The 2022 season was a brutal one for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, and in many preseason polls in the Mountain West, this program is expected to be at or near the bottom of the conference standings.
It will be interesting to see if this program can build back to what it was during second-year coach Timmy Chang's time as a quarterback here from 2000-04 under former coach (and former NFL head coach) June Jones. Let's see what 2023 has in store for Hawaii after a 3-10 season in 2022.
Hawaii 2023 Preview
THE CONF.: Mountain West Conference (NOTE: The conference got rid of its two divisions earlier this year)
2022 RECORD: 3-10
CONF. FINISH: 2-6 (5th in the old West Division)
HEAD COACH: Timmy Chang (2nd season at school and overall, 3-10)
FIVE ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: Cameron Stone, Jr./DB (35 tackles, 12 TFLs at Wyoming); Tylan Hines Soph./RB (634 rushing yards, 2 TDs as freshman in 2022); Logan Taylor, Sr./LB (led team in tackles last year - 85 tackles, 3 TFLs); Solo Vaipulu, Sr./OL (43 career starts); John Tuitupou, Jr./DT (30 tackles, 3.5 TFLs); Brayden Schager, Jr./QB (2,348 yards passing, 13 TDs)
THE NEWCOMER: Cameron Stone, Wyoming transfer (see all-star candidates above)
Cameron Stone is a legit contributor on defense and a cornerstone player who just transferred in from Wyoming. Let's start there. Brayden Schager threw for 2,300 yards as a sophomore starting quarterback last year. Linebacker Logan Taylor led the team in tackles last year and he's back. There are things to get excited about this year with Hawaii football, but the program is still clearly in rebuilding mode.
The defense is clearly ahead of the offense this year from the experience standpoint, with nine starters returning. Granted, the defense gave up 34.7 points per game, but experience is experience and the only two spots not returning starters are nose tackle (where the Rainbow Warriors replenish with a Washington transfer, Kuao Peihopa) and DB (replace with a Southern Cal transfer, Kaulana Makaula). Both Pac-12 transfer additions are Hawaiian natives. There is massive potential to trim last year's defensive numbers by 10+ points per game, and that's big in the Mountain West.
Offensively the team needs to pick it up, but having a returning starting quarterback is big, and there is some great skill talent returning around Schager. The O-line has two starters back, but also a key Utah transfer (Luke Felix-Fualelo). This unit also undoubtedly will improve.
The Key Game and Why
Road trips to UNLV, New Mexico and Nevada jump off the page. If the Rainbow Warriors want to prove they aren't at the bottom of the Mountain West, they need to beat teams like these, and these three matchups should be key.
The Toughest Game and Why
Two road trips to the SEC's Vanderbilt and PAC-12's Oregon — along with a home game against the PAC-12's Stanford — they're brutal and guaranteed three losses. But in conference it's clearly the home game against a very stout Air Force Academy team on Nov. 11. Thanks to schedule rotation, Hawaii avoids Boise State and Fresno State.
Chances of Making Conference Title Game
Zero. No reason to elaborate, honestly. Maybe in the next few years though?
This will be a challenging year for the Rainbow Warriors. The pivotal games to avoid the Mountain West (UNLV, New Mexico, Nevada) are all on the road. Those are three potential wins on the road, but the Rainbow Warriors have to come to the mainland.
To be honest, the FCS Albany game in September (a middle-of-the-pack program at its level) is probably the only guaranteed win. It's not like Hawaii couldn't repeat or surpass last year's win total of three, it's more that they don't have a bunch of cupcakes in the non-conference schedule, and the Mountain West slate is kind of stacked against it.
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