Moniz, who led the nation in passing yards and touchdowns last season, will work behind a new offensive line when the Warriors open the season against Colorado on Sept. 3 at Aloha Stadium.
The Buffaloes undoubtedly will try to bring the heat. Hawaii returns only two starters on offense, and the team's most heralded new starter, junior wideout Darius Bright, will not play against the Buffaloes after he and linebacker Aaron Brown were arrested on assault charges Aug. 28 following an alleged fight at a Waikiki nightclub.
Bright and Brown will not suit up against Colorado and must wait until Sept. 6 to find out if they will be allowed to accompany the team to Washington and UNLV. Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan issued the following statement: "We want to make sure our student-athletes live up to the standards of representing their team, their university and the entire state in the right way. We'll continue to be collecting more facts throughout the next few days before making a decision on their game status next week."
McMackin didn't need this kind of drama. He already has enough questions with new players at virtually every position on offense. The Warriors will have five new starters on the offensive line due to the suspension of the unit's lone returning starter, Austin Hansen, who is ineligible to begin the season after starting 12 games at left tackle in 2010. The Warriors lost four other linemen who combined for 70 career starts. Left guard Brett Leonard leads all returnees with one career start.
That leaves Moniz to orchestrate the run-and-shoot with a new line, new running backs and a mostly new set of receivers. Alex Green is gone after rushing for nearly 1,200 yards last season. Star receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares were selected in the first four rounds of April's NFL Draft and Rodney Bradley signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens, leaving senior Royce Pollard as the only returning starter at receiver.
All this inexperience could leave Moniz vulnerable against Colorado. The Buffaloes are moving to the Pac-12 Conference this season under first-year coach Jon Embree, who is trying to breathe new life into a program that posted a 19-39 record in five seasons under former coach Dan Hawkins. The Buffaloes may not be especially good against the pass after losing corners Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown to the NFL, but they should be strong up front with three quality returners on the defensive line. The returnees include 2010 sack leader Josh Hartigan and defensive tackle Conrad Obi, who will spearhead Colorado's new 3-4 defense.
Hawaii, which will jump from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West next season, will likely start senior Matagisila Lefiti at center, Leonard at left guard, sophomore Chauncy Winchester-Makainai at right guard, senior Clayton Laurel at left tackle and redshirt freshman Sean Shigematsu at right tackle.
Moniz passed for 330 yards in a 31-13 loss to the Buffaloes last season at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. The Warriors led 10-0 at the half before giving up 17 unanswered points in a span of 4 minutes, 19 seconds early in the third quarter.
Moniz could have a big game against Colorado's suspect secondary if he can find a rhythm with his receivers, but that may depend on whether his offensive line can give him time to find the open man.
--LB Aaron Brown and WR Darius Bright were suspended from the team and will not play in the Sept. 3 season opener against Colorado after being arrested and charged with third-degree assault for their alleged roles in an Aug. 28 fight inside a Waikiki nightclub. Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said both players would return to practice Aug. 30, but they will not suit up against the Buffaloes. McMackin said he and athletic director Jim Donovan would continue to gather information and meet Sept. 6 to decide whether the players will accompany the team on its upcoming two-game road trip to Washington and UNLV. The Star-Advertiser reported that middle linebacker Corey Paredes took Brown's spot at weakside linebacker at practice Aug. 29. George Daily-Lyles took Bright's place at left wideout.
"Aaron and Darius used extremely poor judgment and in turn embarrassed the football program and the university," McMackin said. "These are two young men who have never been in trouble with the law before, but became involved in a situation where they did not make the right choices."
--RBs Joey Iosefa and John Lister, both freshmen, and junior Sterling Jackson must try to fill the shoes of RB Alex Green, who broke a 60-year-old single-game school rushing record (327 yards), tied a single-season school record for rushing touchdowns (18) and amassed the second-highest single-season rushing total (1,199) in school history last season.
--WR Jeremiah Ostrowski (hamstring), WR Billy Ray Stutzman (hamstring) and Bright (turf toe) all missed practice time with injuries in August.
