The Warriors had an exciting if somewhat turbulent offseason. Norm Chow scored an early coup in keeping three of the state's top ten players in Hawaii. All had been courted by perennial football powers but chose to stay home. This year's Warriors will also eschew Chow's initial philosophy of running the ball and Chow has wisely relented and stated he would use a new system that better plays to the strengths of the players he has. Last years 3-9 debacle was due to his insistence on a rigid game plan. This year look for the Warriors to display more versatility in their play calling. What one should not look for is a better win loss ration.
There have been a number of players moved about and some truly promising recruits coming in. One of the strengths of the team will be depth at quarterback. Taylor Graham has been named the starter but with both Schroeder and Higgins behind him Hawaii has some depth there. another plus is for the first time in school history Hawaii has three 6'4 receivers for Graham to throw the ball to. While these large fast receivers are young they could be a source of concern for future foes. Look for Chow to introduce them into the mix slowly.
A concern is the offensive line. It is thin with three seniors having graduated and will be a challenge to rebuild. Last year the line was a disgrace allowing 40 sacks. Only six teams in America gave up more. Keeping Graham off the ground is vital if the Warriors wish to compete. One blessing is however that Chow kept Hawaii's best high school offensive lineman, John Wa'a, home and he will be sorely needed early on. He will recive a true baptism by fire considering the Warriors first two opponents.
Last season the Warriors had one of the worst defenses in the country. This was due to a string of injuries early on that could not be avoided. Four interior defensive linemen missed all or most of last season due to freak injuries. This year those injuries have healed and Chow added two top defensive players into the mix. Newcomers Kennedy Tulimasealii (DL) and Tigi Hill (DB) may see early action.
With the strength of the team once again in the defensive line and solid linebackers such as Art Laurel anchoring the linebacking corp look for the front seven to be stout early on. However it is in the defensive backfield where the Warriors will struggle. With outstanding defensive back Mike Edwards turning pro early the young secondary will be under constant attack by opposing teams. The strong front seven may be forced to gamble in an attempt to protect a truly green set of defensive backs.
Hawaii's special teams took a big hit with the graduation of outstanding Alex Dunnachie who averaged 46.2 yards per punt. On the plus side of the ledger Hawaii does have Tyler Hadden returning a solid kicker who made all his PAT attempts but was mediocore at FG connecting on 13 of 21 aattempts. However in all fairness to Hadden the ones missed were often at the limits of his range.
Athletic Director Ben Jay's decision to no longer schedule lower division opponents means the Warriors will only play 12 games. In an even bigger blunder Jay has put together a nightmarish schedule. It starts with #25 USC, #24 Oregon State, Nevada and Fresno State. Hawaii's four toughest games of the year are in the first four weeks. Worse yet for the Warriors is the fact that both Oregon State and Nevada are on the road meaning that after USC on August 29 the Warriors will not return to Aloha Stadium until Sepetember 28.
Add in games with San Diego State, Navy and a vastly improved San Jose State squad the Warriors have the work cut out for them this year. The only blessing is that in the new Mountain West alignment the Warriors avoid Boise State. Make no mistake this team is deeper and more talented than last year but the schedule is also dramatically tougher and the Warriors will probably win no more than 5 games this year.