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Previewing the Hawaii quarterback situation

Who will start under center for Hawaii football this year?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, University of Hawaii fans were treated to one of the most dynamic and exciting offenses in the nation. Not only was the offense exciting but the games were too. In the Run and Shoot era, UH never ran low on points and yards. Gunslingers Nick Rolovich, Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan put on passing clinics every Saturday night on the way to setting NCAA offensive records.

Hawaii was a team on the rise. Then, on the first day of 2008 it all came crashing down with a 41-10 loss at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs. The next day the program lost the architect of its success when June Jones bolted off to SMU. Hawaii would go on to hire Greg McMackin, who promised to keep the Warriors' signature offense in place but the team was never the same.

The exciting offense that defined Hawaii Football slowly faded away and we were all left wanting. In UH's effort to get back to their winning ways they hired Norm Chow, the "Quarterback Whisperer", in the hope of a program revival. Throughout his tenure as the head coach Chow led a football team whose offense has been, to put it nicely, baaaaaaaad.

However, Coach Chow now feels that he has the pieces in place and it's hard to argue with the potential talent that UH now features at quarterback. With a good field general at the helm, Hawaii will look to turn some heads in 2015.

In order to have future success it is important to look at the past first. Hawaii must learn from their previous mistakes and use that as a solid foundation for the upcoming season. Below are some statistics from two previous UH quarterbacks. By the numbers, Quarterback A was terrible and Quarterback B was good. Funny thing is that Quarterback A and B are both the same person.

Quarterback A is former Hawaii QB Sean Schroeder in 2012 and B is Schroeder in 2013. I am not going to sit here and try to persuade you that Schroeder turned into Colt Brennan but he definitely did his part in most games to give the team a shot to win in 2013. As goes the quarterback so does the offense.

The stark improvement Schroeder displayed in just one season changed Hawaii's offense from being the fifth worst in the country to the being near the middle of the pack at seventy-five in total offense. In his breakout season Schroeder displayed the ability to win games. The best example of this was the fourth quarter comeback against UNLV in which he led the team to score 20 unanswered points to lead the game with 1:39 left in the game.

The ‘Bows ultimately lost the game on a field goal but the comeback was a feat reminiscent of the Hawaii teams of the run and shoot era. In fact the ‘Bows were out-scored by thirty-nine points in the fourth quarter in 2012.

With the emergence of a dynamic offense and reinvigorated Schroeder in 2013, Hawaii changed the tune of their fourth quarter song by outscoring their opponents by seventeen points in the fourth quarter.

Last year's starter, Ikaika Woolsey posted similar numbers to Schroeder in his first season as the starter for the ‘Bows. It's hard to quantify what goes on during a game, especially with quarterbacks. Each quarterback contributes to their team's success in different ways.

That is why ESPN derived QBR which "...captures efficiency associated with throwing the ball, running the ball, drawing penalties, and avoiding sacks and turnover." Woolsey sported a QBR of 31.5. His 31.5 rating ranked 116th out of 129 quarterbacks last year. In a balanced offense the quarterback doesn't need to carry the team but he certainly needs to be better than that.

This year Woolsey will look to grab a hold of the position he won last year and run with it. With two more years of eligibility, he could still put forth a nice career at Hawaii. He possesses the tools to succeed but his poor decision making and awful field awareness lead to incompletions and  turnovers.

Woolsey shows nice arm strength and flashes nice throwing accuracy but was largely inconsistent last year. While he doesn't display elite tools, his overall makeup and potential provides some enticing possibilities into what he might become.

With some minor improvements he can drastically change the team's outlook for 2015. While the thought of getting a significantly improved Ikaika Woolsey for two more years is tantalizing, the program needs results soon. The doubts surrounding whether the athletic department can sustain the football program will continue to loom as long as they keep losing and attendance keeps dropping.

