The 2012 Warriors will be sporting a whole new look this year. The question will be what form will it take?
With new head coach Norm Chow at the helm, the state of Hawaii has its first head coach who was born in the Islands. After thirty plus years as an offensive coordinator, can Norm Chow first stint ever as a head coach be successful?
The challenges are daunting and a new, tougher conference and a brutal pair of away games, ensures him and his players a baptism by fire.
Coach Chow finally, and somewhat belatedly, pulled the trigger on his starting quarterback. What was unexpected was that it was junior transfer Sean Schroeder from Duke who was made first team.
Freshman sensation Jeremy Higgins was named his backup and David Graves was named third string quarterback, and will also be taking snaps at receiver. Graves was philosophical about the decision saying, "Anything to help the team."
With powerful running back Joey Isoefa and seven talented wide receives, the new coach has a number of weapons to empoly. Add to that the addition of three large tight ends for the first time in nearly fifteen years and the offense does look promising.
However, there are concerns about the new offensive line. Last year's line was comprised mainly of seniors.
This year, the linemen are young and inexperienced and need to grow up in a hurry. With games at USC at BYU in the first month, this inexperienced line will have to grow up fast if Schoeder is to have any chance of making use of the weapons on the team. The other worry is the new system Norm Chow is installing this week. With players playing out of the position they were comfortable with, mistakes early on are inevitable. With tougher conference foes and brutal away games they will be errors the Warriors can ill afford.
Like the offense, the defense is being completely retooled. There has been talk of occasionally going to a 5-2 alignment. The problem with doing this in favor of the 4-3 is Coach Chow finds himself short of defensive linemen.
Outstanding defensive lineman Paipai Falemalu will undoubtedly figure heavily in Coach Chow's new defensive schemes. With Falemalu frequently drawing the double block, the other defensive linemen will need to pick up the slack.
The back seven are steady, with linebacker Art Laurel aiding in both the pass rush and run stopping, the corners will be able to focus on enemy recivers. Both Mike Edwards and John hardy-Tulian are good at breaking up passes and are capable of making big plays.
The Warriors new scheme calls for pressuring on every down. If the Warriors can do this against their conference opponents, they will have a fighting chance.
Originally a source of strength, the special teams have been thrown into disarray. Punter Alex Dunmachie, Hawaii's only legitimate pro prospect, was arrested on a DUI during the off season. He was the third Warrior in three months to be guilty of this. Norm Chow suspended the other two players indefinitely and has said the same punishment has been given Dunmachie. With the former all WAC punter suspended indefinitely, Norm Chow is now left searching for a suitable replacement.
Kicker Tyler Hadden is extremely erratic, hitting just 50% of his field goals last season. With such erratic performances, it is easy to see why Norm Chow does not want to put directional punting on his plate. But with time almost up, he may not have a choice.
Norm Chow has a earner his reputation as an offensive genius and Hawaii should score its share of points this season. However, with six better teams, at least on paper, his first year will be rough.
Hawaii is still a couple of years away from contending in the Mountain West. There is too much inexperience and too many changes without the personnel needed to implement them in place. Hawaii always plays hard and is extremely dangerous at Aloha Stadium, but this year is all about retooling for the future. Hawaii will go 4-8 or possibly 5-7. Hawaii residents expectation of a bowl game is simply beyond the Warriors' reach this season.