NOTE: Confused? Don't miss the definitions and footnotes at the bottom. And as always, if you don't like numbers, just skip to the words. This marks the final of 120 profiles. Time for the Gatorade bath.
In chess, there are strategies, and there are tactics. Strategies are general approaches to life -- arranging the board to accommodate for your favored tactics. They are long-term approaches you put in place because you think they give you the best chance to succeed. Tactics, meanwhile, are short-term. Forks, skewers, etc. [...]
Like chess, football usually boils down to strategies and tactics in the end (unless, as is often the case, one team's talent and athleticism is too great for the other, like they're starting with more pieces on the board). Who you decide to place on the field, and where you place them, constitutes strategy. 4-3 defense? 3-4? 3-3-5? Spread offense? Pro-style? Wishbone? Your strategies are your "base, core plays," your approach, your mindset. Tactics, then, are what you actually do once you have established your strategy: Who do you use to blitz and when? When (and how often) do you call your constraint plays to complement your base plays? You put yourself in position to win with strategy; you win with tactics.
Identity, knowing and committing to your chosen strategy, can be so important, especially in areas of the country that are less than fertile when it comes to big-time football. Identity alone doesn't make you good -- it isn't hard to come up with an example of a terrible wishbone or run-and-shoot team -- but it is certainly part of the battle. And in 2011, few programs have established a stronger identity than the Hawaii Warriors. On offense, they are going to unabashedly throw the ball; on defense, they are going to attack you and try to hit you as hard as they can. If you keep your poise, and if you are athletic enough to make them pay for the risks they take -- they don't have a natural athletic advantage over many of the teams they play, so there is certainly risk involved in ferociously attacking -- then you can beat them. But they stick to what they know, and after a two-year crater following head coach/miracle worker June Jones' departure to SMU, Hawaii was back in the winner's circle in 2010. They won ten games, played as well as almost anybody in the month of October, and reestablished themselves as a solid, steady mid-major program.
Many members of last fall's experienced squad are gone, meaning this year is a big one for fourth-year head coach Greg McMackin. Being a good coach means achieving success with multiple cycles of recruits. One cycle is out the door; do the replacements have what it takes to maintain Hawaii's momentum? And will having such a strong identity help them out?
2010 Schedule & Results*
|Record: 10-4 | Adj. Record: 10-4 | Final F/+ Rk**: 49
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|2-Sep||USC||36-49||L||35.1 - 40.7||L|
|11-Sep||at Army||31-28||W||38.2 - 32.1||W|
|18-Sep||at Colorado||13-31||L||24.0 - 34.8||L|
||66-7||W||41.4 - 27.4||W|
|2-Oct||Louisiana Tech||41-21||W||42.5 - 30.8||W|
|9-Oct||at Fresno State||49-27||W||37.4 - 25.9||W|
|16-Oct||Nevada||27-21||W||36.4 - 11.9||W|
|23-Oct||at Utah State||45-7||W||35.9 - 0.2||W|
|30-Oct||Idaho||45-10||W||38.9 - 20.7||W|
|6-Nov||at Boise State||7-42||L||24.2 - 32.5||L|
|20-Nov||San Jose State||41-7||W||32.1 - 16.0||W|
|27-Nov||at New Mexico State||59-24||W||47.5 - 26.7||W|
|4-Dec||UNLV||59-21||W||35.7 - 33.2||W|
|24-Dec||vs Tulsa||35-62||L||29.7 - 29.7||L|
|Points Per Game||39.6||10||25.5||58|
|Adj. Points Per Game||35.6||12||25.9||49|
Like San Diego State, Hawaii was an incredible team in the middle of the season. After a slow start that saw them both lose two games and deserve to lose two games, Hawaii got as hot as any team in the country. It started with a whipping of Charleston Southern but continued against three solid conference opponents. They took out Louisiana Tech and Fresno State by 20+, then handed Nevada their only loss of the season. The defense was mostly dominant in this stretch, but it faded again in November.
