The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 118 Hawaii.
Previewing Hawaii’s Offense for 2014:
Sophomore Ikaika Woolsey is positioned to be Hawaii’s fourth opening-day starting quarterback in as many seasons. Woolsey, who started two games in 2013 and played mostly cameo roles before taking the lead in the spring, gives the Rainbow Warriors their best combination of passing and running, which is why it is his job to lose.
But he won’t lack for competition. Taylor Graham, who started the 2013 season-opener before suffering a shoulder injury in the third game, should be healthy in the fall. Jeremy Higgins, who also has a start on his résumé, and one-time Colorado State signee Beau Reilly will be in the mix.
But there is no doubt who makes the running game go — senior tailback Joey Iosefa, who came back from a foot injury that caused him to miss all or most of eight games to rush for 586 yards and five touchdowns in the final four games. His return coincided with Hawaii’s late-season offensive surge. Steven Lakalaka and Diocemy Saint Juste will spell Iosefa.
The arrival of Quinton Pedroza, a transfer from Utah, adds some much-needed depth to the receiver corps, where Scott Harding, Vasquez Haynes and Keith Kirkwood should be the main targets. If Jordan Pu’u-Robinson can stay healthy — a big if — the tight end position will be a big part of the offense.
In an effort to shore up an offensive line that allowed 43 sacks, the team’s best lineman, two-year starting center Ben Clarke, could find himself at tackle this year. Steady Kody Afusia would move from left guard to center.
Previewing Hawaii's Defense for 2014:
When defensive coordinator Kevin Clune arrived from Utah State, he took on one of the biggest challenges in the country. Clune inherits a defense that ranked among the worst in the nation in several key categories.
The undertaking begins with the switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 to take advantage of one of Hawaii’s few strengths on defense, its linebackers. The unit, which has both size and speed, received an additional boost when UCLA transfer Jeremy Castro was granted immediate eligibility. Jerrol Garcia-Williams is a leading returnee, and Julian Gener was off to a big start in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury.
Second-team All-MW defensive end Beau Yap sets the standard on the defensive line, where sophomore Kennedy Tulimasealii is ready to come into his own and Moses Samia and Marcus Malepeai will also play key roles. The secondary will be built around cornerbacks Ne’Quan Phillips and Dee Maggitt and safeties Marrell Jackson, Trayvon Henderson and Kawika Borden. But depth remains an issue in the pass-happy Mountain West, and redshirt freshman Keelan Ewaliko could make a big contribution.
Previewing Hawaii’s Specialists for 2014:
In his addition to his duties as a wide receiver, Harding is a valuable special teams contributor. The former Australian Rules rugby pro punted and returned punts last season, and for a time he was also a holder on placements. As an ambidextrous rugby-style kicker, his roll-outs kept foes off balance, resulting in three fumbles and helping UH rank 25th nationally in net punting. Placekicker Tyler Hadden converted only 7-of-13 attempts last season, including 2-of-3 from beyond 40 yards.
After the worst two-season start (4–20) ever for a Hawaii head coach, the pressure is on for Norm Chow to show major improvement in 2014. That, however, will not be easy. The schedule is difficult — especially early with three Pac-12 opponents in the season’s first month — and there are significant personnel issues on both sides of the ball. The Rainbow Warriors appear headed toward another last-place finish.