Huskies Insider Blog

Q-and-A with Honolulu Star-Advertiser beat writer Stephen Tsai

Sometimes, the most honest insight into a team and its personnel comes from the local beat writers who cover them (and, yes, that is a completely biased opinion).

So to give you a look into Hawaii's program as the Huskies prepare for their season opener against the Rainbow Warriors, we sent five questions over to Stephen Tsai (@StephenTsai on Twitter), who covers Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He was gracious enough to answer them.

1. Could you tell us a little bit about what Hawaii's offense might look like this season?

Tsai: "Hawaii began opening its offense last year, when it used three-receiver sets 70 percent of the plays. That works well with quarterback Ikaika Woolsey, who is the team's best combination of passer/scrambler. This is Woolsey's fourth year in college. He was a part-time student as a grayshirt in 2011. He redshirted in 2012, and started one game — two, if you count a trick formation — in 2013. But for all the passing, it still will come down to the effectiveness of 245-pound running back Joey Iosefa. He played rugby, volleyball, basketball and football while growing up in American Samoa."

2. What changes has new defensive coordinator Kevin Clune made?

Tsai: "Scheme-wise, Clune switched from a 4-3 base to the 3-4 defense he used as Utah State's linebacker coach last year. More importantly, he has brought at attacking attitude to the defense. The defense won most of the scrimmage-like sessions during training camp."

3. Hawaii is obviously coming off a rough year in which it finished 1-11 and ranked 115th nationally in total defense. Is there reason to believe they've improved enough to expect significant progress in 2014?

Tsai: "When Norm Chow succeeded Greg McMackin in December 2011, he had only a few weeks to assemble a staff and work on recruiting. The past two recruiting classes were geared toward his style of offense and defense. This year, 76 of the estimated 105 players — the roster has fluctuated since the start of school — are players who joined after Chow was hired. The Warriors also believe they had a chance to win five games last year."

4. What was there any particular reaction within the football program to athletic director Ben Jay's comment about the future possibility of dropping the sport?

Tsai: "Ben Jay tried to clarify his remarks, insisting he meant that without additional help from the school, there could be consequences down the road. But there never has been any discussions about dropping a sport. Jay also is not authorized to make that call. It would take a combined effort from the UH-Manoa chancellor, UH president, Board of Regents, Legislature and, perhaps, the governor to drop football. That's not happening. UH specifically needs help with paying visiting teams' travel costs. As per the membership agreement with the Mountain West and Big West, UH pays for opposing teams' travel to Hawaii, an amount totaling $2.2 million last year. Football teams get up to $175,000 for a charter flight. UH, by the way, uses commercial flights. Soon after Jay made his comments, the football coaches were hit with requests from opposing coaches interested in players."

5. What do coaches like about former Husky Taz Stevenson, who has earned a starting safety spot in the opener?

Tsai: "First, they love his football skills. Stevenson has had an easy time making friends and serving as a mentor to the freshmen and other transfers. After Woolsey, Stevenson is a popular interview request at the end of each practice."