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2011 Season Preview: The Hawaii Warriors And Identity

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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.

-- Strategies, Tactics And The Florida State Seminoles

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
25-Sep Charleston Southern
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
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
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)


Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
OVERALL 20 22 20
RUSHING 13 18 15 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 28 28 31 105
Standard Downs 23 22 27 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 34 44 28 38
Redzone 69 56 79
Q1 Rk 37 1st Down Rk 12
Q2 Rk 20 2nd Down Rk 30
Q3 Rk 33 3rd Down Rk 38
Q4 Rk 25

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.)

Other tidbits:

  • 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.


Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
OVERALL 56 68 52
RUSHING 45 54 47 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 69 87 62 45
Standard Downs 60 82 49 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 73 59 77 47
Redzone 91 105 73
Q1 Rk 24 1st Down Rk 78
Q2 Rk 29 2nd Down Rk 57
Q3 Rk 112 3rd Down Rk 47
Q4 Rk 97

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.

Other tidbits:

  • 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 %
1 Texas Tech 28.5% 71.5%
2 Hawaii 29.9% 70.1%
3 New Mexico State 41.5% 58.5%
4 Miami (Ohio)
42.2% 57.8%
5 Baylor 42.4% 57.6%
6 UTEP 43.3% 56.7%
7 SMU 43.6% 56.4%
8 Western Michigan 44.1% 55.9%
9 Purdue 44.2% 55.8%
10 Houston 44.2% 55.8%
11 Bowling Green 44.5% 55.5%
12 Arizona 44.8% 55.2%
13 San Diego State 45.3% 54.7%
14 Missouri 45.4% 54.6%
15 Central Michigan 45.7% 54.3%
16 Notre Dame 45.7% 54.3%
17 Washington State 46.0% 54.0%
18 Duke 46.3% 53.7%
19 Indiana 46.3% 53.7%
20 Idaho 46.4% 53.6%
21 Troy 46.5% 53.5%
22 BYU 46.6% 53.4%
23 N.C. State 46.7% 53.3%
24 Arizona State 46.7% 53.3%
25 Florida State 46.8% 53.2%
26 Tulane 46.8% 53.2%
27 South Carolina 46.8% 53.2%
28 UNLV 47.1% 52.9%
29 Kansas 47.1% 52.9%
30 Oregon State 47.4% 52.6%
31 Cincinnati 47.5% 52.5%
32 Virginia 47.6% 52.4%
33 Northwestern 47.7% 52.3%
34 San Jose State 47.8% 52.2%
35 East Carolina 48.2% 51.8%
36 Akron 48.2% 51.8%
37 Florida International 48.6% 51.4%
38 Tennessee 48.7% 51.3%
39 Boston College 49.0% 51.0%
40 Marshall 49.0% 51.0%
41 Buffalo 49.1% 50.9%
42 Rice 49.4% 50.6%
43 Colorado State 49.5% 50.5%
44 Kentucky 49.6% 50.4%
45 Colorado 49.8% 50.2%
46 UAB 50.0% 50.0%
47 Florida Atlantic 50.1% 49.9%
48 UCLA 50.1% 49.9%
49 USC 50.2% 49.8%
50 North Texas 50.3% 49.7%
51 Louisville 50.4% 49.6%
52 Syracuse 50.6% 49.4%
53 Eastern Michigan 50.7% 49.3%
54 Utah 50.7% 49.3%
55 Michigan State 50.8% 49.2%
56 North Carolina 50.8% 49.2%
57 Iowa 50.8% 49.2%
58 Iowa State 50.9% 49.1%
59 Toledo 51.0% 49.0%
60 Kansas State 51.0% 49.0%
61 Tulsa 51.2% 48.8%
62 Vanderbilt 51.2% 48.8%
63 Ball State 51.2% 48.8%
64 Maryland 51.4% 48.6%
65 Washington 51.4% 48.6%
66 Texas 51.4% 48.6%
67 California 51.5% 48.5%
68 Texas A&M 51.5% 48.5%
69 Clemson 51.7% 48.3%
70 Miami 51.8% 48.2%
71 Minnesota 51.9% 48.1%
72 Wyoming 51.9% 48.1%
73 Kent State 52.0% 48.0%
74 Louisiana Tech 52.0% 48.0%
75 Nebraska 52.2% 47.8%
76 Memphis 52.4% 47.6%
77 Boise State 52.5% 47.5%
78 Pittsburgh 52.7% 47.3%
79 New Mexico 52.7% 47.3%
80 Arkansas 52.9% 47.1%
81 Penn State 53.0% 47.0%
82 Oklahoma 53.1% 46.9%
83 Temple 53.1% 46.9%
84 Stanford 53.2% 46.8%
85 Ole Miss 53.3% 46.7%
86 Georgia 53.3% 46.7%
87 Southern Miss 53.5% 46.5%
88 Alabama 53.5% 46.5%
89 Arkansas State 53.6% 46.4%
90 Middle Tennessee 53.9% 46.1%
91 Rutgers 54.3% 45.7%
92 Florida 54.4% 45.6%
93 UL-Monroe 54.5% 45.5%
94 LSU 54.6% 45.4%
95 Oregon 54.7% 45.3%
96 Fresno State 55.3% 44.7%
97 Michigan 55.4% 44.6%
98 Ohio 55.6% 44.4%
99 Utah State 56.0% 44.0%
100 Oklahoma State 56.1% 43.9%
101 Wake Forest 56.3% 43.7%
102 Illinois 56.3% 43.7%
103 Mississippi State 56.5% 43.5%
104 Central Florida 56.7% 43.3%
105 South Florida 56.7% 43.3%
106 Northern Illinois 56.9% 43.1%
107 UL-Lafayette 57.3% 42.7%
108 Nevada 57.4% 42.6%
109 Connecticut 57.8% 42.2%
110 Auburn 58.0% 42.0%
111 TCU 58.8% 41.2%
112 Western Kentucky 58.9% 41.1%
113 Wisconsin 59.4% 40.6%
114 Ohio State 59.7% 40.3%
115 Virginia Tech 60.0% 40.0%
116 West Virginia 64.1% 35.9%
117 Army 67.2% 32.8%
118 Georgia Tech 67.4% 32.6%
119 Air Force 78.3% 21.7%
120 Navy 82.3% 17.7%

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)
Yds/Pt Margin***** -1.4

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.

Be sure to purchase your Football Outsiders Almanac 2011 today. The college portion is available for just $5, and the print version is now available!


* 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.