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Three Players to Watch

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

Ready for UH football? With the season opener at UCLA less than 100 days away, anticipation is building for what will undoubtedly be an exciting 2021 campaign. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, under first-year head coach Todd Graham, Hawaii went 4-3 and beat Houston in the New Mexico Bowl. Can the Rainbow Warriors have an even better 2021 season? Here are three players who will be key in helping the team be successful:

We begin, of course, with the quarterback position. In his first season as the team’s full-time starter, CHEVAN CORDEIRO showed he is capable of being a high-level college QB. His overall numbers included 2,083 passing yards, 14 TDs and 6 INTs. Over a 13-game season, that would translate to 3,009 passing yards, 20.2 TDs and 8.7 INTs. Cordeiro, who earned All-MWC honorable mention honors last season, also proved to be an effective runner, leading the Rainbow Warriors in rushing yards (483) and rushing TDs (7). Over a full 13-game campaign, you’d be looking at nearly 700 rushing yards and an additional 10 TDs. Under Todd Graham, the UH offense features a more balanced attack – 319 passing attempts, 324 rushing attempts in 2020 – so Cordeiro won’t likely put up Timmy-, Colt- or Cole-like numbers. (As a comparison, the Hawaii offense in 2019 had 635 pass attempts and 421 rushing attempts). Cordeiro can take a step forward in 2021 by being more consistent as a passer. He was razor-sharp in wins over Nevada (81.3% completion rate) and New Mexico (76.7%), but struggled in losses to Wyoming (42.3%) and San Diego State (48.6%). With no experienced QB behind him, Cordeiro must stay healthy and continue to mature as a QB. It goes without saying that he is the team’s most important player.

In senior CALVIN TURNER, the UH coaches know they have a versatile and dangerous weapon. Although listed as a running back, the Second-Team All-MWC performer also lined up at receiver, wildcat QB and kickoff returner. Turner led Hawaii in total all-purpose yards last season (1,201). (Over a full 13-game season, that yardage would grow to 1,735 yards.) NFL scouts will be watching Turner closely this season, and so will opposing coaches. It will be up to new UH offensive coordinator Bo Graham to find creative ways to maximize Turner’s talents and get him the touches he needs to be an even greater weapon in 2021. One thing is certain: Turner will be a treat to watch.

Last season, UH ranked third in the Mountain West Conference in passing defense, allowing 197.1 yards per game. A big reason for that was senior cornerback CORTEZ DAVIS, who was a Second-Team All-MWC selection. Although he did not register an interception, he served as Hawaii’s shutdown corner and took on the opposition’s best receivers. In Hawaii’s upset win over Nevada last year, Davis held Romeo Doubs, hailed as one of the country’s top receivers, to just one reception for 10 yards. Chris Murray of NevadaSportsNet wrote that Davis is “one of the MW’s most impressive players on film last season given his lockdown coverage as a cornerback.” Regarded as a possible NFL Draft pick, a big season from Davis would do wonders for his pro hopes and for the improving UH defense.

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