Nick Rolovich may be denying that there is a controversy, but fans and commentators liked what they saw in Dru Brown. Are we to believe Rolo?
This past week Hawaii struggled against a ferocious Michigan defense. The heavy dose of handoffs to Diocemy St Juste and Steven Lakalaka, which moved the chains against a much weaker Cal defense proved wildly ineffective. As a result, Hawaii had to find yards through the air and unfortunately Ikaika Woolsey struggled to connect with his wide receivers.
Near the end of the second half, Hawaii switched from a single back offense to an empty set reminiscent of the June Jone's era. The five wide set along with Michigan turning down the intensity on defense as a result of their 28-0 lead resulted in Hawaii having its best outing of the half.
Woosely led a 12 play 52-yard drive that included several 15+ yard completions to Marcus Kemp and Dylan Collie. Ultimately the drive fizzled out due to an untimely sack and an intentional grounding penalty, which highlighted Woosely's inability to salvage broken plays.
JUCO transfer Dru Brown entered early in the second half. Brown's ability to scramble and keep plays alive with his feet immediately stood out after watching Woosely struggle in the first half. Fans of the program were already aware of Brown's playmaking ability and wondered when they would see him in a game. Having arrived on campus in July his limited experience and knowledge of the playbook hindered his ability to win the starting job.
Brown didn't immediately jump start the offense. He struggled on his opening drive and his first pass was an interception, but it was a result of Harris giving up on his route. By his second drive, Brown seemed to have calmed down and demonstrated the speed and elusiveness that had fans had heard about. Even the commentators were predicting his eventual succession to the starting job based off of a few albeit exciting plays.
Let's take a deeper look at how each QB performed and what they might bring to the table.
Getting it done through the air
Woosely was 7 of 13 for 88 yards and an interception, while Brown was 5 of 10 for 63 yards and an interception.
On the surface, the numbers seem similar, but Brown played exclusively in the second half when Michigan was putting in some of their second and third strings players. Although, those guys would be top recruits on most MWC teams it was not what Woosely faced early in the game.
While neither lit up the sky, I would give the edge to Woosely. He is not necessarily a more physically gifted passer and his accuracy is questionable, but his grasp of the playbook allowed Hawaii to switch to the five-wide set and expand the offense. Brown at times seemed to misjudge where the receiver would be.
Getting it done on the ground
This is where Brown really separated himself. To anyone watching including the commentators, it became apparent that Brown possesses some real speed and running ability. While playing only in the second half, he ended up leading the team in rushing gaining 49 yards on 5 attempts, while Woosely amassed a total of negative 34 yards.
Brown picked up some solid gains on called run plays, but also showed an ability to turn broken plays into positive yards. His elusiveness resulted in either positive yardage on scrambles or simply additional time to throw the ball downfield on multiple occasions. Woosely, on the other hand, took a fair number of sacks and did not show an ability to extend plays.
Brown wins this competition hands down.
What offense do you want to run?
So far we have seen Hawaii try (out of necessity) three different variations of their offense. Against Cal, we saw a run-heavy attack that utilized some read option and relied on St Juste and Lakalaka to move the ball.
This offense worked pretty well against Cal but was abysmal against Michigan. We then saw Hawaii go five-wide and bring back some run n'shoot principles. When spreading it out with five receivers the offense strung together some solid drives thanks to an efficient short passing game.
Finally, Hawaii turned the keys over to Brown and ran essentially the same run focused offense from the Cal game, but it had the added dimension of a dangerous runner at QB. With Brown at the helm, the passing game wasn't any more efficient, but the ground game found success and some broken plays were improvised into positive yards.
If Hawaii wants to go with run a heavy offense that feeds the ball to St Juste, Lakalaka, and Harris, while asking it's QB to minimize mistakes, Woosely may be the best options.
He is not going to extend broken plays or give the defense fits with his arm or feet, but he can read the defense and find an open man against MWC level defenses. This assumes the defense is decent, because Woosely does not look like he can win you a shootout.
If Rolovich decides he'd rather roll the dice on a more dynamic playmaker then Brown may see the field. The fan base is clamoring for Brown and people who have seen him in practice believe he is a more accurate passer.
That be said, don't expect much of a passing upgrade with Brown. What Brown does bring to the table is a true dual-threat QB, who is likely to encounter growing pains, but along the way will break a few big plays. It's a classic high-risk and high-reward conundrum, but the reward could be a dynamic three-year starter.
Expect both to see the field on Saturday against UT-Martin.
Who would you go with?