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Hawaii Football: Q&A with Building the Dam

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Hawaii welcomes Oregon State to Honolulu this Saturday for their second of three Pac-12 match-ups in 2014...I talked to Andy Wooldridge and RVM about what we should expect from OSU this weekend

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After Hawaii's close loss to Washington last week, fans, including myself, thought this team may have a real chance to turn some heads in 2013. The quarterback position seems in good hands with Sophomore Ikaika Woolsey, Joey Iosefa is healthy, and the new 3-4 defense seems to be a solid addition with new DC Kevin Clune. The Warriors will have a chance this Saturday vs. Oregon State to prove they can hang with some of the best Pac-12 schools this year, and I had the chance to talk with Andy Wooldridge and RVM of Building the Dam, SBNation's dedicated Oregon State site, about this weekend's matchup, and what the Beavers will be bringing to Honolulu:

CT: Talk about last week's win over Portland State. What did you take away from the season opener?

AW: I took that the reworked offensive line, with 4 new starters and the 5th playing another position, is a promising group, but as expected is still very much a work in progress, one that needs time together to get their timing down.

I also took away that the defense, also as expected, is both improved and deeper than has been the case the last few years, especially the back 7, or 8 when they switch to a 3 man front instead of their base 4 man line.

Lastly, and most disappointingly, I also took that the Beavers haven't come close yet to finding a 3rd wide receiver. Malik Gilmore got the start, and promptly disappeared. And none of 4 highly touted other new receivers, Hunter Jarmon, Jordan Villamin, Kendall Hill, or Xavier Hawkins ever got in the game. I don't expect, or think that Oregon St. can afford, for that to be the case again this week.

RVM: Andy hit the nail on the head with the offensive line for that was a very much a patchwork/work-in-progress performance. I thought there were some good signs, such as a few plays had Sean Mannion with like a year back in the pocket and I also thought some of the rushing plays were nicely blocked especially down the field blocking. But also they had a ton of mental errors with a ton of penalties and other mental brain-cramps. That all said mental stuff can be fixed much easier than fully being physically outplayed. Need to get their red zone blocking more aggressive and smart though, we need to see more being able to punch it in from 1st and goal with the rush game.

I would add too that the mental game across the board for the team was pathetic, but again that should be an easier fix than other issues that could have reared their heads.

Mannion and the receiving corps were so-so, but even being so-so Mannion still threw for 328 yards and averaged 7.3 yards a throw. Storm Woods showed some really nice potential in the rush game. I also really liked the play of the secondary, sure it was against a team with maybe one main receiver but they played lights out in the second half and played pretty smart defense all game.

Did I mention the penalties? Good I don't want to mention them any more.

CT: OSU has to replace Brandin Cooks this year, who was one of the top receivers in the nation last year and flourished with Sean Mannion as his QB. Who do you see stepping up as the #1 WR this year?

AW: Victor Bolden has taken over Cooks' position, and he did have a fairly productive game, getting involved with 5 catches and running the sweep 6 times, as well as 3 punt returns.

However, TE Connor Hamlett was the game's leading receiver, and Sean completed 10 passes to tight ends, so its possible the new #1 receiver isn't even a WR, at least in some games.

RVM: Don't have much to add here from what Andy described above. Guess I would throw in Richard Mullaney as an important component of the pass game, and totally second Andy's focus on the TEs and we need to throw in Caleb Smith there too. I see the TE position being a huge possible key this season, especially if the coaching staff is serious about really establishing more of the run game this season.


CT: Storm Woods had a big game with Portland State with nearly 150 total yards of offense, do you think he will have a bigger role in the offense this year? Possibly the true #1 RB?

AW: It was certainly encouraging to see Storm have a strong game, and its certainly possible that he will have a bigger and better season, if he remains healthy.

But its also worth remembering that he was the #1 at the start of the season last year too, and then he got hurt against Hawaii. He didn't really fully return to form until the end of the season.

RVM: Yes, for Woods he needs to stay healthy. He is very much the #1 guy back there, but Terron Ward should get his carries this year too. Woods is really developing as an open field runner, and Ward is a nice grinder, but neither so far strikes me as a true smash-mouth up the middle guy. I think this also is on the offensive line for in the one game so far their straight up blocking was not as strong as their out in space blocking.

CT: The Beavers defense had a big day last Saturday, forcing five PSU turnovers. Who has stood out on defense so far that you see having a big impact this year?

AW: Senior CB Steven Nelson looks like he's headed for what might be an All-Pac-12 season. Last year he had a good season in his first season at the FBS level (he was a JC transfer), but it was mostly based on being the fastest player on the field (he has speed equal to Cooks). For this season, he worked hard to really learn the position, and add skill to speed.

LB Michael Doctor, who also got hurt against Hawaii, and missed the rest of the season, is also back for his senior year, and gives the defense a lot more options, scheme wise.

RVM: As mentioned above I really liked the secondary. They played pretty much shutdown coverage and also made some nice adjustments. Portland State tried some kitchen-sink stuff on them and still could not break the secondary down. As we move forward it will only get more challenging with the level of receivers and QBs, but it was a promising start for them. And yes I see them having a big impact all season.

CT: Hawaii nearly pulled off the upset vs. Washington last Saturday, what did you see from the Warriors that could cause problems for the Beavers?

AW: Joey Iosefa. 30 times, for 143 yards. Iosefa is a big, bruising running back that will be a load to stop, and he will be a load all night. Without a doubt, he was the biggest single problem for Washington, and the single biggest one, and it will be the same this week.

RVM: Okay, will be totally honest here and did not watch the game. I would say from looking at the stats and reading up on the highlights that Andy is correct and I would add if Ikaika Woolsey can also do some running it will stretch the defense. I think that mixing things up will be important, for if the Warriors only try to rush Iosefa it will play into the strong defensive line, LBs, and good run coverage secondary. As such having a QB that can stretch the field will open up lanes for what looks to be a strong Warriors rush game.

CT: OSU currently holds a four-game winning streak over Hawaii, what is your prediction for Saturday's game?

AW: I expect another game a lot like last year's, which was tied at halftime, before the Beavers' better depth and better passing game began to pull away. I expect a similar final score, though it could be about the equivalent of 1 touchdown closer than last year's 33-`4 Oregon St. win.

That reduced margin could be a product of the change of venue, and also a couple of field goals, vs. a single touchdown, given that the Beavers struggled in the red-zone last week, and had to attempt a school record 7 field goals.

RVM: I pretty much go with Andy overall here. This is a Beavers team that is still inexperienced and unknown, so they could struggle some again, or they could flip a switch and the offense especially could find its game and light things up. Still early and long road trip, so don't know if we will see OSU light it up yet this season. Right now I'll take the W however it comes.

Thanks to Andy and RVM for the Q&A! Be sure to check out Building the Dam for your Oregon State fix and give them a follow on twitter @BuildingtheDam.