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2018 Recruiting Breakdown: Hawaii

The Rainbow Warriors out-recruited their on the field record, which should bode well in the near future.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Hawaii had a disappointing season this past year, failing to become bowl eligible. However, it would be hard to tell any of that from the great work they did with their 2018 recruiting class. Recruiting better than 2/3rds of the conference is no small feat. Neither is recruiting athletes from the mainland to the islands. Yet the coaching staff accomplished both of those things, as well as brought in a number of athletes from the state of California from a number of in-state teams competing for them. Read more about the quality of talent the Rainbow Warrior brought in below.

The Skinny:

  • 27 recruits signed
  • 14 offensive, 13 defense
  • 13 players in this class were listed at 3-stars by either Rivals or 247.
  • Breakdown by state: 14 California, 6 Hawaii, 1 Arizona, 1 Nevada, 1 Washington, 1 Maryland, 1 Illinois, 1 American Samoa, 1 Canada

QB Jeremy Moussa

  • highlights
  • Moussa has a very high ceiling and is on campus already in attempt to win the starting spot down the line. He has a strong and accurate arm, especially on deep passes. He goes through his reads quickly and effectively and is able to make a variety of throws. If Hawaii is moving to more of a run-and-shoot style offense, Moussa would be a great fit as the QB. With Dru Brown transferring to Oklahoma State, Moussa could find myself in game action earlier than expected.

QB Chevan Cordeiro

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  • The Warriors didn’t get one but two QBs with great potential in this class. Cordeiro has a cannon for an arm despite not being the biggest QB ever. He has nice touch on the deep ball and does a nice job throwing on the run while still maintaining accuracy. Cordeiro is also incredibly shifty and an effective runner, extending plays with ease. At the end of the day, he makes plays on the field. Another product of Saint Louis School’s Cal Lee, Cordeiro has drawn comparisons to former Hawaii QB Timmy Chang.

JUCO WR Cedric Byrd

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  • A wide receiver with great experience at the JUCO level, Byrd will bring a proven playmaker into an offense that was lacking one this past year. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and he has tons of speed. Lining up in the slot, he is a tough matchup for defenders as he can easily beat most of them with a simple change of direction cut and go. With Dylan Collie transferring out, and John Ursua possibly being eased into action next fall, Byrd will see early action and instantly improve the offense.

WR Eric Rooks

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  • Rooks is a very complete pass-catcher. He can go over the middle or down the sideline on a go route. He has pretty good size and pretty good speed. He should be able to develop into a jack of all trades receiver who can do a little bit of everything in order to help the team an impact the game. Rooks has great potential to play right away as a freshman and should be a multi-year contributor.

WR Nick Mardner

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  • Mardner brings lots of size to the receiver unit, adding a dimension they didn’t have before. He has long strides that allow him to natural put distance between himself and defenders in a low effort manner. Mardner sets up people well in his disciplined routes and is clearly a matchup nightmare as he will always have the height advantage, especially as a red-zone target.

WR Jonah Panoke

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  • Panoke stands out as a very advanced route-runner. He has a great ability to get open thanks to fluid routes and footwork, allowing for separation, even against quicker opponents. Panoke displays good hands and can make a catch in traffic. His high school offense also used him in small doses as a runner or jet-sweep player, giving him versatility which could bode well for him in college.

WR Scott McLeod

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  • McLeod has the potential to be a big-play type of wide receiver down the line for the Rainbow Warriors. He’s very dangerous in go-routes, where he seems to simply out run cornerbacks when he’s left in single coverage. Even on shorter or midrange routes, when he catches the ball in space, McLeod is a huge threat to turn an average play into a big one with his ability to rack up yards after the catch.

JUCO OL Gene Pryor

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  • A versatile lineman, capable of playing guard or tackle. Pryor will bring the type of size and experience that can play right away come fall. He has a nice combination of agility when moving and strength when blocking. Pryor does a nice job sticking with his blocks and is able to hold off defenders for a long period of time.

JUCO OL Alex Dalpe

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  • Dalpe is a tenacious blocker, sticking on defenders until the whistle blows or they end up on the ground. He does a good job using his strength and leverage to push defenders back, sometimes even into the second level. Dalpe will be a great addition to the Warriors offensive line in both the run and pass game.

JUCO OL Ernest Moore

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  • Moore is a strong and determined blocker who does a great job not giving defenders a chance to break through the ranks of the line. He sticks to his assignments diligently and is quick moving off the Snape. This is due to his lean frame and also gives Moore the potential to add more weight and strength.

JUCO OL Kohl Levao

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  • Levao has a massive frame, making him a force on the offensive line. Although he’s a towering figure, he is mobile enough to pull on run plays while at the same time remaining strong enough to stand his ground while in pass protection. Levao could be plugged in as a guard or tackle depending on the need.

OL Ilm Manning

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  • Manning is an athletic type of lineman who presents as having lots of upside going forward. He may need to add weight before he can take the college field but is certainly capable of doing so. Manning gets tremoudus push on his blocks using sound technique and leverage and is even able to get into the second level on some of his blocks.

OL Solo Vaipulu

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  • Vaipulu is one of the better gets in this class for the Rainbow Warrior. He’s an extremely physical player who finishes plays every time. Vaiplulu makes quick moves off the snap and position himself well to block defenders. He should bring stability to the interior of the offensive line for the foreseeable future.

