Part 6 of our WAC football preview is here. Today, I am examining the June Jones-less Warriors of Hawaii. The Warriors enjoyed a magical 2007 season that saw them capture the league title...play a cupcake schedule and get beatdown on national television by Georgia (it's ok Warrior fans, we know what that feels like). Will the Hawaii train keep on a rollin' without June, Colt and the dreadlocks? Hmmmm.
The Warriors lose a lot of big offensive tools from last season with the departure of Colt Brennan, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Davone Bess and company. The Warriors also lost June Jones...who was also a giant tool. Will the upheaval on offense spell doom and despair for Hawaii? The short answer is yes. The Warrior D is decent for the first time in a long time...but the Warriors success over the last few seasons has been predicated by their ability to put up tons of points—and without Brennan and company those points will be a little bit harder to come by. The 'bows may not drop as far as people think, however. Shall we discuss?
"McMackin" is not when you pick up someone at McDonalds
Greg McMackin took the reins from June Jones this offseason...or maybe it would be more accurate to say he took the floral print shirts and leis from June Jones this offseason. Either way, opposing team's fans are unsure what to do now that a villainous creep is not roaming Warrior sidelines. Could we be entering an era where I actually root for Hawaii when they aren't playing the Broncos? I doubt it will go that far, but McMackin does seem to be the polar opposite of Jones; humble, respectful and runs a tight ship. Unfortunately, McMackin's disciplinarian role and laid back approach may take Hawaii in the opposite direction, reversing what in many circles is known as "the Dennis Erickson" effect. Will no more recruiting the local jails, no more arrogant proclamations, no more JC raiding equal less wins for the Warriors? It's entirely possible. The islands are a difficult place to recruit and if McMackin can't hold on to the wealth of local talent, the Warriors seem destined for a decline. Add in the fact that Jones threw the entire university under the bus with his departure and sent a message to any recruits willing to fly the Pacific that Hawaii isn't committed to their athletics, and the gravy train may be permanently parked at the station. McMackin just may restore a modicum of respect to the Hawaii program, however...and not the type of "respect" that the Colt Brennan Express has garnered over the last few seasons...the lasting kind.
Having a Hawaii player named preseason player of the year is nothing new...but having one named on defense is. Linebacker Solomon Elimimian (how many Elimimians do you guys have over there?) was named the preseason Defensive Player of the Year by the WAC media types and he should lead arguably the strongest linebacking corps in the WAC this year. Elimimian, who had 141 tackles in 2007 will be joined by Adam Leonard and Blaze Soares and they should pose a formidable challenge this season for WAC rushers. Ryan Mouton will lead the vastly improved Hawaii secondary. The Hawaii defense finished the '07 season ranked 34th nationally...a very good step for the Hawaii D. If defensively minded McMackin can keep those fires stoked...I don't see why the Hawaii D will have a huge letdown this year since many of their top playmakers return. In a reversal of sorts, the Hawaii defense should keep Hawaii in games this season—if not...another bowl trip could be tough.
Yes...you are rebuilding
A lot of coaches, when faced with the yearly departures of upperclassmen and early draftees, like to reassure fans that the team isn't really "rebuilding" but rather "reloading"...in some cases this is true...for Hawaii, it is not. McMackin and crew and most assuredly rebuilding after losing Colt Brennan and a slew of talented wideouts. JC-transfer Brent Rausch will lead the Warriors against Florida this Saturday...but don't expect to see a Colt Brennan clone take to the swamp...Rausch likely would not have gotten the nod over Brennan's heir-apparent, Tyler Graunke had Graunke not had some academic "problems" this offseason. But as it stands, Rausch is the man for their first outing...a probable beating at the hands of the Gators. Graunke has been re-instated, but has definitely run afoul of McMackin and crew and will really have to fight and claw his way back into the starting spot past Greg Alexander, Inoke Funaki and Rausch. McMackin also intimated at WAC media days that the Warriors are going to add a new element to their offense this year...something called "rushing"...no word yet on how that little experiment will pan out for them (I might advise against it). If McMackin sticks with the Jones version of the Run-n-Shoot...he better have the best man under center...because it can get ugly, at times without one (ask Timmy Chang).
One hit wonders?
I like what I've seen and heard from Greg McMackin so far. Despite his striking resemblance to Dick Van Patten and affinity for 44-oz Cokes...he seems like a solid guy. Solid guys usually can get the most out of their players...and I think that the defending WAC champion Warriors will again be in the mix. I don't, however, think that they will be able to repeat their success. For starters, their schedule isn't laughably weak like last years and isn't overly heavy with home dates...the Warriors may have exorcised some of their mainland demons last year, but I don't expect them to do much off the island this season. The Warriors will not beat Florida, Oregon State or Cincinnati and will likely have trouble with Washington State in their OOC matchups—they will roll Idaho and San Jose State and handle Utah State and New Mexico State easily...but that is where their conference domination will end this year. They will fail to get by Boise State, Fresno State and most likely Nevada...and will have their hands full with Louisiana Tech. No matter how you slice it...this is going to be a letdown year for Hawaii, who is coming off their best season ever. I think that a 5-7 year is not out of the question, but think a little leftover magic from 2007 will push them to 7-5. One thing is certain, they won't beat Boise State this year...the Broncos want that championship back...and they want it bad.
In the long run...you'll be better off without him.
Utah State preview
New Mexico State preview
San Jose State preview
Louisiana Tech preview