Quarterback controversy is one of the most highly debated, and interesting topics to follow for college football teams coming into the season. A coach has to think long and hard about which player will give him and his team the best chance to win games that season. The wrong decision could put your team in the college football cellar, while the right decision will lead your team to success that year. In Honolulu, Coach Norm Chow will have to decide who will be under center for the Warriors in their season opener against Washington on August 30. Here are the candidates for the starting job at Hawaii:
Ikaika Woolsey, Redshirt Sophomore (6-1, 210)
A two-star QB from Rodeo, California, Woolsey started his college football journey at City College of San Francisco in Fall of 2011. He would be a member of the scout team as the Rams would capture the Junior College Championship that year. After committing to Hawaii that spring, he would redshirt all of 2012.
Woolsey didn't see much of the field in 2013, carrying duties as FG and PAT holder as the 4th string QB on the Depth Chart. He made his first appearance under center in a blowout vs. Nevada, going 2-5 for 41 yards and two interceptions, not exactly the ideal debut for the Warriors. He would start the next two games for Hawaii against Fresno State and San Jose State, going a combined 8/22 (36%) for 100 yards and an interception. Each game, he would be pulled in favor of Senior Sean Schroeder, and wouldn't start the rest of the year.
The advantage Woolsey has over his competing QBs is his athleticism. He's a dual-threat QB that showed off his mobility on several occasions last season, and although his accuracy and decision-making were two of his biggest problems in 2013, he's shown improvement this spring. In the Warrior Bowl (Hawaii's annual spring scrimmage), Woolsey went 14-24 for 164 yards, and while he didn't have a passing touchdown, he led the Offense on scoring drives on two separate occasions. His speed and mobility were on full display with two rushing touchdown, including a big 60-yard QB keeper in the final quarter.
- Woolsey completes 10-yard out to Keith Kirkwood
- Woolsey completes 20-yard pass to Quinton Pendroza
- Woolsey keeps it for a 60-yard TD
Jeremy Higgins, Senior (6-1, 200)
A Honolulu prospect, Higgins originally left his home state for Utah State, where he would appear briefly in two games for the Aggies in 2010. He would transfer back home to Hawaii in 2011. After sitting out due to transfer rules, Higgins saw action in six games in 2012, including one start against Air Force, going 14-23 for 125 yards and a touchdown. He would finish his first year on campus 29-48 for 335 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Some thought Higgins would compete for the starting job in 2013, but he only saw action in one game last season, going 5-11 for 55 yards in a loss to Nevada.
Higgins had a solid showing in the Warrior Bowl, going 9-18 for 125 yards, with the only passing TD on the day going to Samson Anguay from 36 yards out. While he won't be wowing anyone with his arm strength this fall, his efficient is moving the ball up field and making the right throw when necessary. A big showing in fall camp could move him ahead of Woolsey for QB1 duties.
- Higgins hits Vasquez Haynes for a 10-plus yard gain
- Higgins hits Penitito Faalologo on a dump for 10 yards
Taylor Graham, Senior (6-5, 235)
A four-star QB from Wheaton, Illinois, Graham started his career at Ohio State as a back-up to Braxton Miller for two years, seeing the field in just one game vs. Akron in 2011. He would then transfer to Hawaii and sit out the 2012 season. Norm Chow named him the starter as the beginning of last season, but his first start against USC didn't go exactly as expected, finishing 16-41 (39%), with four interceptions and just one score. He would start two more games against Oregon State and Nevada before going down with an injury against the Wolfpack. When he returned, he would make sporadic appearances against Colorado State, Utah State, and San Diego State.
He would have surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in January, and has been recovering during the offseason in hopes of making another run at the starting job this fall. If the Warriors front line can keep him off the turf, that could help him get his confidence back up and possibly back into the race for starting QB.
If Woolsey can continue off the improvement he's shown over the spring, it'll be his job to lose this season. His athleticism and mobility make him a threat on the ground for any front seven. His near-60% completion rate in the Warrior Bowl shows us some improvement in his decision-making as a QB, and having former Utah QB Jordan Wynn as a Quarterback Coach doesn't hurt his progression either. If he doesn't make the same freshman mistakes of staring down receivers for too long or over/underthrowing his receivers, he'll be Norm Chow's Quarterback come Week 1 vs. Washington.