OL Thomas Wade

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  • Wade is an extremely athletic blocker, getting out in the lead for running backs downfield. He appears to have good technique and uses his body well on blocks, staying low and playing very physical. Wade displays his strength during pass protection, with good footwork and an understanding of his assignments on each play.

OL Kamuela Borden

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Borden is returning from an LDS mission, so he should bring maturity and leadership to a young rebuilding team. He's effective in both run-blocking and pass protection along the offensive line, lining up mainly at left tackle. He displays good footwork and does a nice job staying low after the snap. Borden is a strong player capable of adding more weight to his frame.

JUCO DL Justus Tavai

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  • The brother of standout LB Jahlani, Tavai is extremely quick for an interior defensive lineman. He uses his speed to move off the line quickly and into the backfield, stopping running backs and quarterbacks cold in their tracks. Tavai reads plays well, letting his instincts help him to make plays. He should play find a role on the field next season.

JUCO DL Derek Thomas

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  • Thomas will add an immediate pass-rushing presence to the Rainbow Warrior defense next season. He is a high-motor defensive end who excels as getting after the quarterback. Thomas does a tremendous job staying low, giving him an edge against bigger or stronger blockers.

JUCO DL Mason Mata’afa

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  • Mata’afa is an aggressive defender who has great versatility. He can play in multiple spots in the defense, either up on the line or also able to drop back into coverage as more of a linebacker. Mata’afa is a great tackler who puts himself in good position to keep the defender in front of him.

JUCO DL Jeffrey Keene

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  • Keene appears to be a natural pass-rusher who should find a role immediately on the defense in the coming fall. He’s extremely fast, using a very effective speed rusher on offensive linemen. Keene makes every possible effort to make a tackle and doesn’t give up on plays.

DL Zach Ritner

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  • Ritner is a very solid prospect who should develop very well in the long term. He has a high-motor and plays through the whistle, not giving up on plays. He combines this with the strength to brush through blocks with ease. Ritner causes lots of havoc in the backfield and will make lots of plays through his hard work and developing skills.

DL Blessman Ta’ala

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  • Ta’ala continues with the theme of the defense, bringing a strong pass-rusher ability with a the versatility to play multiple spots on the defense. He brings a physical presence and high energy and intensity, which will help in changing the culture of the Hawaii defense going forward. With the Pac-12 schools flooding American Samoa these days, luring top-tier products to Hawaii has proven difficult in recent years. Rolovich and staff bucked the trend this time and land a potential star in Ta’ala, who is already enrolled and has the potential to play right away.

DL Jonah Kahahawai-Welch

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  • Another one of Hawaii’s best recruits in this class, Kahahawai-Welch and he is a dynamic pass-rusher. He brings a great speed and power combination coming off the edge of the defensive line that is difficult for offensive linemen to handle. He can attack the line from a variety of spots, keeping the offense on its toes as it has to account for him wherever he’s at on the field. Jonah has a great chance to see the field next fall.

LB Khoury Bethley

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  • Bethley played on both sides of the ball in high school, but will be focusing his time in college at linebacker. He is a rangy defender who displays the ability to make plays all over the field. Specifically, he seems to be at his best in the box when he can get a running start to fly by the offensive line and prevent the running back from making positive yards. Bethley has good instincts and maintains his tackling ability even when running around at top speed.

DB Kai Kaneshiro

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  • Kaneshiro will bring nice size into the secondary. He possesses great instincts and excels at jumping the pass in front of the receiver. He’s a hard hitter who will bring a physical presence to the defense. Kaneshiro is another proven playmaker who will be entering the Warriors ranks.

JUCO DB Manase Time

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  • As a JUCO player coming in to the defense, Time has a great presence he will bring to the defensive secondary. He is very well rounded, showing the ability to fall back in coverage, come in and stop the run or help out in the pass rush as a blitzer. Time reads plays well and could be an immediate plug-and-play type come next fall.

ATH Jonah La’ulu

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  • Listed by Hawaii as an athlete upon signing, but La’ulu played both tight end and defensive end on his high school tape. As a tight-end, he’s comfortable lining up on and off the offensive line and is able to run intermediate to deep routes. He can catch over the middle of the field as well as post routes to the end zone. On defense, he’s quick and active off the snap.

ATH Michael Washington

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  • One of the better pure athletes entering the conference, Washington could be equally effective as a wide receiver or a defensive back. He’s extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands, able to make players miss with little issue making a quick cut or move to put distance between himself and defenders. Washington has easy speed that’s on display whenever he’s on the field.

Headliner(s): Kahahawai-Welch, Ta’ala

Talented enough to play right away: Moussa, Rooks, Kahahawai-Welch, Vaipulu, Ta’ala

Sleeper Recruit(s): Washington, Ritner

Best unit: Offensive Line, as they brought in recruits both to fill an immediate need as well as building for the future.


Hawaii brought in a very talented class, despite their struggles on the field this past season. If there is a word to describe the class, it’s balance. They have a balanced number of recruits on offense and defense and also brought in a balance class in terms of recruits who could play right away (either JUCO players or talented high school players) and recruits who can develop for the future. The Rainbow Warriors could go with a youth movement this fall and certainly have the personnel to do so starting with recruits in the 2018 class.

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