It’s time for the first of what I hope to again make a regular feature on the blog this year — five questions with a beat writer/columnist who covers that week’s UW opponent.
This week, our guest is Ferd Lewis, who covers Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
So here are our questions and Ferd’s answers:
Question 1: Can you give a brief overview of Hawaii’s offense? Sounds like it’s young other than at quarterback.
A: Hawaii has one returning starter on the offensive line, tackle Austin Hansen, and he is out until the post-season due to unspecified NCAA sanctions. Four of the five offensive linemen are fifth year seniors but they haven’t been starters. The other, offensive tackle Sean Shigematsu, is a redshirt freshman.
UH lost two slots to the NFL draft, Greg Salas (Rams 4th round) and Kealoha Pilares (Panthers 5th round). Wide receiver Royce Pollard is the only returning starter at a receiver position and, based upon his 64 catches for 901 yards and 7 TDs, is a popular pick for a lot fantasy players. This year’s slots are quick but small: Miah Ostrowski (5-9) and Billy Ray Stutzmann (5-11). Ostrowski walked on to the basketball team after the Hawaii Bowl and eventually became the starting point guard. UH is hoping that 6-foot, 4-inch redshirt junior Darius Bright can provide a tall threat on the outside but he was suspended for the Colorado game for his role in a Waikiki altercation and will be making his first appearance against UW.
Question 2: It appears quarterback Bryant Moniz (pictured in last week’s win against Colorado an AP photo) is running more. Was that a one-time thing or a change in philosophy?
A: UH lost its best running back in years, Alex Green (a third round pick of the Packers), and with a less experienced offensive line and some new receivers, the quarterback needed some additional options. But UH has been moving in that direction since the debacle in the 2008 Sugar Bowl where Colt Brennan was suffocated by Georgia rush. With UH playing more marquee schools (Wisconsin, UW, USC etc.) and Moniz being very athletic, the plan has been advanced.
Question 3: Sounds like the defense had a good game against Colorado. What did it do well and who are a few good players on that side of the ball?
A: For all the eye-popping offensive statistics last year – and Moniz led the nation in passing – the defense was the foundation of UH’s 10-4 success. It led the nation in take-aways and returns six starters. The front seven is the strength with defensive tackles Kaniela Tuipulotu, a transfer home from Arizona, and Vaughn Meatonga, the most stellar and probably the best NFL prospects. Linebacker Corey Paredes, Hau’oli Jamora’s brother-in-law, is an instinctive playmaker at linebacker. Against Colorado it did a good job of plugging the middle and crashing in from the ends.
Question 4: Conventional wisdom is that Hawaii doesn’t play as well away from home as it does on the Islands. Obviously, all teams are better at home than on the road, but does Hawaii have some special challenges that cause it to struggle on the road or is that perception overblown?
A: “The Road” has been the traditional bugaboo for UH since, well, the days of ship travel. Small wonder these days since Hawaii annually averages more than 30,000 miles per season, more travel than any NFL team, and crossses two to six time zones in doing it. But, hey, the players get to bank their miles.
Question 5: After June Jones left, many seemed to think the program might falter. But last year’s 10-win season indicates Greg McMackin has it back on track. What has he done well to keep it going?
A: Greg McMackin, a former Seahawk and 49ers assistant under Dennis Erickson, was June Jones’ defensive coordinator and took over when Jones went to SMU. McMackin struggled mightily at first but has found success in the last year stepping back some to coach the coaches. He’s increasingly let young coordinators Dave Aranda (34) on defense and Nick Rolovich (32) on offensive have more room in which to operate. Run-and-shoot guru Mouse Davis has been a mentor/resource for Rolovich (2000-’01) who was a quarterback under Jones. Dick Tomey, former head coach at UH, Arizona and San Jose State, is coordinating special teams, an area he prominently featured when he ran things at Hawaii 1977-’86. This is your AARP all-star coaching staff Mouse age 78, Tomey age 73, McMackin 67 and defensive asst. Cal Lee 66 this season. The 10-man staff averages 50 years per coach and, we suspect, their training table includes Ensure.