Welcome to the fifth piece of our twelve-part series that hopefully makes the dead period go by a bit quicker. These articles aim to provide a detailed look at what each team has done thus far on the recruiting trail and what work still needs to be put in before NLI day in February. One team a day will be featured this year in alphabetical order. Today will look at Hawaii.
The 2022 season was predicted to be a struggle for the Rainbow Warriors, and that’s exactly what happened. Losses to Vanderbilt and Michigan were not surprising but getting blown out by Western Kentucky illustrated were Hawaii was on the competitive scale. They notched their first win against FCS Duquesne and it appeared they were on track for that to be their only victory of the season. However, the team looked different after their bye week and played much more competitively. Even though it didn’t result in many more victories, there were some and they finished the season with three wins, plus four losses of seven points or less.
Needless to say, recruiting a higher level of talent to increase their level of talent is imperative, and Hawaii took steps to do just that.Read about the class below.
The Road So Far:
Hawaii completely changed their recruiting strategy from what is was under the previous administration, which is a good thing. They are investing time and energy in finding high school talent, both on the islands and the mainland. Coach Chang is also targeting specific transfers with the goal of being the premier destination for local Hawaii players who committed elsewhere and are now in the transfer portal. This year’s class features 14 high school players and 5 JUCO players, and 7 transfers. That group is also composed of 9 players on offense and 17 on defense. At least 10 different states are represented (plus a few different countries), with Hawaii (4) leading the way, along with Nevada (3) and California (2).
As far as the offense goes, they are high on local quarterback John Keawe Sagapolutele. They took a quartet of wide receivers, in-state Liatama Uiliata, tall Maclane Watkins, the intriguing Eddie Osei-Nketia, who has size and plus speed out of Australia, and transfer Steven McBride. They are trying to restock the offensive line, with high schoolers Kaleb Carter and Isaac Maugaleoo being joined by junior college Fred Pelling (originally from England) and transfer Joshua Atkins
Jumping over to the defense, the defensive line is receiving an injection of talent. Of the seven players, there are a trio of high players and four with college experience. Zoram Petelo and Ha’aheo Dela Cruz have great length on the edge, while Aiden McComber can plug up the middle. Daniel Williams hails from the JUCO circuit, transfer Elijah Robinson will slot into a pass-rushing role, while Eastern Washington transfer Josh Jerome and Washington transfer Kuao Peihopa will be on the inside of the line. The linebacker room looks set with Jamih Otis, Junior Fiaui, Vaifanua Peko, and transfer Patrick Hisatake all adding talent. The secondary is also getting an injection of talent. Makana Meyer and Elijah Palmer represent the high school talent and Cbo Brown, Justin Sinclair, Christion Williams all come from junior college. Cam Stone is a plug-and-play transfer from Wyoming’s stout defense.
Number who signed in December: 26
Number who will enroll early: 9
247 Composite Rankings:
- Overall: 116th
- Recruiting: 120th
- Transfer: 77th
The Road Ahead:
Top Targets Remaining: RB, TE, QB
Unlike last season, most of the heavy lifting with this class has already been done. Now, Hawaii only has to fill in a few cracks between now and February. Coach Chang indicated they still have a few scholarships left in this class. While he didn’t indicate specifics, speculation can be made on how those scholarships will be used between now and February.
The offense figures to be the focus going forward, specifically at running back and tight end. The Rainbow Warriors had good production at running back this past season and now should look to increase depth and talent there. Likewise, while the offense doesn’t feature tight ends as much as other positions, they still consider bringing in a few more to the roster. Also, a position like quarterback can never have enough depth, so there is nothing wrong with increasing the competition at this pot.
What a difference a year has made for Hawaii in terms of their recruiting. While this class may not measure up against the top tier in the conference, they are executing their strategy of prioritizing local players, and other high school players from traditional recruiting states and inviting former in-state players back through the transfer portal. All of this is helping the Rainbow Warriors in their goal of fielding a more competitive team next season.
Coming next: Nevada