The letter of intent day was full of promise and hope for Nick Holt's new staff and Vandal fans alike. The Vandal Athletic Center was nearing completion, which would eventually provide, for the first time in Vandal athletic history, the very first football locker room, the very first weight room, a hydrotherapy pool, and, a few years later, meeting rooms that could hold the entire team, meeting rooms for offensive and defensive units, and completely rebuilt training rooms.
But, the real interest for most Vandal fans was the new football recruits that would be welcomed to Moscow for the start of rebuilding Vandal football. Five years removed from the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl winning team, Idaho football had struggled and endured some major embarrassments since that high-point moment of winning a first-ever bowl game.
This wasn't Holt's first rodeo in Moscow either. In 1998, after spending eight seasons at Idaho, and the last four of those seasons as the Vandals defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Holt left the Vandals to join Idaho coaching legend John L. Smith at Louisville for three seasons. He joined Pete Carroll as the linebackers coach at USC. Holt returned to Moscow in December of 2003 to begin rebuilding the Vandal football program with the intention to inject a higher level of athleticism into the program, and revive an attitude of winning.
JUST TWO JUNIOR COLLEGE PLAYERS IN MASSIVE CLASS OF 31 RECRUITS
Of the 31 recruits, two were transfers from junior colleges that were enrolled that semester. The new recruiting class would comprise about one fourth of the football team for the 2004 season. That young team compiled a record of 3-9, and while many earned a starting spot, many of the freshmen played significant roles on the team as well. That team would deliver head coach Nick Holt his first road win during his brief tenure in Moscow (a 45-41 win at Eastern Michigan), and would finish with a 2-5 Sun Belt Conference record (wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State), and tied for 7th place in the final conference standings (tied with Louisiana-Lafayette and Utah State). During the 2004 season the Vandals would log the greatest number of travel miles of any FBS team in the nation.
Despite the rebuilding effort at hand, it was notable that only two of the recruits signed in the 2004 football recruiting class were junior college transfers, both of which had already enrolled at the University of Idaho by January 2004.
Cash transferred from Compton Community College (Compton, CA) and was singed to play cornerback. He arrived and joined the team for Spring Football as a red shirt junior. As one of the fasted players on the team, he also joined the Vandal track team. He was first team all-WAC in indoor track and field. Cash played both cornerback positions and contributed to the team with 60 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions. He played the following season and so his college eligibility expired after the 2005 season. One very notable career highlight was when he scooped up a blocked field goal and ran the rock 80 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana Tech. Cash went on to graduate from Idaho and tried out for arena league and Canadian football teams and played in one CFL pre-season game, and today works as a sports agent.
The other junior college transfer, Guynes transferred to Idaho from Citrus Junior College (Glendora, CA). He played his junior and senior seasons as both a cornerback and a safety. He played in 12 games in 2004 and 8 games in 2005, when he also saw time as a Special Teams player.
The rest of the recruiting class consisted of high school athletes recruited from all over the nation.
Alexander was recruited to play linebacker at Idaho, and committed to Idaho and Nick Holt (who had been recruiting him at USC) over offers from Oregon and Fresno State (among others). Called to duty as a true freshman, Alexander worked up to the No, 2 spot on the middle linebacker depth chart before moving to rush end on the defensive line as a sophomore for 2005, where he was named the starter for the season opener at Washington State and finished the season 5th on the team with 43 tackles, four sacks, and one pick. He would go on to be a defensive leader for the Vandals as a junior and senior. He finished his collegiate career with 125 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and a pick.
(Ranked the No.180 OL nationally)
Anderson was recruited to join the offensive line for Idaho. After wearing a red shirt for this first season he earned a starting spot in the pit as a red shirt freshman. He then played for the next four seasons. During his career, he played every position on the offensive line, except center. He was the staring left tackle in 2007 and started at right guard in 2008. He graduated from Idaho in 2008.
Belton was recruited from New Brunswick, NJ as a wide receiver. He started in three games as a true freshman in 2004 and threw a touchdown pass during a trick play in November game at Hawaii. In 2005 he converted to defensive back and was No. 2 on the free safety depth chart by October. In 2006, with depth in the defensive backfield improving, he made the move back to wide receiver. After the 2006 season the pull from home was too much and he left the Vandal program after playing three seasons at Idaho.
