NCAA Football Preview - Hawaii Warriors

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Updated: 8/23/2013 9:22 am

Coincidentally, Hawaii had the pleasure of opening up the season against said Trojans and were blown away on the mainland, 49-10. Two weeks later the Warriors did pick up their first win of the campaign, albeit against Lamar at home in a 54-2 rout. Unfortunately, from there the next two months were all down hill for Chow and his players as the team suffered through an eight-game slide, the bulk of those setbacks coming against new conference foes from the Mountain West Conference, after the program made the switch from the Western Athletic.

The team was able to put an end to the swoon with a 48-10 romp over UNLV in late November, marking the first win against an MWC opponent as well as another program from the Football Bowl Subdivision. A week after, the squad also claimed a 23-7 triumph over South Alabama outside of conference play in order to finish with a very disappointing 3-9 record overall and a 1-7 MWC mark, leaving the Warriors in a tie for ninth place in the standings.

After having one of the most aggressive passing offenses in the nation over the last decade, the Warriors found themselves languishing in the seventh spot in the MWC and 98th in the country overall in 2012 with a mere 188.8 passing ypg. Put that together with a traditionally weak running game and it is no surprise that Hawaii ended up 118th in total offense with a mere 297.4 ypg, leading to just 21.2 ppg (tied for 100th), a number that was significantly skewed by the 102 combined points tallied against the Cardinals and Rebels. Add to that a scoring defense which was last in the league and 104th in the country with 35.7 ppg allowed and Hawaii was a disappointment from all angles.

2013 ANALYSIS:

OFFENSE: Even before taking the field, the offense for the Warriors has taken a significant hit, with coach Chow dismissing offensive coordinator Aaron Price already. Price only joined the program in February, but Chow chose to cut ties with the Washington State product due to issues that were not divulged. Instead of filling the position, Chow plans on expanding the roles of two graduate assistants who will be working with the quarterbacks and wide receivers and will himself oversee the offense as a whole. Prior to taking over the Hawaii program, Chow was an offensive coordinator himself, most notably with the high-powered USC Trojans under Pete Carroll.

Following Chow's pro-set offense, Sean Schroeder was expected to be reprising his role as the team's starting quarterback. After spending two years at Duke, Schroeder earning the starting job last year and threw for close to 1,900 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he converted fewer than 50 percent of his attempts and was picked off 12 times, so there's still plenty of growth to be made.

However, Schroeder is coming off back surgery and missed the entire spring, opening the door for Ohio State transfer Taylor Graham to compete for the starting job.

"All the QBs are doing a good job of pushing Taylor and we're breeding good competition within the group," noted quarterbacks coach Jordan Wynn the first week of August.

The good news for whomever is under center is that there's a laundry list of returning starters along the offensive line to provide protection and give the signal-caller time to seek out receivers such as Billy Ray Stutzmann who led the group with 35 catches for 447 yards a year ago. However, Stutzmann never made it into the end zone, something he and the coaching staff would like to see change.

"I believe, in every team it all starts up front, the O- and D-line," notes offensive line coach Chris Naeole about the importance of players in the trenches.

Keeping the ball on the ground has never been a strong suit for the Warriors, but the team still has a decent threat in Joey Iosefa who is the top returning ball carrier after producing 463 yards and a score on 125 attempts through eight games a season ago.

DEFENSE: Opponents jumped all over the Hawaii defense in the first half a year ago, scoring not only 118 points in the first quarter, compared to a mere 55 points for the Warriors, but also adding another 139 in the second frame which means those foes combined for more points in the first 30 minutes (257) than Hawaii had in all four periods (254).

The unit really didn't have a single, standout performer on the defensive side of the ball, as no one recorded more than 56 total tackles. However, that's not to say that guys like Art Laurel and Beau Yap cannot be decisive factors from one play to the next. Credited with 21 starts over the last two years, Laurel is the leader of the linebacking corps, having posted four sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2012.

Now a junior, Yap led all linemen with 10.5 TFL and three sacks, but he'll need support from the interior guys if he hopes to get off the end quickly and once again cause havoc in the backfield.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The bad news for the Warriors is that they need to find a replacement for all-American punter Alex Dunnachie, who averaged an impressive 46.2 yards per punt a year ago. Oddly enough, the likely substitute should be Scott Harding who stepped in and punted 15 times in 2012, but averaged only 34.7 yards per kick. It is an odd transition based on the fact that Harding was also the team's top punt returner a year ago, bringing back one of his 23 tries for a touchdown. Harding will again be penciled in as the top returner and could also find himself on kickoff returns as well, as long as it doesn't become an issue with his other primary duties.

The placekicking will be handled by Tyler Hadden once again. Perfect on his 29 PATs, Hadden did have some issues with field goals overall, connecting on only 13-of-21 chances, with just three makes on six chances between 30-39 yards.

OUTLOOK: For a multitude of reasons, Hawaii was picked to finish last in the West Division of the MWC this season. The coaching staff is still settling in and trying to find a comfort zone in Honolulu and it certainly didn't help that Price was sent packing so close to the start of the season.

As they did last year, the Warriors will again open against USC, albeit at home this time around. Unfortunately, after that the team travels to both Oregon State and Nevada. Playing on the road is never easy for Hawaii, considering the heavy burden of long distances to locales on the mainland, but facing off against Navy in Annapolis the second week of November will surely be a tough test. Conversely, for programs to travel to the island, that sometimes works in favor of the Warriors, but there are few weak visitors on the schedule this year.

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