First Three Games: Opponents 35.9 Adj. PPG, Hawaii 32.4 (-3.5)
Next Six Games: Hawaii 38.8, Opponents 19.5 (+19.3)
Final Five Games: Hawaii 33.8, Opponents 27.6 (+6.2)
|RUSHING||13||18||15||Adj. Line Yards:|
|Standard Downs||23||22||27||Adj. Sack Rate:|
|Q1 Rk||37||1st Down Rk||12|
|Q2 Rk||20||2nd Down Rk||30|
|Q3 Rk||33||3rd Down Rk||38|
Does a system offense produce interchangeable parts? That's what Hawaii has to be hoping as they head into a season in which they must replace three incredibly productive skill position players: running back Alex Green (1,199 yards, 8.2 per carry, +55.0 Adj. POE, 18 TD; 363 receiving yards, 79% catch rate, 1 TD) and receivers Greg Salas (1,889 yards, 15.9 per catch, 74% catch rate, 14 TD) and Kealoha Pilares (1,306 yards, 14.8 per catch, 71% catch rate, 15 TD). Almost every carry by a running back and 74% of all passing targets have departed, leaving quarterback Bryant Moniz (5,040 yards, 9.1 per pass, 65% completion rate, 39 TD, 15 INT) with almost entirely new pieces around him.
One of the interesting dilemmas when attempting to gauge an offense like Hawaii is determining the difference between players who are productive because of the system and players who are really, really good. At first glance, it appears that Green and Salas in particular were excellent, and it might be difficult for the Warriors to replace either of them. Green almost doubled up everybody else in the country in terms of Adj. POE; as a Hawaii running back, you are going to get plenty of opportunities to take advantage of defenses gearing up for the pass. But what Green did, averaging over eight yards per carry and almost 11 yards per pass target, was incredible. He suffered a bit from fumbleitis, but both his vision and speed were outstanding.
With backup Chizzy Dimude also gone, the running back duties will fall to big redshirt freshman Joey Iosefa (6-foot-0, 240 pounds) and junior college redshirt Sterling Jackson. Iosefa could bring an interesting power aspect to the offense (perhaps not unlike Zach Line at SMU), but we'll see if he has the speed necessary to take full advantage of a distracted defense. Moniz has some wheels of his own (331 pre-sack rushing yards, +12.5 Adj. POE), but he cannot be expected to carry the rushing load.
(And this says nothing of an offensive line that must replace four starters, including second-team all-conference picks in guard Adrian Thomas and tackle Laupepa Letuli. Left tackle Austin Hansen accounts for 20 of Hawaii's 21 career starts. Then again, the offense was terrible in terms of line blocking, anyway, so regression isn't guaranteed.)
- Of course, focusing on the running game with this offense is missing the point. More important than Green's absence will be that of Salas and Pilares. Royce Pollard (901 yards, 14.1 per catch, 59% catch rate, 7 TD) becomes the de facto No. 1 guy, but none of the three primary returnees -- Pollard, Billy Ray Stutzmann (130 yards, 10.0 per catch, 52% catch rate, 1 TD as a redshirt freshman) and Jeremiah Ostrowski (94 yards, 23.5 per catch, 36% catch rate, 8.5 per target) -- averaged anywhere near the 10.5 or 11.8 yards per target Pilares and Salas averaged, respectively. Then again, only Pollard had a major sample size. Big things are expected of big junior college transfer Darius Bright (6-foot-3, 230 pounds), but Bright, Stutzmann and Ostrowski have all missed fall practice time to nagging injuries. Moniz will throw as many passes as anybody in the country this year; who he's throwing to is a complete mystery.
- One interesting aspect of Hawaii's high-octane offense: it wasn't also a high-pace offense. Unlike a lot of pass-heavy attacks, the Warriors do not necessarily focus on sideline routes. They attack the interior of the field as much as they can, and that is reflected here.
|RUSHING||45||54||47||Adj. Line Yards:|
|Standard Downs||60||82||49||Adj. Sack Rate:|
|Q1 Rk||24||1st Down Rk||78|
|Q2 Rk||29||2nd Down Rk||57|
|Q3 Rk||112||3rd Down Rk||47|
As strong as Hawaii's offensive identity is, their defensive identity is almost as strong: they mercilessly attack the run on standard downs, and blitz on passing downs. Opponents know what they're going to do -- the Warriors faced more standard downs passes and passing downs rushes than the national average -- but in 2010, Hawaii was successful enough that predictability didn't matter. They will attack, and they will go after the ball at all times, and if you are not composed enough to handle it, they will make big plays against you.
Hawaii's was a rock solid mid-major defense, playing strong against the run and, at the very least, limiting big plays in the passing game. They weren't good enough at getting to the quarterback to make their blitzing altogether worth it, but when your talent is somewhat limited you make sacrifices. The Warriors limited big plays on standard downs and played relatively efficiently on passing downs (while giving up some big plays).
