Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Time to start
talking UH football

WESTERN Athletic Conference media days have come and gone, which means we can officially start talking about Hawaii's upcoming season. Most of us have already started talking about it. I know I have.


>> What's up with the running backs? Will Mike Bass ever hit his potential? Can Michael Brewster separate himself from the pack? Is West Keli'ikipi's knee ready (and are his legal woes behind him)? Or, maybe, do any of these things really matter? Just put a guard back there. Now that would be cool.

>> Does UH have depth this year? True, we thought UH had depth last year. We thought that with Mike Cavanaugh as coach and several seasons of great recruiting classes, the transition of one era of offensive line to another would be more seamless than it was. We saw, with injuries and a suspension, that young receivers weren't ready to step in, and thus Hawaii's offense was shut down by Tulsa.

That line is solidified now, solid. A new era. Receivers are back at full strength.

And with another year and another class, Hawaii has depth now. Right?

>> How will the defense do? I'm with June Jones that UH's defense will be better than most people think. How much better is the question. This year's unit will benefit from lowered expectations in much the same way last year's was stuck with high ones. So, yes, it'll definitely be better than most people think.

In the past few years we've seen Hawaii's maligned defenses step up and win games, not just not lose them. We've seen it when no one expected it. And yet we've also seen them up against the ropes, after another three-and-out. Chasing all over the field.

Last year's unit might have been one of the more individually talented defenses in UH history, and opponents scored 30.5 points per game. Do you think this year's group will be better?

>> Is there a stretch-the-defense deep threat out there? I don't know. It might be Jason Rivers, who has already shown the ability to make the big catch, but he's not really known as a burner.

This receiving squad should be extremely dangerous. The run-after-catch types -- Chad Owens, Nate Ilaoa, Se'e Poumele -- should help Hawaii bury lesser teams and break ones struggling to stay even in close games. It has move-the-chains possession guys in Gerald Welch and Britton Komine. It has a young guy who might be a star in Rivers. It has new guys with potential.

But is there a speed guy in there, a guy who can back you up and open up everything else, put a defense perpetually on its heels? We're still waiting to see.

>> Will physical potential make up for a lack of actual experience? This is a big one. This is one Jones is counting on, with names like Ikaika Alama-Francis and Tony Akpan and to a lesser extent -- he looked great in limited action last year -- Mel Purcell.

This year it looks like the basketball players may not have to just take the field, but produce, too.

Hawaii has a lot of athletes.

If they become football players, this season could get exciting.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at



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