We all knew that Max Wittek would be the starting quarterback - especially after Norm Chow popped up at Pac-12 meetings raving about him - and Ikaika Woolsey would be his backup. Wittek is an unknown asset but he carries a pedigree that Woolsey does not. It should be interesting to see what the combination of Don Bailey and Max Wittek can do . However I am not going to say Wittek and the UH offense will be breaking any records just yet.
The main surprise on offense is the emergence of Diocemy Saint Juste as the starter at running back over Steven Lakalaka. Saint Juste is my guy in the back field. I had a feeling that he wasn’t pass-blocking well or just didn’t get the concepts of the playbook last year. The guy certainly had enough talent to overtake Lakalaka and Joey Iosefa as the starter last year. I was also concerned that the coaching staff liked the boring north-south plodder type of running back but not this year! THANK YOU COACH BAILEY!
Marcus Kemp and Quinton Pedroza will be the leaders of the receiving corps; no surprise there. However, freshman Dylan Collie is leading the pack at slotback. It is hard to say how much the slot will factor into Don Bailey’s pass happy offense but this should serve as an indicator of Collie’s talent. It’s tough to see Devan Stubblefield and Vasquez Haynes reduced to secondary roles but this is a ridiculously talented group. It seems likely that Stubblefield and Haynes will get more targets as the season goes on.
Metuisela 'Unga will be the primary tight-end but this position does not matter much. Aside from blocking assignments, the ‘Bows have way too much talent at receiver to be running too many routes with these guys. None of the tight-ends have the athleticism to make them a better pass catching option than most of the receivers. It’s a shame because the tight-end can be such a dynamic position for an offense.
The offensive line had questions coming into the season but they were more about talent and experience rather than who would start. The main holes came at tackle opposite Ben Clarke and guard opposite Dejon Allen. The two openings are filled by R.J. Hollis and Leo Koloamatangi respectively. I have concerns about Hollis though. He didn’t play at all last year and I think he might be the de facto starter; not much experience at tackle on the UH roster. Also, there will be a healthy competition with Brenden Urban and his backup John Wa’a at center. They both received starts at the position last year, with Urban getting the majority of them.
The defensive line looks almost completely different from last year. The heart of the line, Beau Yap, will be hard to replace. Luke Shawley and Kennedy Tulimasealii will take over full time at defensive end. Shawley was one of the best linemen last year at creating pressure on the quarterback. Penitoto Faalologo will be manning the nose tackle position as a replacement for Moses Samia. Faalologo was used mainly as a backup last year but has since put on some serious poundage and looks like he can be a force on the inside.
Simon Poti and Benetton Fonua will team up with 2013 standout Jerrol Garcia-Williams to form a formidable linebacker corps. Lance Williams will be getting a chance to start over Jeremy Castro and Julian Gener. This seems a little weird to me because in limited time both Gener and Castro were better at breaking up runs and passes with less playing time. It could be that new Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason and company view the two better as specialists rather than everyday down backers.
Leading the secondary will be Ne'Quan Phillips and Trayvon Henderson. Losing Dee Maggit and Taz Stephenson will be tough as both were very stabilizing forces last season. Nick Nelson will take over full time at corner opposite Phillips and Marrell Jackson will be filling in for Stephenson. Jackson will have his work cut out for him as Stephenson will be hard to replace. It seems odd that Gaetano Demattei isn’t even listed on the depth chart because he was pretty good in his limited playing time last year. Keep an eye on Jerrell Jackson and Jamal Mayo; the third and fourth corners.
Alex Trifinovitch will look to match the spectacular job that Scott Harding did at punter. If Harding taught us anything about punting, it’s that a well-placed kick can be just as effective as the conventional boom kick. Trifinovitch will not need to punt 60 yards bombs but be accurate with them. Keelan Ewaliko will likely expand his role to take over both punt and kick-off returns in Harding’s absence. Aaron Novoa will take over for Tyler Hadden as the primary placekicker. Hopefully Novoa will be more consistent than Hadden. Trifinovitch and Novoa will have Brian Hittner and Brodie Nakama as their long and short snappers respectively.
Stay tuned for more in-depth positional analysis! I know it’s been awhile since the last post but bear with me. Wide receivers are coming up next. If you have anything you want to see up in the meantime, don’t be afraid to let me know.