Top returnees on Hawaii schedule, Part II

RSN Writer Danny Cup Choy breaks down the top returnees that Hawaii will face over the second half of their 2002 season.

Top returnees on the UH schedule, Part II

By Danny Cup Choy

RSN Writer

Saturday, July 20 2002

Fresno State Bulldogs- Obviously, the loss of QB David Carr is tremendous. That happens when you lose the #1 pick in the draft and your team leader on the field. Luckily for Bulldog fans, Pat Hill's team still has a ton of talent and will be contenders for the WAC title again in 2002. The top returnee on the Fresno State offense is wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who comes into the season as the top WR in the WAC. In fact, there are those who project the 6'2, 190-pound Berrian to be a first round pick in next year's draft. His 2001 numbers were impressive, as Berrian hauled in 85 passes for 1,364 yards and 13 touchdowns. Berrian is the explosive, impact player that every top offense needs. On defense, the top Bulldog returnee is strong safety Bryce McGill. McGill, a 5'11, 205-pounder, is a player who just doesn't hit his opponents; he hits them hard. McGill had 95 tackles, four sacks, and four interceptions during the 2001 season. His leadership is needed if Fresno State plans to win the WAC title.

San Jose State Spartans- There is not much to speak of in terms of returnees for the Spartans. After finishing 2001 with a 3-9 record, the team lost the majority of their starters to graduation. If the Spartans want to be competitive this year, senior QB Marcus Arroyo needs to improve his play. Last season, the 6'1, 200-pound Arroyo threw for 1,905 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he was also intercepted 14 times and only completed 54% of his passes. Those numbers need to improve if San Jose State, who lost their all-everything player in RB/KR Deonce Whitaker to graduation, intends to improve upon their three-win season. The defense only returns one starter, which should be a good thing considering the team finished dead last in the nation in total defense last year. Coaches are looking for new defensive tackle Eddie Brown Jr. to help shore up their run defense. He is a 6'3, 295-pound junior college All-American who has the bulk to disrupt things in the middle. While he is not a returnee, he looks to be an impact player for the Spartans defense.

Rice Owls- The top offensive player for the Owls returns for the 2002 season. Quarterback Kyle Hern, who has shown an ability to both run and pass the ball with proficiency, will again take the ball for Rice this season. Hern is only 5'8, 175-pounds, but he does what the coaches ask of him in the context of their option offense. On defense, the Owls return one of the most dominating lineman in the WAC. Defensive end Brandon Green set both conference and school records for tackles for losses (21) and sacks (12) last season. The 6'3, 250-pound senior seems primed to have another dominating season in the WAC, and offensive tackles better be ready when they play against the Owls.

Cincinnati Bearcats- The top returnee from this Bearcat team is QB Gino Guidugli, who had a phenomenal freshman year. Guidugli threw for 2,573 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 6'3, 220-pound quarterback is already being touted as the best signal-caller in Bearcat history. Coaches say he has the size to be a pocket passer, but is also very mobile and can make all the throws. On defense, the star returnee is defensive end Antwan Peek, a 6'2, 245-pound speed-rusher. Peek holds the school record with 21 career sacks. While Peek uses his speed as his primary weapon, he is also a strong player at the point of attack. He is a very complete player, and looks to have a great senior year as the NFL Draft is just around the corner.

Alabama Crimson Tide- On paper, the Crimson Tide look to be far-and-away the best opponent on the Hawaii schedule. They return their entire offensive line, as well as their starting running back and quarterback. With the exception of WR Freddie Millons, who graduated last season, every player who is returning is a top player for Alabama. That being said, the most important and intriguing position is at quarterback, where Brodie Croyle, a freshman who has all the talent in the world, will push incumbent Tyler Watts. If Watts struggles, don't be surprised to see Croyle in at quarterback when the Crimson Tide roll into Honolulu. The Alabama defense is similar to the offense in the sense that they return almost all of their starting players. Impact linebacker Saleem Rasheed has gone to the NFL, but the defensive line, secondary, and linebackers are all solid and experienced. If freshman Freddie Roach can step in and make plays at the linebacker position, this Alabama team should be lurking around the Top 25 all season long. Roach is 6'2, 240-pounds of pure athleticism and he has the Crimson Tide coaches imagining the possibilities.

San Diego State Aztecs- The top returning talent from a fairly inept 2001 Aztec offense is wide receiver J.R. Tolver. Tolver has 134 career receptions for the Aztecs, with 63 of those catches coming last year. The Aztecs only connected for five touchdown passes all season, and while the 6'2, 205-pound Tolver did catch two of them, San Diego State needs to show vast improvement in that department if they hope to win. On defense, the biggest name, both in length and potential, is defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. This 6'5, 275-pound speed-rusher played out of position last year, but still collected five sacks. With the move to defensive end, coaches expect Gbaja-Biamila to make a huge impact with his relentless pass rush.

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