Hungry for More

Buoyed by a thrilling come-from-behind win in the Humanitarian Bowl, Idaho is back to cement its standing as one of the top teams in the WAC. As the only conference bowl winner besides Boise State, the Vandals hope to lay claim to the league's front-runner role once the Broncos bolt for the Mountain West next season.

Idaho is coming off of its first winning season in ten years, a 7-5 regular season campaign that culminated in a miracle 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.  Most of the starters on last year's team are back but four starters on the offensive line are gone.  

Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear believes he has his man in head coach Robb Akey, inking him to a new four-year contract.  That should give the program some stability that it has lacked in recent years.  Rebuilding the offensive line will be the primary focus for Akey and staff.  All-America guard Mike Iupati anchored the line that made everything else click and you don't just replace someone like that.  Left tackle Matt Cleveland (6-4, 311, Jr.) is the lone returner on the line.  Only one other lineman (Tyrone Novikoff) (6-7, 318, Jr.) has any significant playing time.  Clell Hasenbank (6-1, 287, Sr.) appears to have the inside tract at center, with Guy Renolds, Jr. (6-3, 301, So.) and Tevita Halaholo (6-5, 335, Sr.) expected to line up at guard.  Junior Tyrone Novikoff (6-7, 318, Jr.) is the early favorite to start at right tackle.  

Nathan Enderle (6-5, 223, Sr.) came on late in the season to finish fifth in the country in passing efficiency.  Defenses are well aware of him now and are devising schemes to shatter his confidence as you read this.  Enderle (192-312 for 2,906 yards) threw for 22 touchdowns and led the Western Athletic Conference in passing yards per game (264.2).  He has a strong arm and makes good decisions and check-offs at the line.  Enderle is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Vandal offense and was placed on both the Davey O'Brien and Unitas Award Watch Lists for this season.  With the revamped offensive line taking time to gel, Enderle may need to scramble to buy more time to throw.  

Enderle will have to do without his favorite receiver, Max Komar.  Seniors Maurice Shaw (6-3, 205) and Eric Greenwood (6-7, 223) return, as does tight end Daniel Hardy (6-4, 242), another senior.  Shaw found the end zone six times and averaged 20.8 yards per catch, giving Idaho a nice deep threat.  Hardy averaged 17.7 yards per catch to stretch the middle of the field.  All three veterans give Idaho great height in the receiving corps and provide matchup advantages.  

The Vandals will sorely miss DeMaundray Woolridge and his 979 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.  Woolridge rescued them time and time again from troubling situations with key runs for first downs.  Princeton McCarty (5-8, 192, Jr.) and Deonte Jackson have both shown flashes of brilliance and will need to be more consistent.  McCarty averaged 5.9 yards per carry last year (115 carries for 680 yards and three scores) but will need to carry a bigger load this fall.    Jackson sprinted for 387 yards last year on 87 carries and found the end zone twice.   

The Idaho defense gave up 30 points or more in seven games and finished last in the conference in scoring defense.  Defensive coordinator Mark Criner, a Boise State graduate and son of former Bronco head coach Jim Criner hopes his troops will be inspired to improve that statistic. Idaho 's secondary also gave up 278.1 yards per game, 116th in the country.  Idaho allowed 40 red-zone touchdowns, most in the WAC.    

Safety Shiloh Keo (5-11, 216) has started since his first year in Moscow and was recognized last season with All-WAC honors.  Keo finished second in the WAC in tackles with 113, not a good sign that opposing ball carriers were consistently reaching the secondary. Sophomore Gary Walker (6-0, 187) has impressed coaches and expects to start at free safety.     

The linebackers may be the top unit on the defense.  Junior Robert Siavii (6-1, 216) and senior JoJo Dickson (6-2, 235) are both back.  Siavii has been a contributor since he played as a true freshman.  Siavii is a coach's dream—he has a motor that won't quit, he reacts quickly to the ball and delivers a punishing blow.  Siavii was fourth on the team with 58 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and had 3 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles.  Dickson (named second-team All-WAC) had 79 tackles, four for loss, and a sack in ‘09 and showed good pass coverage with two interceptions.  Dickson returned one pick for a touchdown and added two pass breakups, a recovered fumble and a blocked kick.  Dickson will be one of the captains this fall.  JoJo has been working at the SAM position but could move inside.  

That will depend on the development of sophomore Conrad Scheidt (6-1, 222).  Scheidt appeared in 10 games last season and has made great strides.  John McKinley (6-0, 228, Jr.) and Jeffrey Bediako (6-3, 237, Fr.) are others competing for playing time.  McKinley walked on in 2007 and appeared in all 13 games last season on special teams.  Bediako, who has 4.46 speed in the 40, signed last spring and redshirted. 

Tre'Shawn Robinson (5-10, 240, Jr.) and Paul Senescall (6-1, 228, Sr.) will compete for the job at middle linebacker.  Senescall had 51 tackles last season while Robinson had 49.  They both proved capable of getting in the backfield as Robinson had six tackles for loss while Senescall had four.  Robinson is a big hitter that reacts quickly to the ball.  Both should see plenty of playing time this fall.  

Juniors Tyler Brooks (6-1,222) and Marshal Pirtz (5-11, 238) will also vie for playing time.  Brooks played on special teams last season while Pirtz is a transfer from Washington State who redshirted last season.  

Senior Korey Toomer (6-2, 230) played in 12 games last season as a backup at the Will.  He too has improved his play and will be a factor this season.  

Rounding out the list of linebackers are sophomores Brad Marboe (6-3, 208) and Jared Heston (6-1, 222).  They will be the future Vandal stars.  Marboe has good speed (4.7) and just needs to bulk up.  Heston, who played as a true freshman last season, is a candidate to redshirt this fall.  

6-3, 255-pound senior end Aaron Lavarias (second-team All-WAC.) and tackle Jonah Sataraka (6-2, 294), also a senior, combined for eight sacks last fall.  Juniors Michael Cosgrove (6-4, 289) and Andre Ferguson (6-3, 226) are penciled in as the other starters on the line for the Vandals.   

Trey Farquhar (6-1, 180, So.) hit on 13 of 19 field goal attempts as a freshman including a long of 54.  Punter Bobby Cowan (6-5, 220, So.) is also back this fall.  

Idaho , like most teams in the WAC, has a penchant for scheduling bodybag games with heavyweights in order to balance the athletic budget.  This year, a date with Nebraska looms on September 11th.  Colorado State will be looking for payback at Fort Collins after being surprised 31-29 in the Kibbiedome last year.  Home games with FCS North Dakota and UNLV and a road trip to Western Michigan are all winnable.   

Idaho gets Nevada and Boise State at home this year but must travel to four other conference contenders—Louisiana Tech, Hawai'i , Utah State and Fresno State .  Tech is another team looking for revenge after falling to the Vandals 35-34 in the closing seconds.  Idaho also hosts New Mexico State and San Jose State this fall.  Given that tough conference schedule, Idaho will likely need to go 3-2 in non-conference action to qualify for a second consecutive bowl game—but the senior leadership is there.

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