Hawaii Football 2022 Roster Breakdown
Taking a look at the Warriors roster
Hawaii getting ready for the season.
We are a little more than a week away from the 2022 opener which will be the debut of Head Coach Timmy Chang and the beginning of a new era for Hawaii Football. Not only is the head coach new, but this year's roster consists of 53 first year Warriors. You would think that there are a lot of new faces and not a lot of time to get acquainted with each other, but the 'Braddahhood' is real and it is strong. Coach Chang's slogan and culture that he has brought with him since day 1 has caught on and based on what we've seen on "Building the Braddahhood'" the players seem to be buying in. Shout out to the UH media team for putting out these high quality episodes for us to get an inside look at the program.
I've watched a couple of practices and my main takeaways were: the energy is high, the music is loud, the coaches bring the juice and the players respond to that. This coaching staff is not afraid to coach these guys hard because unlike some in the previous regime, there seems to be a mutual respect between the players and coaches. Coach Chang takes a hands-on approach. He is involved in the pass game drills helping with the Receivers and Tightends where he has spent a good portion of his coaching career. It seems like the players are genuinely enjoying themselves and their new teammates and the competition level is high because everyone knows with all the roster turnover, playing time is up for grabs. Here is my 2022 roster breakdown. This is based on what has been reported as well as what I saw in the practices I was able to attend this fall.
Coach Chang and offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker have made it clear that it is an open Quarterback competition. They've even mentioned that they may not publicly name a starter, but rather just send their guy out on the first down of the season. They've been creative with their practice schedules in camp in order to get guys more reps. It is a four man competition between Brayden Schager, incoming transfers Joey Yellan and Cammon Cooper and former walk-on Jake Farrell. My prediction is that it will come down to the Pittsburgh transfer Joey Yellen and Sophomore Brayden Schager and that Schager will lead the offense out in week zero. Schager was here for spring ball so he has a slight head start on Yellen in terms of familiarity with the offense. He also had a good spring and looked solid in the spring game developing chemistry with the receiving core.
Dedrick Parson is in line to be the lead back in the rotation and it seems like he is about to have a big year. He's a powerful downhill runner that also has quick feet and catches the ball well out of the backfield and he'll be running behind a veteran offensive line. He'll be spelled by junior Nasjzae Bryant-Lelei and Freshman Tylan Hines. Bryant-Lelei has a similar style to Parson and Hines looks like he has the potential to be special. He's being used out of the backfield as well as in the slot and in the practice that I attended he flashed multiple times. Jordan Johnson made the biggest play of the first scrimmage of camp when he took a hand-off 75 yards to the house.
Whoever takes the snap out of the gun will be throwing to a receiving core made up of guys with different skill sets. Zion Bowens is a speedster and has looked like the number one receiver from spring ball through fall camp, Jonah Panoke is a physical possession guy, Jalen Walthall has great speed and leaping ability, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala showed playmaking ability in the spring game and James Phillips and Dior Scott are quick and shifty slotbacks typical for a Hawaii offense. They say a good receiving core is like a basketball team in the sense that there are players of different sizes that are assigned to different tasks that play to their strengths. This is looking like a pretty diverse unit.
Caleb Phillips is a returning starter from last year's team, but the player who has really stood out at the position is Missouri State transfer Jordan Murray. He is a long athlete who runs smooth routes and has made some plays down the field throughout camp. He could be the playmaker that Hawaii has been looking for at the tight end position. At 6-5 he should be a threat in the red zone.
This is a veteran unit with players like Ilm Manning, Solo Vaipulu, Micah Vanterpool and Eliki Tanuvasa all returning with plenty of experience. Ilm Manning will be the rare five year starter at left tackle. He has been solid throughout his career using his athleticism to win matchups on the edge. Eliki Tanuvasa will start at center after playing both center and guard last season and Micah Vanterpool started at left guard last season and will keep his role this season. Vanterpool started off as a tackle so he possesses position versatility. Solo Vaipulu is in a battle with Arasi Mose, Stephan Bernal-Wendt and Maurice Ta'ala for the other guard spot.
Ta'ala, like his older brother Blessman, is an absolute unit in the weight room so I'm excited to see him move people around if he's given the nod. Austin Hopp and Utah transfer Luke Felix-Fualalo are competing for the job at right tackle. It is important for this unit to be a strength for an offense breaking in a new quarterback and many new playmakers. If they can run the ball consistently and control the line of scrimmage, it will make things a lot easier especially early in the season.
