No. 75 Hawai'i
Hawai'i football is back!
After a five-year hibernation, the Rainbow Warriors returned to national relevance last season with seven victories under first-year head coach Nick Rolovich and they're not done.
They finally have a promising quarterback in Dru Brown, return 1,000-yard rusher in Diocemy Saint Juste and are working to get the right personnel to fix a defense that was gashed last year.
2016 Record: 7-7 (4-4, Mountain West)
Hawai'i gave up 114 points in two losses to open the season before rebounding to win seven games and earn a bowl berth for the first time since 2010.
Still, the defense was a concern all season, yielding a Mounain West-worst 37.3 points per game — seven games of 40 or more — and an inconsistent offense wasn't enough to finish above .500. They did, however, end the season on a three-game winning streak, including a bowl win over Middle Tennessee.
Head Coach: Nick Rolovich (2nd year, 7-7 overall)
Last year Nick Rolovich returned to Hawai'i for a fourth time to take over a program in dire need of a jump-start. The former Warriors' quarterback who replaced Tommy Chang in 2001 was a student assistant (2003-04), quarterbacks coach (2008-09) and offensive coordinator (2010-11) before getting the job in 2016.
And he provided that jump-start, injecting excitement and optimism into a tired program that won 11 games that previous four years.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB QB Dru Brown, RB Diocemy Saint Juste, WR John Ursua, WR Dylan Collie, TE Metuisela 'Unga, OT Dejon Allen, G John Wa'a, G J.R. Hensley, C Asotui Eli
For the first time in years, Hawai'i fans can be excited about the quarterback situation heading into fall camp. Dru Brown, a JUCO transfer who arrived late last offseason, completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,488 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was outstanding in season-ending wins over UMass and Middle Tennessee, throwing nine touchdowns to zero interceptions.
“It’s nice to end the year that way,” Brown said of the latter win, their first zero-turnover game of the season. “It’s something that I’ve struggled with all year and we’d probably have two more wins if I stopped turning the ball over in critical situations. That’s my responsibility and I think, going into the offseason, just stressing that and starting to build chemistry with the receivers and the rest of the team going into next year will benefit us a lot.”
Though Brown does lose 1,100-yard receiver Marus Kemp, he gets back two reliable slot targets in John Ursua and Dylan Collie and emerging tight end Metuisela 'Unga. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder had two two-touchdown games last year.
At running back, senior Diocemy Saint Juste is one of the best in the Group of Five. He exploded for 1,006 yards on just 165 carries (6.1 average) with the help of an improved offense line. All-conference tackle Dejon Allen anchors a line that returns three other players with starting experience, including senior guard John Wa'a.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DT Penitito Faalologo, DT Viane Moala, DE Meffy Koloamatangi, LB Malachi Mageo, LB Jahlani Tavai, S Trayvon Henderson, S Daniel Lewis Jr.
Another season, another defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Legi Suiaunoa takes over a unit that ranked at the bottom of most FBS categories, including average yardage (461.6, 112th), first downs allowed (335, 126th) and scoring (37.3, 113th).
The strength is the defensive line, where three key players return, including Meffy Koloamatangi, who earned all-conference honorable mention honors in 2016. He and JUCO transfer Jamie Tago will hold the edges — along with outside linebacker Malachi Mageo.
Inside linebacker Jahlani Tavai is their most disruptive player. He led the team in tackles (128), tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (six) as a sophomore. His 19.5 tackles for loss also led the Mountain West.
Safeties Trayvon Henderson and Daniel Lewis Jr. are back, though their reliability can only go so far. They must find better play at cornerback to limit big plays.
Notable Player Losses
RB Steve Lakalaka, RB Paul Harris, WR Marcus Kemp, CB Jalen Rogers, S Damien Packer
Steve Lakalaka and Paul Harris combined for 984 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Lakalala averaged just 4.1 yards per game but was a force in short-yardage situations, while Harris was the exact opposite; he averaged a staggering seven yards per carry.
Marcus Kemp finally left after 176 career catches for 2,570 yards and 13 scores. The long, lanky target (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) had three 100-yard games, including 151 and two touchdowns vs. Air Force.
Hawai'i didn't lose much defensively but the departures of Jalen Rogers and Damien Packer leaves them with a thin secondary that has a ton to prove if they plan on contending for the division title.
Notable Player Additions
C Fred Ulu-Perry, DE Blessman Ta'ala, DE Jamie Tago
Fred Ulu-Perry, a UCLA transfer who sat out 2016 and missed spring practice, adds much-needed depth to the offensive line. The four-star recruit returns home after the Bruins initially denied his request because of their 2017 matchup.
They made two big additions on the defense line, namely JUCO transfer Jamie Tago. The three-star prospect is back after a spring suspension for a violation of team rules and could contend for all-conference honors. Ta'ala is a 2017 three-star prospect from American Samoa who passed on offers from Colorado and Oregon State.
Two of Hawai'i's four non-conference games are on the road: Aug. 26 at UMass and Sept. 9 at UCLA. The Warriors then open Mountain West play at Wyoming, rotating home and away games for the first four weeks of conference play.
|Saturday, Sept. 26||at UMass|
|Saturday, Sept. 2||vs. Western Carolina|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||at UCLA|
|Saturday, Sept. 23||at Wyoming|
|Saturday, Sept. 30||vs. Colorado State|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||at Nevada|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||vs. San Jose State|
|Saturday, Oct. 28||vs. San Diego State|
|Saturday, Nov. 4||at UNLV|
|Saturday, Nov. 11||vs. Fresno State|
|Saturday, Nov. 18||at Utah State|
|Saturday, Nov. 25||vs. BYU|