Head Coach: Greg McMackin
Offense: 25.0 PPG, 6.9 YPP
A season removed from his departure to SMU, the June Jones legacy lives on in the Aloha State. Offensive Coordinator Ron Lee (who has relegated play calling duties to QB coach Nick Rolovich and OL coach Gordy Shaw) continues to employ the pass-happy run-and-shoot offense that made Colt Brennan a star and carried the Warriors all the way to a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2007. Hawaii can be expected to pass early and often, as the stats from their 25-20 victory over Central Arkansas show at least 36 called passes (Pass attempts plus sacks). The number is undoubtedly higher as 16 of the 28 rushing attempts on the day were made by athletic Warrior quarterback Greg Alexander. This team is not going to hand the ball off to the running back with much regularity.
Greg Alexander is clearly the focus for the Hawaii offense. He passed for 304 yards versus Central Arkansas, but was also impressive on the ground, leading the Warriors with 76 yards on 16 carries. The offense struggled in the first half of their opener as Alexander turned the ball over three times in the first half. He took care of the ball down the stretch and was able to lead Hawaii to the game winning score with 1:12 showing on the clock.
Despite his impressive numbers, it is clear the Hawaii coaching staff is unhappy with the frequency in which Alexander pulls the ball down to run. They worked hard in the off-season with him on staying in the pocket and throwing the ball away when there is trouble to avoid a sack. This is something Alexander will have to do, as the Warrior offensive line appears to be suspect. They gave up four sacks and three quarterback hurries to FCS Central Arkansas.
Finally, another important man to watch on the offensive side of the ball is wide receiver Greg Salas. He was Hawaii's leading receiver in 2008 and put together a very impressive performance in the opener, hauling in seven catches for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Defense: 20.0 PPG, 3.9 YPP
The starting eleven of the 2009 Warrior defense looks nothing like that of the 2008 version. There is just a single starter left over from that 2008 team. Two important changes occurred this week as Jake Heun (a JC transfer who was recruited as a RB) will be moved from linebacker to defensive end, while R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, who started at outside linebacker against Central Arkansas, will be moved to middle linebacker for the upcoming game against Washington State. In the most recent CougCenter podcast, Honolulu Advertiser beat writer Stephen Tsai reports that the defensive coaching philosophy has been to move players up a position (CB to safety, safety to LB, etc.) in an attempt to increase the overall speed of the defense.
Despite all the new faces, the Hawaii defense held their own last Saturday. Central Arkansas was only able to muster 2.2 yards per play on the ground and 3.9 YPP overall. They certainly were not helped out by the offense early on, as Central Arkansas started their first drive on the Hawaii 16 following a fumble by quarterback Greg Alexander. Overall, the performance was a pretty solid debut, but it must be taken with a grain of salt, as it came against a lower division team that had to travel more than 5,000 miles.
Hawaii is in trouble if: There is pressure on the quarterback. Central Arkansas was able to exploit the weakness at offensive line to cause sacks and turnovers. These sacks and turnovers were the key to the 20-19 lead UCA held in the fourth quarter.
Hawaii wants to throw the ball. The opposing defense can really key in on getting to the quarterback, as there is very little threat of a run game. I am not usually a proponent of frequent and heavy blitzing, as it usually leads to more big plays for the offense than the defense, but in this situation it may be the best bet. If opposing defenses simply sit back and play prevent defense against Hawaii, Greg Alexander has the ability to take advantage of that with his running ability. If the front four is unable to get pressure, it is probably wise for the opposing team to send a linebacker or two in there as well. Alexander is a talented guy, but he proved against Central Arkansas that he can be rattled by pressure (2 fumbles and an interception).