A granite foundation for the Vandal D-Line

A SOFT-SPOKEN AND HUMBLE ATHLETE WHO LEADS BY EXAMPLE, Long Beach Poly (Calif.) standout lineman RYAN EDWARDS (6-3, 300) took a circuitous route to the University of Idaho campus. But make no mistake about it, he will make his presence felt immediately. Already enrolled at UI and preparing for spring camp, Edwards has no intention of redshirting this fall, or at any time in the next four years.

PLAYER PROFILE: Ryan Edwards, 6-3, 300, DT (Long Beach Poly High School)

It has taken four years of dedicated recruiting by Robb Akey, going into his fifth season at the University of Idaho, as well as the relentless work of his staff (staying virtually intact throughout Akey's tenure), but the defensive line is slowly becoming a strength on the Vandal roster. Idaho suffered a major blow last year however, when two of its top commits for the 2010 class - JC transfers Ben Swarts and Aaron Strumski - never made it to campus. A third, talented high school product Tyler Kuder, also did not make it to campus in time for fall camp.

Despite the personnel hit, Akey and defensive coordinator Mark Criner stuck to their guns and were able to redshirt three outstanding high school recruits in Karel Kearney, Maxx Forde, and big Jesse Davis. With the graduation of starting noseguard Jonah Sataraka and top backup 3-technique Fonomanu Sekona, the Vandals have some holes to fill on the front line.

Enter Long Beach Poly standout Ryan Edwards, a two-way starter for much of his career who was forced to focus most of his attention on his role as an offensive lineman as a senior while playing through an injury that prevented him from playing his position of choice; defensive tackle. Despite the injury, which kept him out of a couple games completely in 2009, Edwards still earned First Team All-League honors for his dominating performance on the O-line.

And now the standout trench warrior who was being recruited by Oregon, UCLA and Hawaii is preparing to take his game to the University of Idaho and the Western Athletic Conference. His route to Moscow was not direct, however.

"I was at a prep school for four months," Edwards told GVN by phone this week. "I graduated from Long Beach Poly in 2010 and went to a prep school last fall." The coursework that was required to be completed before he could enroll at Idaho is done now, and he's ready to go. In fact, his career at Idaho has already started.

"I'm working with the team right now," Edwards told GVN. Much like a grayshirt (enrolling in college the January after high school graduation), Edwards is preparing for spring camp and for playing a role in the Vandal D this fall.

THE TRANSITION FROM LONG BEACH (CA) TO MOSCOW (ID) is a big one, but one Edwards is looking forward to making. Idaho is unique among the list of schools that were recruiting Ryan, with at least three other offers for him to consider along the way. "UCLA, Hawaii, and my first offer was Oregon," Edwards told GVN.

But it was the Moscow campus that had much of what he was seeking, and his host (Fono Sekona) as well as the Idaho recruiters running point in bringing him to Idaho (Coach Ena and Coach Carr) and the rest of the Vandal team made him feel at home in the college town.

"I took my official visit on December 10th. At first, I thought it was just - to be honest - sort of ... country," Edwards said with a giggle. "But I liked it. It's small, it's nice ... it's a place where I can get away from distractions. It's cool, people are nice here.

"Yeah, it's a nice place."

The campus, coaches, and team weren't the only thing that attracted him to Moscow either. "I knew my cousin, Ana [Tuiaea-Ruud], the academic coach," Edwards said. "That's one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Idaho. I like going places where I have a little family. I feel comfortable here."

What interested him most about going to Idaho? "Honestly, I just wanted to be on my own for a bit; to leave California."

With everything coming together, Ryan made his decision to commit to the Vandals and enroll at Idaho shortly after his official visit. "I was with my family," Edwards said. "I talked it over with my dad and told him I wanted to tell the [Idaho] coaches I wanted to commit, and he said okay."

And who did he tell in Moscow about his final decision? "I told coach Akey, the head coach." And his reaction? With a laugh Edwards said, "Um, he was happy." Perhaps the understatement of the year, given Akey's track record for boisterous reactions when top recruits commit.

And a player of Edwards' capability is going to be at, or near, the top of a lot of recruiting boards.

WITH THE VANDALS' NEEDS AT DEFENSIVE LINE looming for the 2011 season, the coaching staff has put a premium on bringing in athletes that can make an immediate impact. The graduation of two seniors, coupled with three recruits in last year's class alone who did not making it to campus, has forced Idaho to fill this need now. There is young talent moving up the depth chart, but as the last few years have proven you can never have too much strength on the D-line. All will get their shots to make an impact this fall.

Specific to Edwards, Idaho is recruiting him to play defensive tackle. His nickname at Long Beach Poly was "Big Uso", and to his teammates it meant big brother. As a collegiate freshman he already reports a 425 pound bench, a squat of 455 pounds, and a 315 power clean. All outstanding strength numbers by any measure. His high school honors include First Team All-Moore League as an offensive lineman, All-CIF, and internal to the powerful Poly team he earned the Coaches Award for his senior season.

The injury that limited his playing time his senior year is all behind him now, and he's ready to play immediately. Asked if he plans to redshirt, he gave an emphatic "no".

Asked what he plans to bring to the Vandal defensive line in 2011, the soft-spoken Edwards kept it simple. "I'm going to bring my best," he said. "And, I would also say leadership."

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