Hawaii comes to Ann Arbor by way of Sydney. The Rainbow Warriors opened their season against Cal in Australia and wasn’t able to pull out a victory, falling 51-31. Considered an advantage by having one game up on the competition, Hawaii has a lot of work to do. With a few weapons on offense, that’s about as good as it gets for this Mountain West foe.
We can bet Michigan is tired of hitting their teammates and ready to smack someone else around by now. This doesn’t bode well for any opponent ready to set foot in the Big House.
Rushing Offense against Hawaii
Opening the season against Cal, Hawaii allowed 189 yards on the ground. Defensively, the Rainbow Warriors were on their heels, allowing an average of 5 yards per carry.
There were some outliers for the flat-footed Hawaii defense — linebackers Jahlani Tavai (12 tackles), Jeremiah Pritchard (6 tackles) and defensive lineman Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea (5 tackles).
Michigan, featuring five experienced linemen, looks to take advantage of the gap-laden Warrior defense. Former left tackle, Mason Cole’s move to center has opened up his previous position on the line. Sophomore Grant Newsome and freshman Ben Bredeson is the pair that seems to be squaring off for Mason’s previous position, leaving either option a formidable one.
Complimenting the experienced offensive line are returning running backs De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac and Drake Johnson. This should mean Michigan’s rushing attack will operate like a well-oiled machine. Smith should top the depth chart, followed by Isaac and Johnson. Training camp rumors are also buzzing that freshman Chris Evans will likely see snaps in the backfield and potentially in the slot. Evans is considered more shifty and speedier back than the others.
- Advantage: Michigan
If Hawaii couldn’t stop a pass heavy Cal team from running the ball, there’s no way they will prevent this seasoned Wolverine rushing attack from picking up large chunks of yards all day. Despite a strong effort from the Rainbow Warriors, expect to see at least one hundred-yard-rusher and a couple more guys to eclipse the 50-yard mark.
Passing Offense against Hawaii
Hawaii’s defensive backs were busy against Cal last week, facing 54 throws, of which 39 were completed. The Rainbow Warriors allowed a total of 441 yards and 4 TDs through the air and were only able to break up two pass attempts throughout the entire game. But they were able to fill up the stat sheet with plenty of tackles. RS senior Damien Packer and RS junior Trayvon Henderson are manning the defensive backfield, bringing years of experience, albeit a bit short of the necessary talent.
The biggest question mark for Michigan this off-season is the man controlling the huddle. The spot comes down to John O’Korn and Wilton Speight, neither of whom have been officially appointed the job. At this stage, all signs point to Speight taking the first snap of the season as it’s been reported that he has gone from night to day in the short time elapsed from spring ball until now. Rumor has it that the big man from Virginia used more of his time on the football field as opposed to the golf greens — his other hobby of choice — a change noticeable by both the Wolverine staff and teammates.
The most dangerous receiving corps in the Big 10 returns to Michigan’s offense, inclusive of Amarah Darboh, Jehu Chesson and All-American tight end, Jake Butt. Grant Perry appeared to be Speight’s favorite target during spring ball and has the potential to have a breakout season from the slot.
- Advantage: Michigan
Hawaii’s defensive backs will be plenty busy on this day. They should see a significant dose of the play action attack and downfield passing that Harbaugh likes to run. Wolverine newcomers, Eddie McDoom, Kekoa Crawford and Nate Johnson, should provide an added dimension to the passing game that team 136 was missing.
Rushing Defense against Hawaii
The Rainbow Warriors’ running game was one of the lone bright spots in their tilt with Cal. Gaining 248 yards and averaging 6 yards a carry, as Hawaii took advantage of a less aggressive Golden Bear defense.
Executing the zone read and the draw to perfection, running back Diocemy Saint Juste managed 118 yards on 14 carries. In space, Saint Juste has the speed and agility to take one to the house. Running backs Steven Lakalaka and Paul Harris moved the chains as well, gaining 5 yards a carry in the opener.
Although the stats look great on paper, Hawaii wasn’t facing a defense with as even close to as many weapons as the Wolverines plan to deploy. It will be the defensive line’s job to occupy a solid Rainbow Warriors’ offensive line and keep them away from the linebackers, allowing plays to be made.
After spending most of his previous years on the training table, redshirt junior Mike McCray finally gets his chance to join his teammates in the middle of the Wolverine defense. He’ll line up next to senior Ben Gedeon and Jabrill Peppers in the center of the D.
The defensive line should see a heavy rotation of guys. Not only because they’re talented but also to keep them fresh. Newly anointed captain Chris Wormley and friends return but everyone will have their eyes on #3, freshman defensive lineman Rashan Gary. Gary, the nation’s #1 recruit last year, will play significant snaps from the very beginning.
Cal doesn’t have anything near what Michigan is about to drop on Hawaii. Expect this to be the start to the Wolverines streak of allowing less than 100 yards rushing per game.
Passing Defense against Hawaii
Here’s where we expect the Wolverines to ‘eat’. Hawaii quarterback Ikaika Woolsey has yet to finish a season over 50% passing. He’ll be under so much pressure in the Big House that it won’t happen on Saturday either. We’ll even go on record saying that he throws at least two interceptions and is sacked a handful of times.
Senior wide receiver Markus Kemp possesses some size and ability, while Saint Juste catches the ball well out of the backfield. But after that, the Rainbow Warriors have yet to show much.
Michigan returns one of the best defensive backfields in the country. Lead by senior All-American CB Jourdan Lewis, this unit will cause all kinds of problems for Woolsey.
We don’t expect Lewis to see many balls directed his way but that doesn’t leave many options elsewhere. Safeties Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill return for their senior seasons along with another senior duo at the other cornerback position. Jeremy Clark and Channing Stribling man the side opposite of Lewis.
- Advantage: Michigan
Rumblings out of camp are that Taco Charlton has been quite the menace in practice. Arguably the Wolverines best returning pass rusher, Charlton should put pressure on Woolsey all day. That will create poor decision-making and ultimately turnovers by way of interception.
Game Prediction: Michigan 41- Hawaii 3
Michigan has superior athletes and Hawaii needs a lot of work. This will be a tune up game for the Wolverines as they get ready for the battle of the B1G conference.
What is your prediction for the 2016 Michigan football opener vs Hawaii? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: University of Hawaii
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