By Bobby Curran | The Voice of Rainbow Warrior Football
It is time for college football! The long awaited opener for UH vs. Arizona will kickoff on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.
The Wildcats come off a disappointing 5-7 record in Kevin Sumlin’s first season, but they enjoyed a good off season in recruiting and expect to be much better this year. A big part of their high hopes rest upon the performance of their tremendously talented senior QB Khalil Tate. In his first start in 2017, he set the FBS rushing record for a QB with 327 yards against Colorado, and showed why he was one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the nation. Then in 2018, in came Sumlin with a different scheme which had him passing more and running only half as much. An ankle injury also hampered Tate, but he’s healthy and may be used more often as a runner. Lightning quick RB JJ Taylor scooted for 1434 yards, despite being 5’6 and 184 lbs. Also in the stable is the fastest player on the team, 6’0 215 RB Gary Brightwell. 4 of 5 OL return, and the running game appears geared for success. The receiving corps is mostly new, talented but inexperienced.
Defensively, the Wildcats are small up front but return 6 starters in the back 7, led by ILB Colin Schooler.
UH returns 18 starters, 9 on each side of the ball, and the staff returns intact for the first time in recent memory. The strength is with an offense that features Cole McDonald at QB. The junior threw for 3875 yards and 36 TD’s despite missing time with a core injury. He will have lots of speedy targets. All-Conference receivers Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward return, and UH has recruited a bevy of lightning quick receivers such as Jared Smart, Cal transfer Melquise Stovall, and James Phillips. None are taller than about 5’10, but all can fly. Add in Jason Matthew Sharsh, Kumoku Noa, Jonah Panoke, and Lincoln Victor, and this may be the deepest group of pass catchers UH has ever had. Dayton Furuta is the big back at 5’11; 250 lbs, and Freddie Holly along with Miles Reed are the speed backs. The O-line is deep and talented.
On defense, UH’s 4-2-5 base has depth up front led by All-Conference DE Kaimana Padello, and size in the middle with Blessman Ta’ala 6’1, 310 lbs. Penei Pavihi and Solomon Matautia lead the LB’s, and UH looks solid in the secondary led by corners Rojesterman Farris II and Cortez Davis.
Arizona is an 11.5 point favorite, but I’m expecting this one to be very competitive. One thing to watch — UA loves to play man in the secondary. When they did that against Washington State, the Pac-12 team most like UH offensively, they gave up 69 points. Just sayin. The team that can get a couple turnovers and a few stops will likely be celebrating come Saturday night!