The 2021 Hawaii Bowl was Brayden Schager’s time to shine.
Although the then-true freshman had three starts under his belt prior to the scheduled Christmas Eve game against Memphis, the contest was set to give the quarterback from Dallas a true spotlight following the departure of two-year starter Chevan Cordeiro.
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The game ended up getting canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Since then, former coach Todd Graham resigned, paving the way for Timmy Chang to take over as the program’s new leader. Chang’s arrival has come with a coaching staff that is almost brand new, including new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker.
Under the guidance of Chang and Shoemaker, the Rainbow Warriors plan to run an offense with run-and-shoot and air raid concepts, a vast departure from the pro style sets the ‘Bows ran in 2021 under offensive coordinator Bo Graham.
Despite being the only quarterback on Hawaii’s roster with starting experience, Schager understands he’ll have to earn the role again heading into the 2022 season, which begins on Aug. 27 against Vanderbilt. The sophomore is embracing the competition.
“I think we all just make each other better and it’s a good room, I love all those guys,” Schager said following Saturday’s practice at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, the third of 15 scheduled sessions in the spring. “We work real hard and I think all of us make each other better and I’m just thankful for all of them.”
Looking to directly challenge Schager for the starting role is Washington State transfer Cammon Cooper, a four-star recruit out of Lehi High School in Utah in 2018, who never quite saw expansive playing time for the Cougars. He’s hoping that’ll be different with a change of scenery.
“I think the QB competition’s going well,” Cooper said. “I think we’re all learning the same stuff at the same time. Just trying to apply it in films, in meeting rooms, getting the extra work in with coach Chang, coach Shoemaker in the film room and being on the same page with the receivers. Today, there’s a couple plays I think back on barely missed them but that’s just being new to the offense, being new to everything so the more reps we have, it’s gonna be great. I think the first week went really well for how guys pick things up, which is really good because there’s a lot of stuff so I think it’s really good for the first week.
“It helps a lot, realizing that it’s OK to mess up sometimes. Not every play is gonna kill my chance so being able to play fast and play with confidence is huge and just getting the guys around me to believe in me and just everyone around me as well. I think that’s big — just having a presence on the field and trying to make everyone better.”
To Chang, the QB competition remains open, with seven total signal-callers on the UH roster all vying for the vacancy.
“Competition is awesome,” Chang said. “If you just let one guy just outwork the other guys, he gets comfortable, he gets complacent. You just want a lot of depth, you want guys to try and go for the job and push the guys to be better so he’s not comfortable, he’s trying to get the extra work in, he’s in the lab, he’s the weight room, getting treatment, studying, so you never want a guy to get comfortable. Competition’s the best motivator in making sure these guys are ready to play.”