Bird, a native of Idaho, joined the Vandals to play running back as one of the prized recruits of the class. He had an exceptional combination of speed and size, and was known a good student. As a true freshman, and playing in 10 of their 12 games, Bird gained 955 all-purpose yards, including rushing for 859 yards, was the No. 4 running back in the conference, scored eight touchdowns, and was the Vandals Offensive Player of the Year as well as a Second Team All-Sun Belt selection. He missed the 2005 season after suffering a broken collarbone in the season opener against Washington State (carried 23 times for 70 yards in the game). Bird would go on to play at Idaho through the 2007 season before subsequently transferring to (FCS) Idaho State and playing against the Vandals in the 2008 home opener. After graduating from ISU, he went on to Creighton's dental school and now has a dental practice in Pinehurst, ID.
Bjorvik joined the Vandals and was recruited as a much-needed tight end. He would actually go on to gray shirt the 2004 season, and then followed that up with a redshirt year in 2005. He played from 2006 through the 2009 season. He saw limited playing time in 2006 as he learned the ropes of FBS football, then in 2007 earned the starting tight end position and went on to haul in 17 passes for 255 yards. Because of the extra year afforded in his redshirt season, Bjorvik earned a ring as a member of the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl winning team.
(Ranked the No.98 RB nationally)
Butler was recruited as a defensive back and started several games as a true freshman free safety in 2004. Injuries prevented him from significant playing time in 2005 and 2006. He left the Vandal football program in June of 2007, but went on to graduate from the University of Idaho in 2008.
Clark brought immediate size to the Idaho offensive line in 2004. As a true freshman that year he played in every game for Idaho, including starting seven of them, and was named the starting right tackle in the season opener while also being known as the strongest and fastest offensive linemen during the 2004 season. For the 2005 season Clark moved to right guard where he was the starter, but he battled chronic headaches and several injuries that season and ultimately hung up the cleats before the 2006 season began.
As a talented quarterback in high school, T.J. Conley was recruited to play quarterback for the Vandals. But after redshirting his first season at Idaho, Conley's strength as a punter became apparent, and he would go on to hold that position for four straight seasons. He was named an all-American in 2008 and was named to the All-WAC team the same season after being named to the Ray Guy watch list prior to the season opener. He majored in Civil Engineering at Idaho and graduated in 2008. In the 2009 NFL draft he was selected by the Washington Redskins, but signed his rookie contract with the New York Jets where he was a punter for four seasons. He was the Jet's starting punter for the 2011 season before the Jets waived him in August of 2012, when he moved on to the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns in 2013 (but was not on their active rosters).
Dykes was recruited as a defensive back and he lived up to all expectations during his true freshman season when he started at strong safety and started every game at that spot throughout the season. He was the No. 3 tackler on the 2004 team with 72 tackles. He also electrified the Vandal faithful when he returned an interception 61 yards for the go ahead touchdown against Arkansas State that season. In early 2006 he was named a First Team All-WAC selection by The Sporting News. But frustration with the revolving door at head coach during that span, with Nick Holt leaving the team after two seasons and Dennis Erickson leaving after just nine months, led to Dykes transferring out the Vandal program himself. He would ultimately land with the Colorado Buffaloes, where he played the rest of his college career.
Note: Mike Bohn, the Idaho Athletic Director who launched the construction project for the aforementioned Vandal Athletic Center, was the Athletic Director at the University of Colorado when Dykes transferred to play in Boulder. Jim Senter, former Assistant Athletic Director, and three other University of Idaho employees who were working for the University of Idaho in 2004 would eventually join Bohn at Colorado in following years.
Fennell was recruited to Idaho and was called upon immediately to contribute on the offensive line. He went on to play in 10 games during his first season of college football. By November of that rookie season, he started his first game at center and made another start at right guard. In the spring and summer of 2005 he spent some time practicing at defensive tackle, but at the start of fall camp he was practicing again with the offensive line. He went on to split starting right guard duties during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, playing an instrumental role in the Idaho offense for four seasons. He graduated in the spring of 2008 and then attended graduate school at the University of Idaho where he earned a Master's Degree in 2012. He is currently an academic advisor for the University of Nevada.
Ford came to Idaho from perennial powerhouse Bellevue (WA) High School and gray shirted the 2004 season before enrolling in January 2005. He played WR and DB for the Vandals in 2005 and 2006. His teammates voted him the Hec Edmundson Inspirational Player of the Year in 2005. He left the Vandal football team in May of 2007 and played the 2008 and 2009 seasons at (FCS) Portland State University. Today, he is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Bellevue High School and owns his own sports training company.
