Lack of depth will keep Warriors from winning


POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

Here's the good news for all you Hawaii football fans. Last year at this time, I thought UH could win 10 games in 2008.

I was wrong. So maybe I'll be wrong again this year. I was off by three games. If I'm off the mark by that much again with this fall's prediction, the Warriors could have a winning record.

Sorry, that doesn't mean I'm saying they'll go 10-3 in the 2009 regular season. Quite the opposite—I foresee 5-8, and that's assuming the Warriors start out with a win tomorrow night against a talented Central Arkansas squad. UH has been installed as a 14-point favorite. But anyone who saw what Portland State (2000) and Florida Atlantic (2004) did to Hawaii on opening night has to be wary. Just because you've barely heard of them doesn't mean they can't hand you your head.

WHEN I saw the projected starting lineups at the end of UH's spring camp, I concluded this could be a good team—under one condition.

No one's allowed to get injured.

Unrealistic, of course. The season hasn't even started and UH's number of returning starters on defense is cut in half with linebacker Brashton Satele out for the year. And after that scary kneecap injury the other day, I'm not convinced the other one, end John Fonoti, can just shake it off and be effective.

The lack of depth on both sides of the line is glaring. Seasons where entire offensive starting lines remain healthy are extremely rare, and I've never heard of it happening with defense.

One of the big keys to UH's success in 2006 and 2007 was depth on defense. The Sugar Bowl team had David Veikune, Keala Watson, Blaze Soares and Ryan Mouton— COMING IN OFF THE BENCH.

Now that's depth, and a big reason UH went 12-1; the Warriors could survive despite injuries. It was true on offense, too; when Colt Brennan was hurt, Tyler Graunke won at Nevada.

HERE'S THE breakdown (sorry, pun intended). UH will start 5-5, but its lack of depth will hurt late in the season.

Wins: Central Arkansas, at Washington State, at Idaho, Utah State, New Mexico State.

Losses: At UNLV, at LaTech, Fresno State, Boise State, at Nevada, at San Jose State, Navy, Wisconsin.

That adds up to 5-8 and 3-5 in the WAC.

In the search for solid positives, I came up with these: 1) A settled starter at quarterback in Greg Alexander. 2) Plenty of playmakers for him to throw to, especially slots Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares. 3) A handful of talented JC transfers, some of whom are ready to make an impact.

But the many questions outweigh the pluses. Maybe a dozen or so guys step up beyond anything they've been thought capable of. Maybe the offensive line stands firm this time. Maybe the lack of D-I experience on defense doesn't matter. Maybe the kicking game improves drastically from what it's shown in camp. Maybe the Warriors avoid more injuries.

Maybe this will be like 1992, when a team most figured for middle of the pack at best won the WAC and the Holiday Bowl.

Those are far too many maybes.

If you only go when UH is playing, you probably don't have to worry about spending Christmas Eve at Aloha Stadium (and it won't be because the Warriors are in a BCS bowl).