Once again, Hawaii is found searching for some consistency with new head coach Nick Rolovich, a former quarterback at the school. The Rainbow Warriors won two of their first three Games last year, but got tired and struggled the rest of the way. They finished 3-10, but didn’t have an MWC win. Nothing is a certain for this team, especially since they get to open the season in Australia against California. More travel awaits the Warriors.
The offense was miserable last year, scoring just 17.6 points per Game, being held to under 10 points Four times in the season. At the least, they’ll have some experience at quarterback with Ikaika Woolsey, although he has a career 18 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Because of those numbers, his starting spot isn’t a certainty with highly touted recruits in Aaron Zwahlen and Beau Reilly competing for the job. But the best thing about the offense is every other position.
Running back remains loaded with Paul Harris (1,132 yards, 6 TDs) leading the way and he’s complemented by Melvin Davis (218 yards, 6 TDs) and Steven LAkalaka (187 yards). Receiver is a similar situation with most of their top pass-catchers back led by Marcus Kemp (563 yards) and Devan Stubblefield (351 yards, 4 TDs). Even the offensive line returns plenty of experience with Four starters back, although some in a different role.
If Hawaii can get any kind of consistency from quarterback, they should have success here and there. The QBs combined to throw 12 TDs and 21 INTs in 2015.
Still, the defensive side wasn’t any better last season, giving up 35.6 points per Game, often getting run over by opposition. Kevin Lempa comes in from Boston College to lead the defense. He was Hawaii’s former coordinator about 15 years ago under June Jones.
With Lempa comes a 4-3 scheme that will hopefully improve their run defense that gave up 239.8 yards per Game. Hawaii’s best tackle is Kennedy Tulimasealii, but he’s having trouble with the law and may not be available. That will obviously hurt if he can’t go, but Kory RaSMUssen will at least provide some seniority along the line.
There are a few new faces at linebacker, including sophomore Jahlani Tavai, who played as an end last year. The secondary also has its question marks with Trayvon Henderson returning from a leg injury, but will have experienced seniors at corner.
An important thing for Hawaii is to get a couple early season wins, but it doesn’t seem likely with two difficult Games right off the bat. UT Martin needs to be a win because their other three non-Conference Games will likely result in losses. As a positive, Hawaii’s first three Conference Games are all winnable, two of them being home to Nevada and UNLV. There are opportunities, but they were actually just as bad in home Games last year as they were on the road. That can’t be the case again if they want to reach more than three wins.
The Rainbow Warriors have enough returning talent on offense to get more than one Conference win, but they need to get over that hump, and it’ll take a quarterback to do so. Five wins may be the goal for Rolovich in his first season.
2016 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Football Schedule
Aug. 26 vs. California (Sydney, Australia)
Sept. 3 at Michigan
Sept. 10 vs. Tennessee-Martin
Sept. 17 at Arizona
Oct. 1 vs. Nevada
Oct. 8 at San Jose State
Oct. 15 vs. UNLV
Oct. 22 at Air Force
Oct. 29 vs. New Mexico
Nov. 5 at San Diego State
Nov. 12 vs. Boise State
Nov. 19 at Fresno State
Nov. 26 vs. Massachusetts