The 2011 Vandal linebacking corps

DEFENSIVELY IDAHO HAS OUTSTANDING EXPERIENCE ACROSS THE BOARD, but no unit returns as much senior leadership and game experience as the linebackers. In the middle is hard-hitting senior TRE'SHAWN ROBINSON, No.2 on the team with 80 tackles last year, and he is flanked on either side by Robert Siavii (No.1 with 91 tackles) and Homer Mauga (No.4 with 74 tackles) and a depth chart full of talent.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER (MIKE)

With all of the experience in the 2011 Vandal linebacking unit, one thing is for certain: the anchor in the middle is senior Tre'Shawn Robinson. A powerhouse athlete who again dedicated himself to the weightroom this offseason (has been one of Idaho's strongest athletes for years), few Vandals hit with the closing speed and impact that Robinson brings play-after-play. Despite only starting half the games last season (after then-senior JoJo Dickson went down with a season ending injury), Robinson finished with 80 tackles on the year (No.2 on the team), 10 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He was honored by the team by being named the Hec Edmundson Most Inspirational Player Award, and is poised for a stellar senior season.

His top backup switches day to day, and is a battle between two more seniors who are also Idaho natives and athletes who have been fixtures on Vandal special teams units for years. Senior Tyler Brooks out of Orofino (Ida.) High School has steadily grown his playing time at Idaho, first making several special teams units as a redshirt freshman and getting reps last fall in the MIKE rotation. At 6-foot-1, 239-pounds Brooks made five tackles last year while playing in 10 games on the season. He will be looked to again this fall to make an impact for Idaho.

Right there and splitting backup reps with Brooks this spring is senior John McKinley out of Marsh Valley High School (Arimo, ID). The 6-foot-1, 228 pound athlete is having a tremendous offseason, has been listed No.2 in the MIKE depth chart for part of the spring, and in the words of defensive coordinator Mark Criner, "has been an inspiration this spring. He's sparked things for us and is making plays." McKinley played in all 13 games last year and will be counted on to make an impact again this fall.


STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER (SAM)

Senior Homer Mauga transferred to Idaho last fall from Grossmont (Calif.) College and made an immediate impact, earning the starting nod on opening day and finishing the season with 74 tackles (No.4 on the team last year), 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks on the year. He brings it every play of every series, and it will be difficult to unseat him from his starting post, especially heading into his senior season.

But right there battling for starting duties is Conrad Scheidt (6-1, 223), a true junior out of Honolulu who turned a corner last spring, earned a start last fall at SAM as a sophomore and was an integral member on several special teams units, played in nine games, and finished with 22 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and forced a fumble. This spring Scheidt is again pushing Mauga hard for starting duties at SAM, but look for another wrinkle as well. Scheidt is getting some looks at WILL and could see some action their this fall, depending on the personnel Idaho wants on the field and the situation. He's simply too good an athlete, even with all the depth Idaho is bringing back this fall, to keep off the field. "Conrad is playing great and has had an outstanding spring," Criner told GoVandals.net. He is poised to again make an impact for Idaho, will be battling to unseat at least one returning starting senior this fall, and has the range to play multiple positions in Idaho's defense.

One youngster making a meteoric rise up the charts is redshirt sophomore Jeffrey Bediako out of Boise High. An exceptional athlete at 6-foot-3.5 and 238-pounds who runs a 4.46-40, Bediako came to Idaho as a raw talent (moved to the US from Netherlands before his senior year) and is learning fast. He's earned significant reps with the number one and two units throughout spring, and will be battling for playing this fall in the outside linebacker rotation, as well as seeking a chance to make an impact on several special teams units.

"We've got a lot of depth -- our depth at outside linebacker is tremendous [this includes both SAM and WILL where Idaho goes 3-deep]," Criner told GoVandals.net. "We need to be able to rotate these guys, because our competition level is growing big time." It is exactly the situation Idaho has been building towards for the last five years; a depth chart where the starters are pushed every day by backups hungry to take over that starting job, and capable of stepping in without missing a beat.


WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER (WILL)

He's the warhorse, the one that quietly stepped into the weakside starting role two years ago and immediately established himself as a leader-by-example that could be counted on every play. Whatever senior Robert Siavii may be lacking in size (6-1, 217), he more than makes up for with an aggressive style of play, an understanding of the defense and the game, and an uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time. Last year he led Idaho with 91 tackles and started all 13 games. He registered 13.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, six QB hurries, picked off a pass, forced four fumbles and recovered two. That level of productivity will be almost impossible to keep off the field, even in a depth chart as deep as Idaho's this fall.

However, just like at the SAM position, senior Korey Toomer (6-2.5, 234-pounds) is right there battling for the starting job. He missed last season recovering from an injury that took him down in fall camp, and was working back into the action this spring until two weeks ago when he blew up in Idaho's second spring scrimmage to finish among Idaho's leaders statistically. A member of multiple special teams units in 2009 who worked into the WILL rotation as the season progressed, Toomer will be pressing Siavii throughout 2011.

Climbing the ladder is redshirt junior Brad Marboe, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound graduate of Idaho Falls High School who has been a fixture on virtually all of Idaho's special teams units since his redshirt freshman year. "Brad is having the best spring camp of his career," Coach Criner told GoVandals.net, and will be battling for playing time in the linebacker rotation (and undoubtedly starting on several special teams units) while backing up two seniors this fall.




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