#91 Hawaii Football 2017 Preview

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Overall Rank: #91
#7 Mountain West
Hawaii had low expectations heading into Coach Nick Rolovich’s debut season with the program, but the Rainbow Warriors proved to have an exciting offense that quickly turned things around. Hawaii ended last season with a 7-7 record and a win in the Hawaii Bowl. There are quite a few holes to fill so this group could take a small step back, but expect Coach Rolovich to have his team on the cusp of another bowl bid.
2016 Record: 7-7, 4-4
2016 Bowl: Hawaii Bowl vs. Middle Tennessee (W 52-35)
Coach: Nick Rolovich (7-7 at Hawaii, 7-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Smith
Defensive Coordinator: Legi Suiaunoa
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Diocemy Saint Juste, RB, 1,006 yards
Passing: Dru Brown, QB, 2,488 yards
Receiving: John Ursua, WR, 652 yards
Tackles: Jahlani Tavai, LB, 129
Sacks: Jahlani Tavai, LB, 7.0
Interceptions: Trayvon Henderson, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Dylan Collie, LB Malachi Mageo, DL Meffy Koloamatangi
Key Losses: RB Paul Harris, RB Steven Lakalaka, WR Marcus Kemp, OL Leo Loloamatangi, DB Jalen Rogers, DB Damien Packer, DL Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea, K/P Rigoberto Sanchez
With quarterback Dru Brown and running back Diocemy Saint Juste returning, Hawaii has a very potent offensive duo. Brown threw for 2,488 yards and 19 touchdowns last season while only starting ten games, while Saint Juste eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. Brown took over the starting job when the schedule eased up and played very well. He also returns many of his top receiving targets, most notably John Ursua and Dylan Collie. The loss of Marcus Kemp, who led the team with 73 receptions for 1,100 yards and eight scores, will hurt for a little while though. Coach Rolovich will also need to find another running back or two that can spell Saint Juste. Yet, with a few options and three starters back on the line, this offense should be more consistent and dangerous in 2017.
The problem is on defense. The pass defense was the strength of the unit in 2016, but will now have to rebuild. Safety Trayvon Henderson, who tallied 90 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss and three interceptions, is a great piece to build around. The return of Daniel Lewis from injury will provide Hawaii with a potentially dangerous safety duo. However, Lewis could spend some time at corner as well since Rojesterman Farris is the only cornerback on the roster with any experience at Hawaii. At linebacker Hawaii has a star in Jahlani Tavai, who led the team with 129 tackles, 7.0 sacks and 19.5 tackles-for-loss. On a team that wanted to get pressure into the backfield, it was Tavai who usually made it happen. Fellow linebackers Malachi Mageo and Russell Williams have plenty of experience as well. The line will have to build around Meffy Koloamatangi. There are some young options and some junior college transfers that will need to pan out or the Hawaii defense will have trouble getting to the quarterback.
The Bottom Line:
Once again this looks like a tough road to six wins. The schedule, especially from a travel point of view, is not as brutal as it was last year, but trips to Massachusetts, UCLA and Wyoming by September 23rd are still very tough. And just like last year there are plenty of toss-up games in the Mountain West. If Hawaii can continue to improve and beat those teams, they will get back to a bowl. However, the questions on defense could lead to some wild shootouts and Hawaii may not have quite enough offensive firepower to win all of those games.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 163.8 (79th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 227.5 (68, 4)
Total Offense: 391.3 (79, 8)
Scoring Offense: 28.3 (69, 8)
Rushing Defense: 234.2 (113, 9)
Pass Defense: 227.4 (64, 9)
Total Defense: 461.6 (112, 12)
Scoring Defense: 37.3 (113, 12)
Turnover Margin: -0.57 (111, 10)
Sacks: 1.71 (95, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.71 (41, 6)


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