A massive changeover in terms of staff and players is set to debut in 2022 for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team. Looking at their top 10 returning players is an interesting assignment as the transfer portal was not kind to new head coach Timmy Chang, nor was graduation, as the roster is without many of their top players from a year ago. Chang has his work cut out for him as he takes over the head coaching duties, but he has a solid core of top 10 returning players for the 2022 season.
For each Mountain West team’s top returning players: Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming
Top 10 returning players at Hawaii
As the countdown to the college football regular season continues, as does our top 10 returning players series. We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players at Hawaii.
10) Dior Scott, RB/WR
A feel-good story from the hit Netflix series “Last Chance U,” Dior Scott is back for another season at Hawaii. Scott is a shifty return specialist who also poses a challenge to bring down in the open field whether it’s on the ground or through the air. What he lacks in size, he certainly makes up for in elusiveness as well as grit and tenacity both on and off the field.
9) Zion Bowens, WR
Hawaii’s top three receivers from a season ago are gone, so Zion Bowens expects to be featured heavily in the aerial assault under Chang. Bowens is a dynamic athlete with the ball in his hands. He has documented track speed and utilizes that along his routes and after the catch very well. His uptick in targets could lead to a massive spike in production and thus a significant rise in these rankings.
8) Solo Vaipulu, G
A people mover on the inside, Solo Vaipulu uses his terrific strength to pave large rushing lanes on the ground. He’s no slouch in pass protection, but his pancake blocks are a thing of beauty. He’ll climb to the second level well. However, to be a potential All-Mountain West candidate in 2022, he will have to showcase that ability in pass protection as well.
7) Micah Vanterpool, G
Dominant both with his anchor and on the move, Micah Vanterpool is back to man the left guard spot once again. Vanterpool is great in the run game but provides clean pockets more often than not in the passing game. With the passing game likely to see an increase in attempts but decrease in time to throw, Vanterpool is an all-league candidate right away.
6) Penei Pavihi, LB
Hawaii’s returning leader in tackles, Penei Pavihi recorded 47 total tackles last season, rarely missing any attempt he tried. Pavihi also excelled when he had the opportunity to blitz the passer. He can run the alley well from the middle and has sound coverage skills as he keeps everything in front of him.
5) Matthew Shipley, K/P
Returning to man the special teams unit himself, Matthew Shipley should be on everyone’s radar as a do-it-all kicker. Shipley handled punting duties last season, averaging 41.2 yards per attempt while also handling field-goal responsibilities. Shipley was a perfect 42 for 42 on extra points and 18 of 21 on field goals a year ago. Included in those figures was his perfect record from inside 40 yards (11 of 11) as he also went 7 of 10 from outside that range.
4) Dedrick Parson, RB
The team’s returning leader in receiving yards as well as rushing yards, Dedrick Parson would be considered one of the nation’s top fantasy threats had the offensive gameplan not shifted massively under the new regime. Still, Parson will be either Brayden Schager or Cammon Cooper’s best friend in 2022 with his ability to create on his own and in space. Parson is a shifty back with elusiveness and great contact balance with the ball in his hands.
3) Blessman Ta’ala, DT
A year after plugging up the middle, Blessman Ta’ala anchors the returning front-line defenders at Hawaii this season. Ta’ala recorded six tackles for loss last year, but his presence was felt more than not by opposing offenses. He pushed the pocket with ease with his strength and was sure to get his hands up to disrupt passing lanes all the same. His pass-rush skills are ever-improving, and he’s already a terrific run stuffer.
2) Hugh Nelson II, CB
Despite the massive turnover in the secondary, one piece the new staff can rely on is Hugh Nelson II for another season. Despite just six starts, Nelson finished with two interceptions and six pass breakups in coverage. He also chipped away at rushing lanes from the outside by forcing ball carriers to the sidelines and limiting big gains at times. A well-rounded athlete on the outside, Nelson has the size and athleticism to be a lockdown cornerback if given the opportunity.
1) Ilm Manning, OT
A mainstay on the Hawaii offensive line for the past four seasons, Ilm Manning has 47 career starts and 49 games played in his illustrious career. Manning is as quick as they come at the left tackle spot, using his massive and lean frame very well. He’s much stronger than any 6’4″, 280-pound tackle in recent memory as he breaks the mold of what a tackle “should look like” at the major college football level. Manning also gets after it in the run game and creates clean pockets for his quarterback’s blind side. He’s integral to any offense, but especially this Hawaii offense in 2022.
Honorable mention players returning to Hawaii in 2022
- Brayden Schager, QB
- Jonah Panoke, WR
- Caleb Phillips, TE
- Eliki Tanuvasa, G
- John Tuitupou, DT