By: chalifour.eric | 5/5/12, 3:47 PM EDT
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Mountain West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Norm Chow, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tommy Lee | DEF. COORDINATOR: Thom Kaumeyer
After three decades as a decorated quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator on the major college and NFL levels, island-born and raised Norm Chow is coming home. And he’s bringing a whole new look to the University of Hawaii with him.
For the Warriors’ debut in the Mountain West Conference, the trademark Run ’n’ Shoot offense of the past 13 seasons is being replaced with a more balanced pro-style offense. With the change comes the addition of a tight end, something not seen in a Warrior lineup since 1998.
Hawaii’s most experienced area is receiver, where six players who started at least four games in 2011 return. But with the elimination of slot backs, there are only two wide receiver positions now. Billy Ray Stutzmann (78 catches for 910 yards), Trevor Davis, Miah Ostrowski, Justin Clapp and Scott Harding will compete for the spots.
Meanwhile, the Warriors signed three tight ends and have looked at converting a receiver (Darius Bright) and a defensive end (Tavita Woodard) to tight end, experiments that may carry over to the fall.
Junior David Graves, who started the final two games of 2011, is the most experienced quarterback on the roster but moved to receiver in fall practice. It didn’t help that Cayman Shutter, the only other quarterback with experience at UH, was indefinitely suspended early in the spring for a violation of team rules and isn’t assured of coming back in the fall. Duke transfer Sean Schroeder is expected to be the Warriors' No. 1 quarterback this season.
Joey Iosefa, a 6'0", 240-pounder who ran for 548 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011, and Will Gregory, a redshirt freshman, look to be the one-two punch in the backfield as the Warriors put more of an emphasis on the running game. Who will block for them is an area of major concern. Hawaii lost five senior offensive linemen who started or saw significant playing time. The rebuilding begins around Dave Lefotu (right guard) and Levi Legay (left tackle), plus Sean Shigematsu, who started at right tackle before an early-season injury.
If the Warriors are going to pull out some victories — especially early — they’ll need the defense to return to its big-play ways. The pressure will come from linebacker Art Laurel, who led the Warriors in sacks (nine), and defensive end Paipai Falemalu, who added 4.5.
A return to form of tackle Haku Correa, who missed most of 2011 with an ankle fracture, would be a big boost. He will team with fellow senior Geordon Hanohano in the middle of the line.
Corners John Hardy-Tuliau and Mike Edwards have game-changing ability. Hardy-Tuliau blocked four kicks, and Edwards had 11 pass breakups in 2011.
Hawaii should be strong on special teams. Punter Alex Dunnachie averaged 39.7 yards per boot, and placekicker Tyler Hadden, who had a key 47-yarder to help beat Idaho last year, has improved his range and accuracy.
At his introductory press conference, broadcast live statewide, Chow declared he had come home to “chase championships.” But given the difficulty of the move up to the Mountain West, a nonconference schedule that sends Hawaii on the road to USC and BYU in the first month and the amount of retooling necessary to install a new offense, Chow has his work cut out for him. Just getting to a break-even mark on its 12-game schedule, which would assure an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, would be quite an accomplishment in Chow’s inaugural season.