This season, Hawaii should continue to field a solid unit. Seven of the top nine defensive linemen return, as do the top two linebackers. The secondary is a bit of a concern, however. A unit that was not particularly deep a year ago, loses four of its top seven contributors. Mana Silva (67.5 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks, 8 INT, 7 PBU) was a tremendous free safety, and Jeramy Bryant (43.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 4 INT, 8 PBU) was a strong playmaker at cornerback; both are gone. Strong safety Richard Torres (48.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 5 PBU) returns, as do corners John Hardy-Tuilau (40.0 tackles, 5.0 TFL/sacks, 3 PBU, 3 FF as a freshman) and Kawika Ornellas (20.5 tackles, 1 PBU), but there is some work to be done here.
- Some defenses flow to the ball, evenly distributing tackles to any number of players. Others, like Hawaii, filter everything toward one or two players. Only two Hawaii players had more than 49.0 tackles in 2010: middle linebacker Aaron Brown (68.0 tackles, 9.5 TFL/sacks, 3 INT, 6 PBU, 2 FF) and BUCK linebacker Corey Paredes (117.0 tackles, 4.0 TFL/sacks, 4 INT, 5 PBU, 2 FF). Both return, as do backups George Daily-Lyles (19.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL/sacks as a redshirt freshman) and Jordan Monico (20.5 tackles). This is a steady, reliable unit.
- Perhaps the best thing about this defense in 2010 was the line, and most of it returns. The Warriors will miss ends Kamalu Umu (38.5 tackles, 15.5 TFL/sacks, 3 PBU) and Elliott Purcell (26.5 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks), but Paipai Falemalu (26.0 tackles, 6.5 TFL/sacks) and Siaki Cravens (10.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL/sacks) should be able to at least approximate some of their production, and few mid-majors have a deeper set of tackles than Haku Correa (31.5 tackles, 5.0 TFL/sacks), Kaniela Tuipulotu (25.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL/sacks, 3 PBU), Vaughn Meatoga (24.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL/sacks), Geordon Hanohano (14.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks,) and Zach Masch (12.0 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks).
Hawaii's 2010 Season Set to Music
Because I haven't used nearly enough Stooges music in this series, we'll cap it with some "Search and Destroy." "I am the world's forgotten boy/the one who searches and destroys" summarizes the UH defense pretty well.
Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit
Almost no team in the country has consistently committed to the pass as much as Hawaii.
|Average Adj. Run-Pass Ratio (2005-10)|
|Rank||Offense||Adj. Run%||Adj. Pass %|
|3||New Mexico State||41.5%||58.5%|
|13||San Diego State||45.3%||54.7%|
|34||San Jose State||47.8%||52.2%|
Summary and Projection Factors
Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.
|Four-Year F/+ Rk||74|
|Five-Year Recruiting Rk||84|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin****||+12 / +11.0|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||9 (3, 6)|
Nine starters returning. It is difficult to overcome that. But here's where Hawaii's strong identity could pay off. The new players know exactly what is expected of them, and ... well, Hawaii would gain quite a few yards yards and score a lot of points even if they returned zero starters. The question is, will they score the right points? Will they be able to stand up to Nevada in Reno and take down Fresno State at home?
The Football Outsiders Almanac 2011 gives Hawaii a 28% chance of finishing 6-1 or better in a weakened WAC and a 1% chance of going undefeated. That is both showing a lot of respect for Hawaii's recent accomplishments and reminding us just how soft the WAC is. The Warriors are heading to the Mountain West next season, but in the meantime they are timing this transition team well; despite all of their personnel losses, they could quite possibly ride a strong identity to a sneaky conference title.
* For more on the 'Adj. Score' and 'Adj. Record' measures below, feel free to read this Football Outsiders column. Adj. Score is a look at how a team would have performed in a given week if playing a perfectly average team, with a somewhat average number of breaks and turnovers. The idea for the measure is simple: what if everybody in the country played exactly the same opponent every single week? Who would have done the best? It is an attempt to look at offensive and defensive consistency without getting sidetracked by easy or difficult schedules. And yes, with adjusted score you can allow a negative number of points, which is strangely satisfying.
** F/+ rankings are the official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.
*** What is S&P+? Think of it as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.
**** Adj. TO Margin is what a team's turnover margin would have been if they had recovered exactly 50 percent of all the fumbles that occurred in their games. If there is a huge difference between TO Margin and Adj. TO Margin (in other words, if fumbles and unlucky bounces were the main source of a good/bad TO margin), that suggests that a team's luck was particularly good or bad and might even out the next season.
*****Phil Steele has long tracked Yards Per Point as a means of looking at teams that were a little too efficient or inefficient the previous season. A positive Yds/Pt Margin means a team's offense was less efficient than opponents' offenses, and to the extent that luck was involved, their luck might even out the next year.