Blue Ribbon Preview: Hawaii

Updated: July 8, 2011, 10:22 AM ET
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ABOUT

What happened only once before isn't likely to happen again this season.

In 2010, the Hawaii offense became only the second unit in FBS history to produce a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and pair of 1,000-yard receivers en route to a 10-4 campaign and a share of the WAC title.

With only one of those components returning -- the other three are now part of the National Football League -- it seems unlikely the Warriors will go down that road again so soon, leaving head coach Greg McMackin to ponder his team's role in its final season in the Western Athletic Conference.

Most pundits believe Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada will go hard at each other before the three best teams in the league leave the WAC behind to join the Mountain West Conference in 2012.

How they finish is an interesting debate, but because the Warriors are the only team returning their starting quarterback in this soon to be depleted conference, some think Hawaii has the inside track.

The Warriors return only three starters on offense, six on defense and a punter, leaving them with more question marks than answers. Their offensive line is brand new, three of the four wideouts have left the building and even the running back position is accepting all casting calls with no proven starter stepping forward in the spring.

The defense has some quality components returning, including the WAC's second-leading tackler of a year ago. The Warriors also have some talented recruits coming in who can only make that side of the football better, giving McMackin a belief system that things will turn out well eventually.

Hawaii won nine of its last 10 regular-season games to gain a share of the league title with departed Boise State, now of the Mountain West, and Nevada, before laying an egg in the Hawaii Bowl loss to Tulsa. That left a bad taste for a team that opens the season with a home matchup with Colorado before taking another two-week road trip to the mainland to play Washington and UNLV.

"We should have a good idea what kind of a football team we have after those first three games," McMackin said. "We feel like we've got a good bunch of kids who are ready to play."

They'll need to be early and often as the defense must carry the day. Last year, Hawaii was first in the nation in forcing turnovers (38). The Warriors were second in interceptions with 23 and ninth in fumbles recovered with 15. That's the kind of defense McMackin preaches. In his fourth season as UH's head coach, McMackin has spent most of his career as a defensive coordinator.

He likes being in that huddle and is confident this unit will be every bit as good. The same can't be said for the offense with so many new faces dotting the lineup. Only three guys are back and one of them needs clearance from the NCAA to be able to suit up in the fall.

What do all these numbers mean? Both the offense and the defense will be hard pressed to match them, but give these guys some time to grow and they have as good a shot as anyone to be called WAC champions in their final time through the league.

THE STAFF

Head Coach: Greg McMackin (Southern Oregon '67)
Record at School: 23-18 (3 years)
Career Record: 23-18 (3 years)

Assistants

• Rich Miano (Hawaii '87) Associate head coach/secondary
• Cal Lee (Williamette '70) Assistant head coach/defensive ends
• Nick Rolovich (Hawaii '05) Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
• Dave Aranda (Cal Lutheran '99) Defensive coordinator
• Mouse Davis (Western Oregon '55) Wide receivers
• Gordy Shaw (Cal Poly '78) Offensive line
• Brian Smith (Hawaii '05) Running backs
• Dick Tomey (DePauw '60) Special teams