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Hawaii football: A look at the wide receivers

What’s a quarterback without someone to throw to? We dive deep into the Hawaii wide outs.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Today, an offense’s success is often predicated on a successful passing game. During the Norm Chow era, the once prolific Warrior pass attack has been reduced to a soul sucking black hole. Poor quarterback play and a clear lack of talent at the receiver position has sucked the life out of this once dynamic offense. In 2015 Max Wittek will be leading the charge to bring the offense back from its anemic state. However, if Wittek is to have any success towards digging this team out of their current funk he will need to rely on his receivers.

It’s important for a receiver to step up and become a viable threat. The emergence of Chris Gant as a receiving threat and the improvement of Sean Schroeder was key to the turnaround of the offense in 2013. Gant would lead the team with 59 receptions for 973 yards. In contrast, in 2012 the leading receiver for the ‘Bows, Billy Ray Stutzmann, would finish with 35 receptions for a paltry 447 yards.

While spreading the ball around can be a good way to keep defenses from keying in on any one receiver, doing this because no one is good enough to be a reliable threat is not a good substitute. Teams need that guy to step up and make life easy for the quarterback when the offense is struggling. You need that someone to win battles night after night when no one else can.

Name Targets Rec Catch % Yards Yards/Target Yards/Rec
Pedroza 119 59 49.58 674 5.7 11.42
Kemp 105 56 53.33 797 7.6 14.23
Harding 63 34 53.97 457 7.3 13.44
King 30 14 46.67 199 6.6 14.21
Vele 16 13 81.25 90 5.6 6.92
Iosefa 19 11 57.89 76 4.0 6.91
Barker 26 10 38.46 162 6.2 16.20
Moleni 23 10 43.48 74 3.2 7.40
Lakalaka 12 7 58.33 53 4.4 7.57
Pu'u Robinson 11 7 63.64 50 4.5 7.14
Ewaliko 9 6 66.67 141 15.7 23.50
Unga 3 1 33.33 21 7.0 21.00
Koloamatangi 1 1 100.00 1 1.0 1.00

Receiving metrics based off stats courtesy of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warrior Football Website. Players that did make a catch in 2014 are excluded from this list.

The Bow’s might have that in Quinton Pedroza and Marcus Kemp. The two garnered 52% of the team's of the team’s receiving yards and 48% of the targets last season (out of 469 pass attempts), while flashing signs of potential greatness. On top of that, the receiving corps only lost Scott Harding and Donnie King Jr who accounted for just 23% of the team’s receiving yards on less than 20% of the target share in 2014. Pedroza and Kemp are set to guide the receivers into a fresh season and are just the tip of the iceberg in a talented group of receivers.

It’s dangerous to expect drastic improvement from one year to the next but Kemp and Pedroza are prime candidates for 1000 yard seasons. With the erratic quarterback play last year it’s amazing that they combined for 1471 yards on 115 receptions. Both showed great maturity and astounding playmaking abilities to catch as many balls as they did. While both put up good numbers last year, each brings a little something different.

Kemp Catch

Great concentration following the down while positioning body near sideline for the catch.  (Picture from fatmanwriting.com via Reddit forum board)

Kemp is a physically imposing receiver standing at 6’4" 185 lbs. While he lacks explosiveness he more than makes up for it with sure hands and savvy. Kemp was outstanding at positioning his body to prevent defenders from reaching the ball. That, plus his good jumping ability made him extremely hard to cover.

Quinton Pedroza is no slouch either. Pedroza might have the best tools out of every player presently on this roster. While he wasn’t the leading receiver last year, he probably should have been. Pedroza displays so much explosiveness that it blows my mind that he didn’t get the ball more last season.

Pedroza with open field skills very few on the UH roster possess.

Hoping to complement Kemp and Pedroza are Ammon Barker and Vasquez Haynes. Barker hauled in 10 catches for 162 yards last year. Haynes showed promise his first year with Hawaii in 2013 grabbing 29 passes for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, Haynes missed the entirety of the 2014 season due to an injury he sustained in UH’s spring game.

Barker and Haynes are quite similar in terms of their physical gifts. While Haynes is a more polished receiver, both are "possession" type receivers. Neither show exceptional speed or quickness but like Kemp they use their positioning and route running to gain the separation they need to make plays. The two seem to play a physical game, flashing the ability to break free of arm tackles. Haynes has the better resume so far but Barker saw an uptick in his targets at the end of 2014; a good sign for a young receiver. Both will vie for a larger share of the offense in 2015.

WR targets 2014

Targets by game for the top receivers in the 2014 UH Football Season.

While Haynes and Barker provide nice size, I am hoping these next two receivers can create a nice balance with more speed. Devon Stubblefield and Samson Anguay can provide UH with some dynamic playmaking from the slot. The coaching staff had big plans for Stubblefield prior to losing him to injury last year. Stubblefield has the combination of size and speed to potentially make him a real threat on the field and  is the type of talent that UH struggles to keep in state. He displays the ability to catch the ball in traffic and is, essentially, a smaller version of Quinton Pedroza which is something to be excited about. In addition to his open field prowess he shows the ability to be a good downhill runner.

Anguay has not seen much action during his career at UH. The coaches like what he brings to the table and have been trying to find a way to get him on the field but he has not shown enough to push through. Don Bailey could use him on timing plays and screens to get him in space. Chow seemed to shy away from using his smaller receivers too often but with the addition of Bailey’s pass happy playbook, Anguay should see lot more action this year.

A taste of what Stubblefield can do on the football field.

