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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Behind Enemy Bylines: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

The Hustler went Behind Enemy Bylines, speaking with Tanner Haworth, sports editor of Ka Leo, Hawaii’s student newspaper, to preview Vanderbilt’s matchup with Hawaii.
CJ+Taylor+celebrates+with+teammates+after+scoring+a+touchdown+against+Hawaii+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29.+
Vanderbilt Athletics
CJ Taylor celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against Hawaii (Vanderbilt Athletics).

As they did last season, Vanderbilt will begin their 2023 campaign with a matchup against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The Commodores will hope to repeat the success they had in the first edition of the home-and-home series last year, when they traveled to Honolulu and took down Hawaii 63-10. 

For the Rainbow Warriors, this year’s matchup with the Commodores comes with a lot more certainty than the program had ahead of the 2022 game. Now in his second year as Hawaii’s coach, Timmy Chang enjoyed his first full offseason with the Rainbow Warriors after the chaotic exit of Todd Graham during the 2022 offseason. 

Armed with bowl aspirations, the Commodores will once again look to start the season on the right foot against the Rainbow Warriors. Prior to kickoff, The Hustler interviewed Tanner Haworth, sports editor of Ka Leo, to preview Vanderbilt’s matchup with Hawaii. 

The Vanderbilt Hustler: Compared with the team that hosted Vanderbilt last year in Week 0, what major changes are there to Hawaii’s squad?

Tanner Haworth: I would say if you compared this year’s team with last year’s team at this time of the season, they are two majorly different squads. At this time last year, there was major turnover and a lack of depth at nearly every important position, especially along the defensive line. I’m sure you guys will remember how well [Vanderbilt] ran the ball last year, and I won’t say the issue is totally fixed, but if I had to pick out a major difference, it would be that the team is deeper than it was last year.

We’ve had solid transfers replace our graduating seniors from last year. University of Washington transfer Kuao Peihopa, a local boy, came home and will replace one of our major captains on the defensive line. We also landed one of the best CBs in the Mountain West — Cam Stone — from Wyoming, and he’s probably our best defender in the secondary for this year. Overall, talent-wise, I would say that this team is a lot better than the one from last year. 

VH: QB Brayden Schager definitely had his ups and downs last year as QB1. What kind of progress is reasonable to expect from him for this year?

TH: This offseason, Timmy Chang made the decision for [Hawaii] to fully go into the run-and-shoot offense, which was the legendary offense run by June Jones at the University of Hawaii in 2007 when we went to the Sugar Bowl. Schager doesn’t come from a run-and-shoot background, but he’s been working all offseason with Chang and our quarterbacks coach to get these concepts down. He’s also put on 20 pounds of muscle since we last saw him. He’s done a lot of things to get better, but what the question will be is if he will have those run-and-shoot concepts down by Week 0. I think you’ll see a gradual improvement as the year goes on, so the version of him that Vanderbilt sees will probably be the worst version of him. Still, I wouldn’t say he will be terrible — he’s done a great job in practice making sure there’s no quarterback controversy like last year.

VH: Under Timmy Chang for his second year, what are the expectations for him as a head coach this year?

TH: Because of the mass exodus of Hawaii players the year that he was hired, I think we consider his Year 1 as more of a Year 0. I think what is reasonable to expect this year from the University of Hawaii is improvement, but realistically, I think we are still a year away from any bowl game. I think we’ll definitely improve on our three-win record from last year, but that’s more four or five wins, because of that massive overturn that the roster had to go through. I would say give him a year or two and bowl games will be in the future, but Hawaii fans have to play it patiently here because of the cards that we were dealt. 

VH: Who are some Hawaii players on either side of the ball that Vandy should watch out for on Saturday?

TH: I’m going to start with probably our best player on offense: running back Tylan Hines. Dude is an absolute titan; he’s only 5’7” but is pound-for-pound the strongest person on this team. He had a lot of great highlights last year and averaged a crazy 7.6 yards per carry on limited touches, so we’re expecting a lot from him out of the backfield. He also should be used in our run-and-shoot as a slot receiver, as well, so he’ll be rotating between those two positions. We just want to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible. 

If I had to pick a guy on defense — already having talked about Cam Stone — I would say S Peter Manuma. He broke out halfway through last year when he made the change from nickelback to a more traditional safety position, and he ended up second in tackles on the team. He was absolutely lights out and was named a Freshman All-American by The Athletic, as well. Lots of good, lofty expectations for him this year. Him and Meki Pei, the two safeties, are really shoring up what I believe to be the best part of this Hawaii team — that secondary. If there’s anything to help that terrible rush defense we had last year, it’s a very underrated secondary group. 

VH: What’s your score prediction for Saturday?

TH: I don’t think it’ll be 63-10 like last year, but I do think this team has a lot of growing pains to do. I think it’ll probably be a little bit better for the University of Hawaii, so I’ll say 42-25, Vanderbilt.

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About the Contributor
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
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