The University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are coming off one of their worst football seasons in the school’s history (1-11). Further the men of Manoa have lost 20 games over the last two seasons. Head coach Norm Chow will be starting his third year at the helm and excuses about changing the system and getting the right guys no longer can be used. The pressure will sit squarely on the shoulders of Chow in 2014 and one of the big decisions he has to make is who will be the first-string quarterback. And just who will that be?
Last year was expected to be Ohio State Buckeye transfer Taylor Graham’s big year to shine but the 6’5” 235 pound junior was banged around and never really was able to establish himself. Senior quarterback Sean Schroeder played most of the snaps behind center and ended up throwing for just shy of 3,000 yards. Graham threw for just two touchdowns along with five interceptions and certainly could be considered a disappointment with all the buildup after his long wait to be a starting quarterback (source: Stack).
Graham is back for one more shot at the starting spot, but he will be dogged by another who had transferred two years ago, Jeremy Higgins. Sophomore Ikaika Woolsey is also being considered as a potential starter and this truly is a three-man race. Here’s a look at each so far after one week of spring ball (listed alphabetically).
Taylor Graham – The strong-armed quarterback, who originally played prep ball in Illinois, might be thought of as the guy to beat out – and he just may be. However, he’s coming off shoulder surgery and as such the coaches are being cautious with Taylor. He spent most of his time on the field last year running for his life or being sacked and came out of it beat up. If Graham can get his confidence back along with his health, he should be right in the thick of the QB race.
Jeremy Higgins – A transfer from Utah State, he won’t impress anyone with his arm strength, but the 6’ 3” 200 pounder is efficient and has a style and look not unlike Schroeder. He moves the ball well and makes the right throw. Higgins won’t wow anyone but then neither did Schroeder, so he could be the dark horse in this battle. Jeremy has been solid in practice and if one of the other signal callers doesn’t step up, Higgins could be Chow and Hawaii’s man.
Ikaika Woolsey – The 6’1” 210 pound sophomore is the most athletic and when combining arm strength, speed and mobility, Woolsey would be your man. He has looked very good in practice and is taking the most snaps. Woolsey is more of a duel-threat type QB, though he likes to use his mobility more to throw than run down the field. Ikaika started the Fresno state game but could never get the offense going and was replaced by Schroeder, who almost made a miraculous second half comeback falling just 3 yards shy of the goal line and a win. If Woolsey can work out the rough edges, it would be hard for Chow to keep him on the bench.
There’s a trump card in the mix should former USC Trojan quarterback Max Wittek decide to come to Hawaii next month. Wittek is transferring but has to earn his psychology degree first. Once he does, he will have two years to play for one of probably three clubs that he has shown interest in: Texas Longhorns, Louisville Cardinals and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. It’s said that the 6’4” 235 pound junior is leaning towards Texas but that’s a crowded field battling for quarterback in Austin and Wittek won’t be able to compete until fall. The tug of playing for Norm Chow and an easier competition to beat out makes Hawaii a contender.
There were some signs that the Warriors finally figured things out towards the end of 2013. Along with the season-ending win over Army, that victory was preceded by two overtime losses to bowl-bound San Diego State and the frozen tundra of Laramie (Wyoming Cowboys). The team returns 17 starters and a lot of backups, making Hawaii’s team deep heading into 2014.
Chow said he won’t make a decision until spring practice is over. Whether Wittek makes his choice or not, Norm will have made his – at least temporarily – and look for this battle to go right down to the last day of spring practice. Tough choice for Chow and an even tougher season awaits whoever is chosen.
Additional source: University of Hawaii