Spring Wrap: Hawaii Warriors
By Ken Pomponio
Spring drills have hit the finish line in the Mountain West Conference with all 12 squads having put the wraps on their allotted 15 practices.
Here’s a glance at how the spring went out in the middle of the Pacific at Hawaii, which is coming off a 3-9 season:
- Few MWC teams needed the spring more than the Warriors, who return 18 starters – second-most in the conference – but had a FBS-high 32 players making their first starts in 2012 under a first-year head coach in Norm Chow. While there was finally a feel of familiarity in Honolulu, it also gave the offense a chance to get used to the new shotgun formation of new coordinator Aaron Price, son of former Washington State and UTEP coach Mike Price.
- While its 2012 statistical rankings reflected the Warriors’ scoreboard struggles, Hawaii did finish 11th nationally in pass defense a season ago, and all reports coming out of the spring indicate that the secondary will continue to be a strength. Setting the tone is an athletic and physical safety corps headed by sophomore Marrell Jackson, the squad’s leading tackler a year ago, and seniors John Hardy-Tuliau and Charles Clay.
- Injuries, injuries, injuries. According to the Hawaii athletic department, the Warriors suffered an FBS-leading eight season-ending injuries last season. Much to the chagrin of Chow and his staff, that trend has carried over into the spring when returning starting quarterback Sean Schroeder missed all of camp after undergoing back surgery. Almost every position on the squad was afflicted, including receiver (where leading 2012 pass-catcher Billy Ray Stutzmann was continually in and out of action), the offensive and defensive lines (a foot fracture for DE/long snapper Beau Yap) and even special teams (kicker Tyler Hadden was out with double-hernia surgery).
- With Schroeder shelved, strong-armed junior Taylor Graham – a transfer from Ohio State and the son of former New York Giants QB Kent Graham – appeared to seize the starting role. But with Schroeder due back in July, Chow is leaving the door open for a fall competition, designating Graham as the post-spring starter with Schroeder and fourth-year junior Jeremy Higgins as co-No. 2s. In addition, redshirt freshman Ikaika Woolsey showed some spring flashes and also is in the mix.
Spring game standouts
- Graham rallied the Black to a 27-21 Warrior Bowl win over the White with a pair of fourth-quarter TD tosses and finished with three scores and two interceptions in all while going 11-of-19 for 157 yards.
- Senior wide receiver Chris Gant led the squad with five catches for 106 yards and a pair of TDs for the White.
- Junior wideout Trevor Davis was Graham’s favorite target, hauling in three passes for 67 yards and two scores.
- Senior linebacker George Daily-Lyles, who’s making the conversion from defensive end, was the contest’s unquestioned defensive standout with a team-high six tackles and four sacks.
The Warriors will enjoy spring and summer in paradise, but USC looms Aug. 29 in the season opener.