen Friel, all went down either before or during the season. All are expected back at full strength in the fall. The returning defensive ends, Beau Yap and Tavita Woodard, an honorable mention all-conference pick, were stellar and will be bolstered by the addition of UCLA transfer Iuta Tepa.
Mike Edwards, who declared for the NFL Draft, leaves a huge void at cornerback. There is a three-way battle to replace him. Ne’Quan Phillips, who contributed as a true freshman, holds down the other corner. The safeties are solid. Marrell Jackson tied for the team lead in tackles as a true freshman.
Jerrol Garcia-Williams and Brenden Daley join Laurel in the linebacking corps.
The Rainbow Warriors’ biggest scholarship bargain is Scott Harding, a six-year veteran of the Australian Rules Football League, who plays slot receiver, returns punts, holds on kicks and will replace the departed Alex Dunnachie full-time as the punter. Wideout Chris Gant will get first crack at replacing Edwards, who returned three kickoffs for a touchdown last year. Safety John Hardy-Tuliau has blocked seven kicks in his career.
Norm Chow’s first season as Hawaii’s head coach was a struggle, and the schedule only gets tougher for 2013. Chow used the offseason to shake up his coaching staff on the offensive side with the addition of line coach Chris Naeole, coordinator Aaron Price and quarterbacks coach Jordan Wynn. It’s imperative that Hawaii shows significant improvement on offense after scoring 14 points or less in six of its 12 games last season. The Rainbow Warriors must also start to win the turnover battle; they ranked 110th in the nation last year.
The schedule won’t allow for Chow’s team to ease into the season. The first five games are against bowl teams. Hawaii will have a tough time finishing out of the basement in the new MWC West division.