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Blessman Ta'ala returns for his fifth year and has been a staple in the interior defensive line rotation throughout his time as a Warrior. Senior John Tuitupou should be at the top of the rotation with Ta'ala, but the rest of the interior defensive line rotation is a bit of a question mark as it seemed to be one of the positions of emphasis during the recruiting period.
While the interior defensive line is one of the biggest question marks, the defensive edge brings a lot of optimism. It's been a long time since the Warriors have had a dominant edge rusher and this year there is hope that one of these guys will break out. Jonah Kahahawai-Welch and Arkansas transfer Mataio Soli look like they have been running with the first unit and there seems to be good depth with Nebraska transfer Wynden Ho'ohuli, Tariq Jones, Andrew Choi and Oregon transfer Austin Faoliu looking to crack the rotation as well. They will need the interior line to be stout against the run and the edges need to get after the quarterback. You're probably thinking, "Yes Captain Obvious, that is what a defensive line is supposed to do." and you're right but it's easier said than done and it will be critical to the success of the defense.
Penei Pavihi and Isaiah Tufaga will be the starters for the Bows at the linebacker positions. Pavihi has had an up-and-down career mostly because of a knee injury he suffered while he was just starting to break out for the Warriors. He is now a few years removed from that injury, has the physical tools to be great, has looked good this fall and should finish his career on a high note. Isaiah Tufaga is a steady player with great instincts and is someone the coaching staff can rely on. This should be a solid duo in the Mountain West Conference. Noah Kema and Logan Taylor look to be the next two off the bench.
There are a lot of new faces in Coach Eliminian's room and one that catches your eye right away is Virdell Edwards. The Iowa State transfer is a big corner who has shown good coverage ability in camp. It looks like he will start at one of the corner positions. Hugh Nelson, Von Killins, Jalen Perdue, Malik Hausman and Jojo Forest look to be in the rotation at the other corner position. Tiger Peterson, and Peter Manuma look like they have been practicing at a rover/nickel type position similar to the role that Khoury Bethley played for the Bows last season. Local products Noa Kamana, Leonard Lee and Matagi Thompson have been getting a lot of reps at the safety position. Lee has been a ball hawk and continues to come up with plays during scrimmages. The former walk-on looks like he has carved out a spot in the rotation.
Matthew Shipley has a chance to be one of the best specialists in the conference when it is all said and done. He has continued to improve since stepping foot on campus. Last season he was 18-21 for field goals and perfect on extra point attempts. He will be the primary place kicker and punter for the Warriors this season. Kyler Halvorsen has a big leg and will handle the kick-off duties.
There is a three man competition at Long snapper as the Bows look to replace 3 year starter Wyatt Tucker.
Dior Scott, Tylan Hines, James Phillips, and Jalen Perdue are all exciting options that could see action in the return game.
Also making debuts in their new roles will be offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker, defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro and special teams coordinator Thomas Sheffield.
Coach Shoemaker and Coach Chang have worked together to build an offensive scheme made up of both run and shoot and spread RPO concepts. Coach Shoemaker makes his FBS coordinator debut after having success at the FCS level with Eastern Washington. There is no game film on this new scheme so Hawaii should have a tactical advantage especially early in the season.
Coach Yoro has been part of the defensive coaching staff since the Rolovich era and now gets his opportunity to call the plays. Last season the defense excelled in takeaways and I think he will continue that ball attacking style going forward.
Coach Sheffield comes over from Nevada/Colorado State with Coach Chang where he served as the special teams coordinator. He is very enthusiastic and coaches up special teams with the emphasis on details, technique and effort. Hawaii had not previously had a special teams coordinator and it showed with many miscues and big plays given up. The addition of Coach Sheffield should help to improve that phase of the game.
Hawaii was picked to finish in last place in the West division of the conference but I believe this team will outperform a lot of people's expectations. They should enter the season with a chip on their shoulder, nothing to lose attitude and I think that makes a team dangerous. Last year's team had a lot of talent, but they fell apart throughout the season. Coach Chang has preached the importance of the 'Braddahhood' so I don't see that being a problem this season. The season is upon us. You can feel the excitement building around the community. The Chang Era begins on August 27th against the Vanderbilt Commodores at T.C. Ching Field. If you don't have tickets yet, what are you waiting for? Let's pack the stands and create a great college football atmosphere for the Warriors. As always, let's go Bows!
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Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire