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Hawaii Football: The Depth Charts

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Conference Media Days are this week, so now is the perfect time to look at the two-deep Coach Norm Chow will put on the field for 2015.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I voted Hawaii to finish fourth in the West Division this year in our staff poll.

Is that insane? You would have to ask my therapist.

Is that optimistic? Yeah, I would say so.

Finally, Norm Chow comes into a season with confidence in who his quarterback is. He announced in June that Wittek was going to be QB1. He didn't wait until training camp to say, "Oh, I guess he's our guy", because that only brought more flip flopping until he was left with an inexperienced started and two freshmen who had never played a down of college football.

Now, the addition of Wittek doesn't mean Hawaii is going to run roughshod over everyone in the conference, that's obvious, but this year the pieces are slowly coming together. I would argue this is Chow's best team since he took the job at UH in 2012. Solid quarterback, good chunk of the offensive line, a healthy receiving group, and an experienced front seven. Take a look at what Hawaii is working with in 2015:

Offense

Position Number 1st String Number 2nd String
Quarterback 13 Max Wittek (Sr.) 11 Ikaika Woolsey (Jr.)
Running Back 22 Diocemy Saint-Juste (Jr.) 4 Steven Lakalaka (Jr.)
Wide Receiver 14 Marcus Kemp (Jr.) 81 Vasquez Haynes (Jr.)
Wide Receiver 5 Quinton Pedroza (Sr.) 12 Keelan Ewaliko (So.)
Wide Receiver 23 Dylan Collie (Fr.) 89 Ryan Pasoquen (Sr.)
Tight End 44 Metuisela 'Unga (So.) 87 Harold Moleni (Jr.)
Left Tackle 71 Ben Clarke (Sr.) 57 J.R. Hensley (Fr.)
Left Guard 78 Leo Koloamatangi (Jr.) 56 Elijah Tupai (So.)
Center 69 Brenden Urban (Sr.) 51 John Wa'a (So.)
Right Guard 50 Dejon Allen (So.) 65 Asotui Allen (Fr.)
Right Tackle 74 R.J. Allen (Jr.) 74 Matt Norman (Jr.)

So let's digest a couple of things from this:

  • I find it very interesting Chow is putting Saint-Juste ahead of Lakalaka at Running Back. In recent years, we've seen more brutish, bully type backs that can blow up a defensive lineman with ease. Think Joey Iosefa, Alex Green, and Lakalaka, who fits that mold very well. When Iosefa was injured and suspended, Lakalaka filled the void aptly, finishing the year with over 600 yards, averaging 4.1 yards a carry. Saint-Juste is definitely the more agile, potentially athletic, of the two, so a new change of pace in the backfield could benefit Hawaii's 79th ranked rushing attack.
  • Another thing that stuck out to me was freshman Dylan Collie be slotted to start at Wide Receiver. Yep, that's Austin's brother. So new, he doesn't even have a bio on the University's website yet. Still, it seems he has drawn "rave reviews" on his catching ability and route running. So we'll see what Hawaii has in Mr. Collie come September.
  • Staying with the receivers, this is definitely a very, very well rounded group. Pedroza made a huge impact in his first year at UH since transferring from Utah, catching 59 passes for 674 yards in 2014, along with three touchdowns. Next to him you have the returning receiving yards leader in Marcus Kemp, so you have a fantastic 1-2 combo of weapons for Wittek.
  • This is also a very well-rounded offensive line. Ben Clarke anchors the left side, entering his third year starting on the offensive line. He was named All-MW third team for the second consecutive year in 2014, and is a member of Phil Steele's All-MW first team for 2015. You also have Dejon Allen, who didn't allow a sack in 2014 on the right side, with some green talent Brenden Urban and RJ Hollis making up the middle. Overall, Hawaii has a total of 57 starts on the line this year.

Defense

Position Number 1st String Number 2nd String
Defensive End 90 Kennedy Tulimasealii (Jr.) 96 David Manoa (So.)
Nose Tackle 54 Penitito Faalologo (So.) 75 Kory Rasmussen (Jr.)
Defensive End 93 Luke Shawley (Sr.) 97 Meffy Koloamatangi (So.)
Outside Linebacker 17 Lance Williams (Sr.) 59 Jahlani Tavai (Fr.)
Inside Linebacker 3 Simon Poti (Sr.) 7 Russell Williams Jr. (So.)
Inside Linebacker 36 Benetton Fonua (Sr.) 8 Julian Gener (Sr.)
Outside Linebacker 2 Jerrol Garcia-Williams (Sr.) 6 Jeremy Castro (So.)
Cornerback 1 Ne'Quan Phillips (Sr.) 18 Jerrell Jackson (So.)
Cornerback 20 Nick Nelson (So.) 24 Jamal Mayo (Jr.)
Safety 39 Trayvon Henderson (Jr.) 15 Daniel Lewis Jr. (So.)
Safety 10 Marrell Jackson (Sr.) 40 Dany Mulanga (Fr.)

  • Experience is what jumps out to me on this Hawaii defense. Especially in the front seven. The loss of two-time first team All-MW DE Beau Yap hurts the edge rush, but Kennedy Tulimasealii and Luke Shawley return as two of the top three defensive line tacklers, but depth could be a concern for the two-deep.
  • The LB Group is a damn good group of players. Here's what Bill Connelly had to say about them:
If the line holds up, and it probably won't, the linebackers could thrive. Five of last year's top seven are back, Jerrol Garcia-Williams is back from an ACL injury, UCLA transfer Jeremy Castro could be ready for a breakthrough, and newcomers like Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea (Arizona) and Russell Williams (JUCO) might demand playing time. Mason's 2013 SMU linebackers were aggressive and creative, and he's got similar tools here. But it all depends on the line.

  • There's a bit of depth in the secondary too. Ne'Quan Phillips is back, along with Nick Nelson and Trayvon Henderson to make up the majority of experience in the back line. Some solid depth with pieces like three-stars Solomon Matutia and DeJuan Butler.

Specialists

Position Number 1st String Number 2nd String
Kicker 90 Aaron Novoa (Jr.) - -
Punter 46 Alex Trifonovitch (Fr.) - -
Kick Returner 22 Diocemy Saint-Juste (Jr.) 5 Quinton Pedroza (Sr.)
Punt Returner 5 Quinton Pedroza (Sr.) - -
Long Snapper 60 Brian Hittner (Sr.) 62 Brodie Nakama (Jr.)

  • We miss you, Scott Harding. As much as we would like to poach other players eligibility to keep Harding at UH forever, I'm sure he would like to do other things with his life. His production at receiver and returner is replacement, and I think Saint-Juste and Pedroza can match and possibly better that. It's his punting ability that will be severely lacking in 2015. Freshman Alex Trifonovitch will face a tall task to match the impact Harding had on special teams.
  • Aaron Novoa will be in the same shoes as Trifonovitch, replacing four-year starter Tyler Hadden at placekicker. Hadden made 78% of his FGs and 100% of his PATs last year
So as it turns out...yes! Hawaii does have a good amount of talent on the roster this year. Norm Chow's goal now is to keep everyone as healthy as possible. It doesn't help when within the first four weeks of the year you're down a starting offensive lineman, your best linebacker, and a potential leading receiver.

Norm Chow is slowly putting together the puzzle known as Hawaii Football. His goal is to not break or lose all the pieces.