It has taken time, but the work is starting to pay off.
Last year, Idaho's defense was one of the best Vandal D's in years, keeping most games close despite an offense that struggled unexpectedly throughout the year.
But the building process is an ongoing one, and Idaho may have found a gem in West Mesquite (Tex.) High School standout cornerback Cranston Jones.
Jones has earned high praise for his impressive high school career, but ESPN may be giving him the most love. The sports network ranks him the No.32 cornerback in the country, the No.97 prospect in the state of Texas, and the No.127 prospect in the region. And they had this to say about him as well.
"Currently a sleeper on the recruiting trail, Jones is a quick and reactive corner with very good ball awareness skills. A playmaker in coverage who finds the ball naturally."Recruited primarily by defensive coordinator Mark Criner and cornerbacks coach Torey Hunter, Idaho got the verbal commitment a couple weeks ago they had been working on for months when Jones made his silver and gold pledge just days after his trip to the Idaho campus.
"I met all the coaching staff," Jones said of his official visit on the 13th. "My host introduced me to most of the corners, and I met some of the other players. It's a nice place. We hung out -- I like the place a lot."
Satisfied with the trip, Jones went home to make his final decision. Once his mind was made up, the next step was telling the Idaho coaching staff about his decision.
And the importance of his college choice was more than just a phone call.
"They were at my house," Jones said of the group that had assembled in his living room. "They were excited. Coach Hunter (cornerbacks coach), Coach Criner (Defensive Coordinator) and Coach Akey were at my house when I told them."
THERE IS NO PLAN TO EASE INTO HIS ROLE on the Vandal team this fall either. "I don't plan on redshirting," Jones said directly. "But after I go there during the summer (planning to arrive in June), and go through camp, we'll know by then."
Part of that cornerback depth chart he will include junior Tracy Carter, another Lone Star State athlete who will be competing for the starting job in 2012 after playing a major role last fall. True freshman Dion Bass backed up graduating senior Matt Harvey last year, so a fierce battle for the starting spot and top backup duties is likely.
So what strengths does Jones bring to the field? "Playing man," Jones said. He then added, "I'm a smart player – I know down and distance. When a person plays corner, he has to have a great mental understanding of the game. He has to know the game, which I do. I know the game a lot more than a normal high school player should know."
Indeed, beyond the impressive First Team Class 4A All-District 15 honors he earned last year from his cornerback position, Jones was also named an Honorable Mention Academic All-State selection as well.
A number of colleges took notice as well, with scholarship offers from New Mexico, Air Force, Toledo, FCS National Title game contender Sam Houston State, and a variety of others along the way.
Fortunately for Idaho, Jones chose to take his game north, following in the footsteps of fellow Texas defensive standouts Carter, safety Bradley Njoku (played as a true freshman in 2011), defensive end Quinton Bradley, defensive tackle Karel Kearney, and graduating senior safety Quin Ashley.