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Monday, June 25, 2012

113. Idaho


(2-10, 1-6) Western Athletic Conference


(September 10, 2010 - Source: Eric Francis/Getty Images North America)

Rankings -

Offense
Avg
DefenseAvg
Rushing
113.25
Rushing
158.58
Passing
188.25
Passing
278.25
Total
301.5
Total
436.83
Points
20.25
Points
33.25


Overview

The Vandals may have only won two games last season, but they were competitive in a bunch of others, generally doing just enough to fall short. The passing game was okay when Brian Reader was in, while the running game got better down the stretch. However, there’s been a big graduation clean out and throw in a new OC, and it’s all starting from scratch. The defense was generally terrible, taking turns at struggling against the run or pass, and sometimes both (844 yards against Nevada?). After promising much with 14 wins from 2009-10, HC Robb Akey’s seat is starting to warm up again. Odds are pretty high that will still be the case at the end of the season.

Offense

Idaho has been renowned over the years for its QBs, but the two battling in spring camp - Taylor Davis and Dominique Blackman - have failed to impress. While there is still the fall to turn up the tempo, they may both lose out to incoming freshman Austin DeCoud, a dual-threat QB. No matter who starts, it would be nice for them to have a reliable running game to count in, but that’s no guarantee with last year’s top 2 rushers gone. Ryan Bass had just 175 yards and 2 scores last season, and hasn’t shown the ability that made him a top recruit out of HS. JUCO James Baker may be a better bet - at 225 lbs, he can practically do his own blocking and he may need to with the Vandals’ OL. C Mike Marboe is back and he’s a good one, but camp injuries mean freshmen were getting the reps at key positions. Some, like Cody Elenz at LT, were so good they may even stay there, but the line is a work in progress. The returning receivers all saw action last season, but they’re a pedestrian bunch. Mike Scott (55-691-2) is easily the best of the bunch, but JUCO Najee Lovett showed some impressive moves in camp and could earn a starting role. TE Taylor Elmo (17-162-0) is solid and provides a nice short-range target.

Defense

The run defense, which had been okay for most of the season, fell apart over the last three games, getting ripped 779 yards. The pass defense, on the other hand, was generally awful as the pass rush managed just 17 sacks. These numbers have to be improved, and if spring camp is anything to go by, they will be (although bear in mind the Vandal’s offensive woes). The pass rush looks to be improved, with Benson Mayowa looking much improved on last year’s injury marred season. He’ll return at one end with sophomore Maxx Forde the likely starter at the other. The tackles will have a similar makeup to last season, except with powerful redshirt freshman Ryan Edwards earning time in the rotation. They all need to be tougher against the run though. One of the pleasant surprises of camp was the emergence of senior MLB Sua Tuala. He made 9 tackles and 3 sacks in the spring game after just 9 tackles all of last season. He looks to have sewn up the middle spot alongside sole returning starter Conrad Scheidt at WLB. Scheidt had 93 tackles, 8 for loss, last season. Top reserve Homer Mauga (47 tackles, 6.5 TFLs) looks to take over on the strongside. The secondary needs to take a big step forward from last season, but the depth and athleticism looks much improved. Two starters return in FS Gary Walker (109 tackles) and CB Aaron Grymes (7 PBUs). Both were okay last season but still need to raise their games. Joining them will  (most likely) be /SS Trey Williams and CB Tracy Carter. Both played regularly last season.

Special Teams

The good news here is all the key contributors are back. K Trey Farquhar slipped a little from 2010, making just 10 of 15 FGs, but he’s usually reliable and has a big leg (55 long). P Bobby Cowan is one of the best in the country, ranking second in the nation in punting average and booting 32 kicks over 50 yards. Justin Veltung did most of the returning and did a good job, especially on punt returns (2 TDs). Both coverage units struggled last season, but the improved depth should help shore up both units.

5 Players to watch out for


  1. QB Austin DeCoud - he hasn’t set foot on campus yet, but he has the athleticism and moxy to make an impact. With neither of the current QBs standing out so far, the job could be his for the taking. Watch this space.
  2. WR Najee Lovett - DeCoud needs a playmaker to throw to and Lovett has looked good so far. DeCoud hasn’t got a great deep arm, so someone who can turn short gains into long ones is important.
  3. MLB Sua Tuala - the collapse of the run defense down the stretch can’t be repeated if Idaho want to get back to winning ways. Tuala is going to be a key part of it in the middle. He also displayed some pass rushing skills, which opens up the defensive playbook a little more.
  4. DE Benson Mayowa - another guy who showed great improvement in camp, he’s been installed as Rush End and will be expected to get after the QB frequently, something lacking from last year’s unit.
  5. RB James Baker - no matter who starts at QB, a running game is essential to the attack this year. Bass, for all his plaudits, hasn’t looked like the guy, so Baker will be needed to at least share the carries. If there’s a concern, he didn’t carry the load at Independence, but he may not need to here.

Prediction

Here’s a bizarre prediction for you - Idaho could be 2012’s Wyoming. The potentially effective dual-threat freshman QB aside, the Vandal defense is loaded with juniors and seniors, all of whom are well blooded. The depth has been improved and a couple of injuries would almost pass unnoticed. There are concerns at running back and the o-line, but a schedule that is manageable outside of LSU and North Carolina gives hope. Of course, this could just be another troubled year, but I have a feeling 6 wins could be on the agenda.

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