It might as well be a new era of Hawaii football. A plethora of departures has made headlines for the Warriors in the recent months after the 2017 season concluded. That in tandem with a bunch of promising new additions, and the return of the offense that made Hawaii football famous, are the talking points surrounding the program. Here are some things to keep an eye on this spring and in the coming months leading up to the opener vs. Colorado State.
5 Topics to Watch During Hawaii’s Spring Practice
1. The return of the run-and-shoot
It was revealed in February that Hawaii will be reverting back to the run-and-shoot offense this upcoming season. The run-and-shoot was the base offense that former UH head coach June Jones used in 1999 to turnaround Hawaii from a perennial doormat into one of college football’s most exciting teams. The offense remained at Manoa until 2012 when Norm Chow took over and transitioned to...whatever you want to call the offense he ran. This will be a welcome change to fans. The Warriors, if nothing else, will at least be exciting on offense as they spin the ball all over the field 40+ times a game.
This move back to the run-and-shoot is likely to increase the hype surrounding Saint Louis School and Hawaii signee Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who is well-versed in the R&S offense after playing under former Hawaii coach Cal Lee.
2. Coaching carousel leads to an almost entirely new staff
Head Coach Nick Rolovich might have to distribute name tags to his assistant coaches for this spring. The departures were plenty, but it afforded Rolovich the opportunity to find some quality assistants. Corey Batoon, a Hawaii native and Florida Atlantic special teams/Co-defensive coordinator in 2017, accepted the defensive coordinator position vacated by Legi Suiaunoa, who left for Oregon State. The transition on defense didn’t stop there, with line coach Rick Longo and linebackers coach Mark Banker also joining. Mark Banker was a rumored head candidate for the head coaching job twice (2008 and 2011). Remarkable that he comes to UH as a linebackers coach. The defensive staff, at least on paper, is as good as anything UH has had in the past.
On offense, Mark Weber will be handling the offensive line duties and Andre Allen will coach wide receivers. Michael Ghobrial, who was hired last week, is heading special teams.
Like I said, name tags.
3. Loss of key talent
It’s no secret at Manoa that UH has seen a ton of departures from the player roster in recent months. Some via graduation, others via transfer, and a few by medical retirement. Dejon Allen and Diocemy Saint Juste are the obvious big losses on offense, both looking to be drafted come late April. Thought-to-be returning quarterback Dru Brown graduate transferred to Oklahoma State for his senior season. Slotback Dylan Collie did the same thing, but he’s Brigham Young bound. Four other starters from 2017 graduated. It’s an entirely new ball game on offense. New system, new personnel, new coaches.
The defense didn’t fair much better in terms of departures. Safety Trayvon Henderson will play in the NFL next fall. Safety Daniel Lewis is also grad transferring, and all-conference DT Viane Moala is transferring to Utah. Defensive end Meffy Koloamatangi and nose tackle Penitito Faalologo graduated. I take it back, forget the name tags. UH should have a meet-and-greet brunch or something for players and coaches. The Warriors are unlikely to be ranked high on “returning starters” lists in 2018 preseason magazines. However, not every big name on the roster moved on...
4. Jahlani Tavai returns
Multi-time all-conference linebacker Jahlani Tavai spurned the idea of entering the NFL draft early in favor of playing his final season at Hawaii. This team is covered in inexperience, and Tavai’s presence as a leader is an essential one for this team. Nobody would have blamed Tavai for taking his talents to the pro level a year early, but instead he’ll look to end his college career on a high note and cement his status of one of the all-time great defenders for Hawaii football.
5. The changing of the guard begins
The mass exodus from the program has been a cause for concern for some fans. Players, coaches...plenty of people jumping ship. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nick Rolovich will want an entire roster of players and coaches who want to be with the program.
Rolovich and his staff have recruited quite well considering their circumstances. As they head into year three of the Rolo era, now is when we begin to see some of these recruiting classes make their impact. Junior College transfer wide receiver Cedric Byrd is a bolt of lightening on his recruiting tape and figures to greatly benefit from the transition to the run-and-shoot. Freshman defensive linemen Blessman Ta’ala and (RS) Doug Russell, both 300+ pounders, give Hawaii the power on the interior to end the woes against the run that have plagued the program seemingly forever. They might not start, but their presence will be counted on in the near future. Redshirt freshman linebacker Paul Scott has also turned heads in practice. Former Centennial High School (Corona, Calif.) running back Miles Reed has the chance to imitate former run-and-shoot running backs like Michael Brewster.
And of course, we cannot ignore the impending quarterback battle. RS Sophomore Cole McDonald played sparingly in 2017 and is currently running the first team in spring. That won’t stop the hype surrounding Chevan Cordeiro, or Jeremy Moussa, who is already enrolled.
The wave of players and coaches who have recently left the program make it easy for doom and gloom to spread, but the next wave of talent can create change for the program. Of course, any program that loses that much talent creates caution. Expectations are unlikely to be sky high for next season, but this young group of players will begin to make names for themselves starting this spring. The competition begins. Outside of probably Jahlani Tavai, this football team is up for grabs and Nick Rolovich and his staff will be hoping their hard work on the recruiting trail begins to show on the T.C. Ching field.