Time may not be something that the Warriors have much of. An experienced quarterback may be the solution for that and it's exciting that UH will be getting just that in USC transfer Max Wittek. Although there are some cautionary tales in what we should expect from him, talent is nothing to turn away. Having been a four-star recruit from Mater Dei High School, he had high expectations when he joined the Trojans.

Things ultimately didn't work out for him there. In his time at USC, Wittek played in thirteen games, starting two of them. In the best game of his career he passed for 186 yards completing 14 of 23 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions in a 22-13 loss to then No. 1 Notre Dame.

When it became clear that Wittek would continuously be buried on the depth chart at USC, he planned to graduate early and transfer with two years of eligibility left. Unfortunately he could not complete the requirements to graduate in time for the 2014 season so he was forced to forego a precious season of eligibility.

He ultimately decided to use his last year of eligibility to play at UH under Chow. Wittek will bring experience from a big time program to Chow's offense. Besides his experience, scouting reports say that he moves well within the pocket and shows an understanding of the game. Like Woolsey he's shown flashes of his throwing skills in the limited doses.

Also, like Woolsey, his main issue was consistency. He does lack the overall athleticism that Woolsey has so  that may prove to be a point worth watching if the offensive line cannot hold it together. Despite being unable to win the job at USC and being largely unimpressive in his limited playing time there, Wittek still possesses talent, the likes of which the Warriors do not get very often.

With the program in a lull, not seen since the tenure of Fred von Appen, all that the program can do is to bring in as much talent as possible. As the ol' saying goes there's no such thing as having too much talent. Probably the most fascinating person in the quarterback corps is Aaron Zwahlen who will finally join the team after returning from a two-year church mission. Zwahlen was a four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2013 and was ranked as the 155th best recruit in the nation (11th at the position) by ESPN.com. One concern though, is the disparity between Zwahlen's rankings according to ESPN and Rivals. Rivals had Zwahlen rated as a two-star recruit, not even breaking their list of the top 30 pro-style quarterbacks in 2013.

However, the prospect of getting a potential star talent is exciting. Zwahlen has good size and tools that project well for the quarterback position. Scouting reports describe him displaying quick feet, good athleticism, and very good throwing skills.

He also shows good pocket presence and decision making skills, which make him troublesome to sack. Zwahlen works primarily out of the shotgun but displays nice mechanics from under center. However, Zwahlen tends to carry the ball unprotected at times which could lead to potential turnovers. This is something he will need to shore up but not an alarming fault. Yet Zwahlen very well may be the most dynamic quarterback prospect for Hawaii since Colt Brennan.

Beau Reilly is the fourth and final quarterback that UH has on their roster. He transferred from Colorado State after a coaching change happened during his church mission. While Reilly pushed hard for a roster spot in 2014, the coaches felt it would serve him better to redshirt thus delaying his eligibility time clock. This time around he will be looking to compete for the starting spot.

Reilly has exceptional quarterback size and at 6'6", 190 pounds he has room to put on muscle and build strength. It is very puzzling that with the potential growth to his physique and clear athleticism that he was not rated very well coming out of high school. He provides interesting "sleeper" intrigue at the position for the ‘Bows.

Reilly brings a strong arm and has nice athleticism boosted by being a three sport athlete in high school. While at Valley Center High school he completed 126 of 193 passes (65.3%) for 1865 yards with 392 rushing yards (5.4 yards/carry) and 24 total touchdowns (eight rushing) in his final season. I think unless he puts up a tremendous showing at the spring and fall camps he will be relegated to backup duty for 2015.

The common theme amongst the UH quarterback corps is untapped potential. Each brings something different to the table. While none bring a track record of success, each will be eager to fight and prove the starting spot should be theirs. Not only does the quarterback position battle look to be exciting but the final decision may decide the coaching fate of Norm Chow. Another failure at the quarterback position from the supposed "Quarterback Whisperer" will in all likelihood lead to another losing season and bring about the end of the Norm Chow era in Hawaii.