On Christmas Eve, Hawai’i will take on BYU in the only bowl game of the day (7PM ET on ESPN). The aptly named Hawai’i Bowl is sure to be an interesting considering the handful of sleeper draft prospects on the field.
The Rainbow Warriors’ passing game deserves draft attention. Signal caller Cole McDonald is an exciting day three quarterback prospect himself, but the most intrigue belongs to a pair of Hawai’i receivers. Seniors JoJo Ward and Cedric Byrd II are the engines that drive the Hawai’i offense.
Ward and Byrd are not your typical star wide receivers. Both measure in at 5’9” and about 175 pounds soaking wet. Their smaller stature may not seem imposing, but they have been giving defenses headaches all year.
Byrd II is not only a quick footed route running technician, but he is also tough as hell when going for the ball and happy to make tough runs after the catch. He operates as The Rainbow Warriors’ short passing game specialist and his 95 catches on the season are proof. He also has a healthy 10 touchdown catches.
While Byrd II makes noise underneath, JoJo Ward stretches the field. Ward has almost 40 less catches than his teammate and yet only has 100 receiving yards. His team leading 11 touchdowns and near 17 yards per catch are a good indicator of what he means to this offense. Byrd II and Ward are both speedsters, but Hawai’i really lets Ward fly from down to down. Their relationship is symbiotic. Ward forces defenses to spread vertically to create space for Byrd II underneath and Byrd II creates enough problems in the intermediate game that defensive backs will try to condense the field, thus creating mismatches downfield for Ward.
BYU has one defensive back who should pose some resistance to the Hawai’i one-two passing game punch. Dayan Ghanwoloku is a fixture in the Cougar secondary. The senior defender has experience at every secondary position but predominantly makes plays from the safety position. Ghawoloku is a smart, physical defender who loves to leave a mark with every tackle. The senior safety will be crucial in slowing the explosive Rainbow Warrior offense and can put himself on the map with a big game today.