Last year’s slot receiver, was Scott Harding. It so happened that he kind of did it all for UH. He was a return man and punter on top of being a receiver. This year Keelan Ewaliko is in line to take over that Swiss Army Knife role. During his freshman campaign Ewaliko caught 6 balls for 141 yards and rushed 6 times for 17 yards with 2 total touchdowns. He was also the primary kick returner. There really doesn’t seem to be much this guy can’t do. Ewaliko was even a starting quarterback in high school! I could see him being included in special packages that Bailey will no doubt put together, but unfortunately I don’t see him starting at receiver.

Terrance Sayles has good speed and has been consistently out jumping the Hawaii defenders for deep receptions in practice. He primarily runs deep routes and will probably be used to stretch the field . It wouldn’t be a bad idea to put Sayles in every so often even if he is just a decoy. However, Sayles displays poor field awareness. On balls thrown near boundaries he seems unsure of where he is and does not get a lot of yards after the catch as a result. Despite this he has nice open field skills that should serve him well. Look for him to compete for the 4th receiver spot and for a return man position.

Dylan Collie is the only recruit that could get playing time this year at receiver. If his last name sounds familiar, it's because it should. His older brother Austin Collie was a go-to receiver for Peyton Manning in Manning’s final seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. While slightly smaller than his brother, he too is seen as a receiver that a quarterback can lean on. It might be a good idea for him to redshirt this year because of the crowded depth chart but coaches seem to like him as they put him atop the depth chart at slotback.

A sample of the skills Collie will bring to UH.

Ryan Pasoquen and Duke Bukoski are former defensive players that made the transition to receiver this past season. Both show nice overall athleticism but I have a hard time fitting them into the picture. Pasoquen shows good understanding of the game but has yet to see any action at receiver. By the same token, neither has Bukoski but there are reports that highlight him as a standout during spring camp. Unfortunately both are seniors and likely won’t make an impact this year at the position. Look for both to contribute mainly on special teams.

Next, we have Adonis Phillips and Andrew Ho. Not much is known about these three. Phillips has had no playing time at UH so far and no film to review. He was a utility type of player coming out of high school but was not hailed as anything special by any scouting outlet. Ho looks like your run of the mill college athlete. He doesn’t display anything special physically but will probably contribute in the future as a red zone target due to his size. Neither of these three look to play much and might be relegated to the scout team.

New recruits Kainoa Wilson and Paul Harris will probably be redshirted. Wilson is listed at 5’11" 165lbs and without a doubt will be asked to put on some weight before stepping onto the field. He does sport a 4.69 sec 40 so the speed is something to look forward to. Harris is a blazer with 4.34 speed and has nice size standing at 6’. He is listed as an athlete is it's unknown where the coaching staff want him to play at running back or receiver. Harris might just stick with the receivers to add more speed to the group.

# Name HT WT CL POB/Prev School
5 Quinton Pedroza 6'2" 220 Sr Chino, Calif / Utah
9 Devon Stubblefield 6' 185 Rf. Ewa Beach, Oahu / Saint Louis HS
12 Keelan Ewaliko 5'11" 175 So Wailuku, Maui / Baldwin HS
14 Marcus Kemp 6'4" 185 Jr Layton, Utah / Layton HS
21 Damien Packer 5'11" 195 Jr Kea'au, Hawaii / Kea'au HS
23 Dylan Collie 5'11" 175 Fr El Dorado Hills, Calif / BYU
24 Duke Bukoski 6' 200 Sr Honolulu, Oahu / Idaho State
27 Samson Anguay 5'7" 170 Sr Ewa Beach, Oahu / Campbell HS
35 Adonis Phillips 6' 190 Jr Columbia, SC / Irmo HS
49 Andrew Ho 6'2" 210 So San Mateo, Calif / College of San Mateo
80 Ammon Barker 6'4" 200 R-So Salt Lake City, Utah / Alta HS
81 Vasquez Haynes 6'2" 215 Jr Pearlan, Texas / Blinn College
83 Terrance Sayles 6'2" 165 Rf Dallas, Texas / Kerens HS
89 Ryan Pasoquen 6' 190 Sr Wahiawa, Oahu / Leilehua HS

Roster information courtesy of University of Hawaii Rainbow Warrior Football Website

Notables left out from the 2014 roster are Don’yeh Patterson, Darrian Josey and Domenic Ortisi. Josey and Patterson transferred to other programs but there seems to be no evidence as to the whereabouts of Domenic Ortisi (someone check the milk cartons!). Patterson, though, is a huge loss.

It will be very interesting to see what Don Bailey can do with the offense this year. During the four years that he spent at Idaho State, he turned a lackluster offense into one that could produce 6744 total yards and 64 touchdowns. That is 3901 yards and 48 touchdowns better than when he first took over as the offensive coordinator.

Bailey used a fast paced spread offense not unlike that of Oregon to blow away the competition at Idaho State. Sure it’s the FCS but we’ve seen FCS teams give some FBS teams a good run for their money in recent years.

bailey effect

The offensive output of the Idaho State Bengals while Don Bailey was there. Stats courtesy of Idaho State Bengals Football Website.

With Bailey calling the shots and with improved play almost certainly coming from the quarterback position, this will be a great season to watch the receivers blossom. Kemp and Pedroza may provide us with the most dynamic duo at WR since Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen.

Though it’s a depressing thought to see some of the talent UH possesses sit on the bench, competition breeds greatness. Without competition pushing the starters they might not blossom into what I think they can become. You can expect an outstanding season from this group. Don’t believe me? Just ask Vasquez Haynes;  "I feel like we could be the best receiving group in the country…"