1. Most Husky fans are probably not too familiar with the Hawaii program. Who are a couple of players to keep an eye on on both sides of the ball?
On offense, the number one this guy this year will be Senior RB Joey Iosefa. He was the #1 back in 2011, but injuries have hindered him the past two seasons, causing him to miss eleven games his Sophomore and Junior years at Hawaii. When healthy, however, he's the best offensive weapon the Warriors have. He missed most of 2013 with a foot injury, but was able to return for the last four games of the season, rushing for 586 yards and five TDs. If he stays 100% this year, he should be UH's first 1,000 yard rusher since 2010. Keep an eye on Sophomore QB Ikaika Woolsey as well. He won the starting job a few weeks ago and looks to improve on his forgettable freshman year. He started two games for Hawaii, (who used four starting QBs last year), finishing 11-29 for 143 yards and three picks. Out of all the available quarterbacks, Woolsey is definitely the most athletic, and could get his number called several times on Saturday. Defensively, Beau Yap is the biggest star the Warriors have in the front seven. He lead Hawaii in both TFL and Sacks last year and will make a big impact on the rush defense this year. UCLA transfer Jeremy Castro will be big at LB this year too, joining an athletic front seven that could push Hawaii up the MWC ladder.
2. What are the basic styles of offense and defense the Warriors will run?
You'll see a basic pro style offense out of the Warriors on Saturday. They'll look to go to the pass more often than not, but Iosefa will get a solid workload as well. Defensively, the 'Bows are switching to a 3-4 Hybrid defense with former Utah State DC Kevin Clure joining the staff this year. This will give guys like Beau Yap to move through a couple positions in the front seven, possibly to linebacker!
3. Where is the strength of this Hawaii team?
The strength right now for Hawaii is in the offensive line and the running backs. Hawaii returns nine of their top ten offensive lineman with 82 career starts under their belt, a significant improvement on the 48 career starts they had in 2013. This could be Norm Chow's best offensive front since he arrived at Hawaii. The RB unit returns fully intact this year with Joey Iosefa leading the way, along with Sophomore Steven Lakalaka. If both can stay healthy, they could put up big numbers on the ground for the Warriors.
4. What, if any, areas do you feel Hawaii may have an edge over Washington?
Again, I go back to the RBs. Hawaii returns their top three rushers this year, and if it remains healthy, could break the 2,000 mark this season. The Huskies lost Bishop Sankey and now have to find a new #1 back to replace the production left by Sankey. I'll give the nod to Hawaii's special teams unit as well. Scott Harding plays not only Punter, but he's a wide receiver, kick, and punt returner for the Warriors as well. His unique, rugby-style punting was a big success for UH last year, forcing three turnovers while averaging 40.2 yards a punt, 18 of those landing inside the 20. They also return Kicker Tyler Hadden, who missed just one field goal in 2013.
5. What are your expectations for Hawaii's 2014 season?
Norm Chow's mantra that he has been preaching this offseason is "Finish", and the Warriors failed to do that on multiple occasions in 2013, losing five games by a touchdown or less. I truly think Hawaii will be able to finish this year. A solid offensive line with an athletic backfield who can rumble their way through the front seven at a moment's notice. While the wide receiver group is really thin, there could be a few bright spots this year. UH's front seven will be interesting to watch as well, especially with the scheme change this year. I believe the Warriors could shock some people this year, and could move out of the MWC cellar and contend to host their own bowl this year.
6. Do you have a prediction for this game?
While Hawaii returns almost as many starters as the Huskies, Washington's front seven should cause problems on the front line and make it difficult for guys like Joey Iosefa to get anything going for the Warriors run game. A young QB in Ikaika Woolsey could be easy pickings for Marcus Peters and the Huskies secondary if he gets rattled early on. Only six defensive starters are back for the Warriors, so if Jeff Lindquist and the Huskies offense make big plays, and can make them often, it's Washington's game to lose. Washington 42, Hawaii 17.
Thanks to Chris for joining us for this Q&A, and be sure to check out MWCConnection for all the Mountain West goodness you could ever want.