Major publication predicts Hawai’i football continues upward trajectory in 2024

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED JUNE 12, 2024

The Hawai’i football team could be bowl-bound this season, wrote Phil Steele in his annual college football preview magazine that was released Wednesday.

Steele, who has published his magazine since 1995, writes that the 2024 squad is third-year head coach Timmy Chang’s “best squad yet” and that the Rainbow Warriors will “flirt with a bowl bid.”

Seven Hawai’i players were named to Steele’s preseason Mountain West teams. Three Rainbow Warriors were named to the second team in receiver Pofele Ashlock, offensive tackle Luke Felix-Fualalo and linebacker Jalen Smith.

Defensive tackle Ezra Evaimalo and cornerback Cam Stone were named to the third team. Stone also received a mention on the fourth team as a kick returner with quarterback Brayden Schager and guard Sergio Muasau rounding out the honorees.

Steele noted that Hawai’i made improvements in 2023 after a 3-10 season as the Rainbow Warriors reduced their turnovers by 10 and recorded five wins. He also wrote “coaches usually have a solid third year” and that Hawai’i has just three conference road games, which favors Chang and company.

Quarterbacks is the top position group for Hawai’i in Steele’s projections, rating the unit as the second best in the Mountain West. The return of Schager after a brief stint in the transfer portal and the addition of Micah Alejado and the development of John-Keawe Sagapolutele bolsters the quarterback room.

Receiver and linebackers are the next best unit with both groups getting rated third in the Mountain West. The receiving corps are loaded with returnees Ashlock, Steven McBride, Koali Nishigaya to name a few. Hawai’i returns Smith, Logan Taylor and Elijah Palmer at linebacker to lead that position group.

The Rainbow Warriors’ lowest rated position groups are at running back and at special teams where they are graded as the 11th-best units in a 12-team conference. Tylan Hines would have had the most experience at running back, but is moving to receiver in 2024. Last year’s starting kicker Matthew Shipley was lost to the transfer portal as newcomers Kai Kluth and Kansei Matsuzawa will battle for the job.