There isn’t a ton of faith in the University of Hawaii football program at the moment, at least not in the eyes of the media. At Tuesday’s Mountain West Media Summit in Las Vegas, season predictions were announced with Boise State a unanimous choice to win the Mountain Division and Fresno State a narrow choice to win the West Division.
Coming in a distant fifth in the West were the Rainbow Warriors, picked to finish behind Fresno State, San Diego State, UNLV and Nevada. Only San Jose State earned fewer points.
Wyoming is projected second in the Mountain, its highest ever preseason ranking even after losing quarterback Josh Allen as a first-round NFL pick. Colorado State sits third with Utah State, Air Force and New Mexico rounding out the selections.
It shouldn’t come as a total shock to see Hawaii towards the bottom as there are plenty of questions still to answer. Quarterback Dru Brown’s decision to transfer to Oklahoma State left a sizable hole to fill, as he was responsible for 5,273 passing yards and 43 total touchdowns during his two-year stint as the starter.
Without Brown’s presence, the next man up appears to be redshirt sophomore Cole McDonald. Having thrown just nine pass attempts to this point, McDonald is very much an unknown commodity. He was used sparingly in 2017, mostly in run packages. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry on his 16 rush attempts, including a 58-yard scamper against UCLA, but the small sample size leaves much to be desired when eyeing a starter.
If McDonald were to falter, the reins could fall to St. Louis High School grad and true freshman, Chevan Cordeiro. It seems like only a matter of time until Cordeiro is Hawaii’s leader, but it’s possible that head coach Nick Rolovich rolls the dice with Hawaii’s 2017 Player of the Year sooner, rather than later.
A second true freshman, Jeremy Moussa, will certainly be in the competitive mix with Cordeiro. Which one emerges first is still anyone’s guess but the local product will probably have the early edge.
The quarterback spot isn’t the only position that lost just about all of its production. Hawaii leaned heavily on running back Diocemy Saint Juste, who answered the bell with 282 carries for 1,510 yards in 2017 — sixth-most in the country. As of now, it appears that role will be filled by a combination of players, though Freddie Holly could be the leader on day one. Holly, a lean redshirt sophomore, has just nine career carries. He may be spelled by Kamehameha grad Kaiwi Chung, a more rotund redshirt senior in the mold of Joey Iosefa.
Offensively, the most anticipated return will be John Ursua, who was having an explosive 2017 before a torn ACL ended his season. Ursua racked up 653 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his first five games played before suffering the injury against San Jose State. He’ll be needed to maintain some level of consistency for this question-mark filled group.
Fall camp opens up Thursday and Rolovich will have a new staff to break in, along with his new offensive system and skill position players. It’s year three for Rolovich, which is when opinions and evaluations become a bit more critical and a bit more important. The rebuilding steps seem to have been of the one forward, two backwards variety to this point. There is a long road ahead and the expectations are minimal but with the season just a month away, many questions remain for Hawaii football.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.