SERIES HISTORY: Hawaii and Colorado tied 1-1 (last meeting, 2010, 31-13 Colorado).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Hawaii has a new offensive line, new running backs and three new starters at wide receiver, so it may be up to senior QB Bryant Moniz and senior WR Royce Pollard to get the run-and-shoot firing early against Colorado. Pollard is back after starting all 14 games at "Z" receiver last season and could be poised for his first 1,000-yard season. Pollard will command attention from the Colorado secondary, which could open things up for other receivers such as Billy Ray Stutzman and Jeremiah Ostrowski. The Warriors don't return a single letter winner at running back, and none of their backs have any Division I experience.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Colorado coaches will remember senior LB Corey Paredes, who recorded 16 tackles against the Buffaloes last season, but the strength of Hawaii's defense might be its defensive line. The Warriors welcome back eight linemen with extensive experience, including starting tackles Vaughn Meatoga and Kaniela Tuipulotu. Meatoga has been the team's top tackle the past three seasons. Tuipulotu, a senior transfer from Arizona, was named second-team All-Western Athletic Conference last season. The Warriors also return junior DL Haku Correa, who had 45 tackles last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a big advantage. I've never seen a guy more calm than him in a game situation." -- Hawaii coach Greg McMackin, on senior QB Bryant Moniz, in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Colorado at Hawaii, Sept. 3 -- Hawaii hopes to avenge last season's loss to the Buffaloes and get its season off to a rousing start with a win over one of the newest members of the Pac-12 Conference. This is the second installment in a four-game home-and-home series which will resume in 2014-15, and just the third all-time meeting between the Warriors and Buffaloes. Hawaii won 13-0 in 1925 in Honolulu and fell 31-13 last season in Boulder, Colo. Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz passed for 330 yards in that contest, but the Hawaii running game gained only seven yards on 13 carries.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Moniz must establish a good rhythm with his receivers and be prepared to deliver the ball quickly if his inexperienced offensive line has trouble with Colorado's formidable defensive front. If Moniz finds time to throw, the Buffaloes could be vulnerable with an inexperienced secondary. The Warriors will have to do better against the run than they did last season, when Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge combined for 215 of Colorado's 275 rushing yards.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Bryant Moniz -- The senior quarterback is back after leading the nation in yards per game (360.0), total offense (367.3) and touchdowns (39) last season. He is third all-time at Hawaii behind Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang with 7,436 passing yards and 53 touchdowns. He passed for 5,040 yards last season, becoming the second quarterback in school history and 11th Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) quarterback ever to pass for 5,000 yards.
WR Royce Pollard -- The 6-foot-1 senior started all 14 games at "Z" receiver last season, making 64 catches for 901 yards and seven touchdowns. He is the team's only returning starter at wide receiver. He ranked sixth in the Western Athletic Conference in receptions per game (4.6) and receiving yards per game (64.4) last season, and caught a touchdown pass in each of the last five games. Moniz may need time to develop chemistry and timing with all the new receivers on Hawaii's roster, but he already has both with Pollard.
LB Corey Paredes -- The senior from O'ahu had a team-high 16 tackles against Colorado last season. He finished with 151 tackles on the year, the second-highest single-season total in school history, and ranked 14th in the nation at 10.8 tackles per game. The first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection started all 14 games and posted double-digit tackles eight times.
--At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds with impressive speed, WR Darius Bright could be the next big thing in Hawaii's prolific passing game if and when he returns from suspension. The junior receiver only redshirted last season because the Warriors had a wealth of talent at his position. Greg Salas and Kaloha Pilares are gone now, creating two major voids in the receiving corps. Bright was expected to fill one of those voids right away until he was arrested six days before the Sept. 3 season opener against Colorado.
--Former University of New Mexico QB Darian Godfrey recently enrolled at Hawaii and joined the team as a walk-on. He will be eligible to play as a sophomore in 2012 and could vie for the starting job when senior Bryant Moniz departs. Godfrey was the fourth quarterback as a true freshman at New Mexico in 2010, but he finished the season as the starter. He completed 57 of 97 (.588) passes for 553 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games. He also rushed for 433 yards and four touchdowns. Godfrey amassed 280 total yards in a game against Wyoming.