Tuesday, June 06, 2006
A REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENT OF: HAWAII
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered but not too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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The only thing lost in paradise in '05 was Hawaii's bowl streak, one they aim to find again in the ever-wobbly WAC
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 41-24 (26-14 WAC) - 2005: 5-7 (4-4)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 15 (9 Offense, 6 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: Er, uh...well, Jerry Glanville did his "Man in Black" thing with the defense last year, and even if the old quipster's personna is more Ronnie Milsap than Johnny Cash, the defense inched up the rankings ever so slightly. The unit was still huffing and pufing its way through 1,100-yard track meets with the likes of New Mexico State, but the run defense slipped into the top 100 (98th at 187.58 per game, down from 117th), even if the pass efficiency and total defense numbers remained very, very low, and the scoring defense outright atrocious (35-plus per, though they did shut out Idaho!). Glanville's got hisself six starters back, so things may kind of, sort of look up, if only imperceptibly so.
WHAT'S THE SAME: June Jones will mosey out into the dusty street for his annual showdown with Mike Leach to determine which gunslinger can pull the trigger on the most passes while devoting the least practice time to tackling and stuff. In that pursuit, he'll have another of his record-breaking quarterbacks, Colt Brennan, along with five players identified as returning starters at wide receiver. Five starting receivers - is that all? What, no Emory and Henry to get more pass-catchers out there? Altogether, headed by freshmen Ryan Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess, the returnees only had 303 catches and 32 touchdowns last year.
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June Jones says defense=Boooorrrring!
Also, the Warriors (is it just Warriors now? Still Rainbow Warriors? SMQ remembers a day, unless his memory is deceiving him, that this team was known as just "Rainbows," which was much preferable to the generic 'Warriors'; read this for a clarification of sorts on the school's confusing name changes, which suggests nobody is really sure what to call any of its athletes anymore) again play a borderline-outrageous home slate: eight teams are traveling out to the island for an extra game this year, taking advantage of the NCAA's weird exception for allowing Hawaii trips to go uncounted against a school's total number of games. Eight home games must be a record - SMQ has no idea where to look for such a mark, but what other team in 100 years has had the opportunity to play host so many times? Most schools would be trashed for bringing in the friendly confines; in Hawaii's case, everyone just says, "I hope we're one of those visitors!" For the record, Purdue and Oregon State are the most notable this year to get out of the cold and close their regular seasons in the sun.
WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW! AND EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT!: Brennan not only has a name out of a 1940s Sam Spade noir flick, but by the end of the season will also be yelping the haunting "Eeeep!" of Phillip Roth's ill-fated Chico Mecoatl with every muscle-wrenching, tendinosis calcarea-inducing release. Brennan attempted 515 passes in 2005, matched only by Texas Tech's Cody Hodges and Akron's Luke Getsy, with his predecessor Timmy Chang crushing the NCAA record by launching more than 2,000 throws in four years. Brennan is far from Chang's unprecedented interception pace (young Colt tossed but 13 picks his first year, well short of TC's per year average of 19), but could threaten his touchdown mark if he adds a half dozen or so to the 35 he threw as a sophomore each of the next two years. If, that is, his arm doesn't go numb and then all Dave Dravecky first.
TACKLING ONLY DISTRACTS FROM PASSING: Not only did the Warriors continue to have very little interest in bringing down anyone associated with opposing offenses, that distaste carried over into the return game, where opponents averaged a whopping 15.6 yards per punt return, highest in the nation. Hawaii only had 41 punts (about 3.4 per game, again among the lowest rates anywhere) but only got a more than 29 yards total per punt, an average that ranked right alongside the worst special teams
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: The team was on pins and needles in the Spring over the fate of leading rusher Nate Ilaoa, projected starting safety Leonard Peters, one-time starting wideout Ian Sample and reserve running back Bryan Maneafaiga, all of whom petitioned for the rare sixth year of eligibility. Ilaoa, who averaged 7.6 yards per carry on stunned defenses and also caught 38 passes, picked up his ticket to ride for '06 two weeks ago, just a few days after the NCAA told Peters, who picked off four passes in 2004 before going down against USC in last year's season opener, he could come on back, too. That leaves Sample - 12 catches in three games before missing the rest of '05 - and Maneafaiga still waiting by the phone...in the latter case, SMQ surmises, probably for someone in Indianapolis to learn to pronounce his name correctly (MAH-nee-ah-fah-EEG-ah, for the record).
REASON FOR HOPE: Throw, baby, throw! The offense should average a good bit more than 30 this year, if the returning experience is any indication.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Glanville or no, the defense is still, well, the Hawaii defense, with an offense that tellingly came nowhere near its overall season averages against the winning half of its schedule.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... A passive-aggressive, middle-managing office bully, who takes out the frustrations of being jerked around by his higher-ups by powertripping on the peons beneath him, just as Hawaii - outscored 155-96 in four losses to winners Boise State, Louisiana Tech, Fresno State and Nevada - did to the WAC underlings in '05, when the
RainbowsWarriors trounced Idaho, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State, four teams with eight wins between them.
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What's happening, Idaho? Yeeeeah, listen, I'm going to need you to come in on Saturday, so if you could go ahead and do that, that would be greaaaat...
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING... The offense alone could be worth seven wins and a return to the postseason, which after all has a game pretty much specifically set aside for Hawaii if it so much as ekes out the minimum victories. Certainly no one from the bottom half of the WAC will be rising up to stop them.
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(Note: Broken links to 'Premature Assessments' have been fixed)
PREVIOUS REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENTS:
June 3: Boston College...June 4: Arkansas State
ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENTS:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: BYU...April 5: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 16: Alabama...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo...April 21: N.C. State...April 23: Arizona...April 24: Memphis...April 25: Louisiana Tech...April 28: Iowa...April 30: Toledo...May 2: Ohio State...May 3: Mississippi State...May 5: Southern Miss...May 7: Louisiana-Lafayette...May 11: Akron...May 12: North Carolina...Michigan State...May 15: Air Force...May 17: Stanford...May 18: Georgia Tech...May 21: Connecticut...May 23: Purdue...May 24: Navy...May 27: UCLA...May 28: New Mexico State...May 29: Tennessee
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got my fingers crossed for a "_ig _w_lv _" team this week.