Rick Harrison, TE
The Vandals originally recruited Rick Harrison to play defensive end at Idaho, but following a redshirt season in 2004 he moved over to the offensive side of the ball as a tight end. A scholarly athlete and an exceptional blocker, he scored his first career touchdown in 2005 against UNLV. He played in all 12 games in 2007 and was a fixture on several special teams throughout his playing career (honored in the 2008 senior class). He graduated from Idaho in 2009.
Jones came to Idaho as a cornerback and immediately saw action as a punt returner in 2004 and played extensively during the first three games of the 2004 season. He played the next two seasons as one of Idaho's top cornerbacks and return specialists before leaving the team in 2007. In 2009 he went unclaimed in the NFL draft, but was with the New Orleans Saints for enough time to earn a Super Bowl ring. In 2010 he was on the Saints' practice squad until the Washington Redskins claimed him in 2010, where he remained on the active roster through that season and into the 2011 season. In the middle of 2011 he signed with the Minnesota Vikings and was on the team in 2012. He was released after the final cuts prior to the 2012 season and was then was with the Dallas Cowboys for the 2012 season. While playing for the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL they won the UFL championship. He is currently an NFL free agent.
Note: A former Vandal dance squad member and cheerleader, Nicole Bulcher, was on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders squad during the 2012 season. After graduation, she made the team in 2010 and is now a veteran after four seasons with the Cowboys Cheerleaders.
Korby was one of the first players that Nick Holt's staff recruited as part of their rebuilding process. He wore a redshirt during the 2004 season as a true freshman, but would go on to a have a fantastic career as Idaho's starting center. Korby acquired the reputation as an iron Vandal because he went on to start in every game from 2005 through his senior season of 2008. In 2007 he was named a Second Team All-WAC selection, and in 2008 he earned All-WAC honors. He missed very few snaps during his entire college career. He won the Wayne Walker Ironman award for three straight years and he named to the Rimmington Trophy watch list for three straight seasons. He was the Offensive Team Captain for two straight years.
Lumbala was recruited by Idaho's legendary running back Joel Thomas, who joined Nick Holt's staff when Holt became the head football coach at Idaho in 2003. Rolly was born in Libreville, Gabon and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Thomas recruited him to play running back at Idaho and he racked up an impressive 614 yards and scored six touchdowns during his first season. He was part of an all-freshmen running back duo, along with fellow freshman Jayson Bird that packed an impressive one-two punch. He played for four straight seasons and, before his senior season, was ranked as the No. 26 running back in the country by Phil Steele. After graduating from Idaho, Lumbala was invited to the Miami Dolphins training camp, but was eventually cut. He was then drafted by the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, which made him the ninth pick overall. Today, he is still playing for the BC Lions and averaged an impressive 7.4 yards per carry during the 2013 season.
Antonio Lindsey, DT
(Ranked the No.72 DT nationally)
Lindsey came to Idaho as an interior defensive lineman -- the highest ranked prospect in the class at No.72 nationally among DTs -- and immediately saw action in his first season with the Vandals. However, that one season would be it for the big lineman out of Federal Way (Wash.), as he left the program before the 2005 season began.
Chris Meadows, CB
Meadows was another much-needed addition to the defensive backfield in 2004, but an injury forced him to redshirt his first year in Moscow. He played the 2005 season for the Vandals, and then transferred to West Los Angeles Junior College where he played wide receiver. He then walked on at UCLA and earned a roster position for 2006 but did play that season. In 2007 he played on special teams and switched from cornerback to wide receiver midway through the season. He played in four games in 2008 and graduated from UCLA in 2009.
Musika was a powerful defensive lineman for the Vandals who, during one season, played running back part-time for the Vandals on short yardage plays. He immediately earned the starting spot at nose tackle and kept that job for this entire college career. During the 2004 season he made 20 tackles and played in all 12 games. He started in 28 of a possible 30 games in his first three years at Idaho. During his senior season of 2007, Musika stated in nine games and made 39 tackles and had three sacks and five tackles for a loss. He made 94 career tackles and was No. 5 in the nation for forced fumbles in 2007. He graduated from Idaho in 2008. Today, he lives in Moscow, ID and is a youth pastor at a non-denominational Christian organization.
Brandon Nystrom, S
Nystrom was recruited to play safety for the Vandals and gray shirted the 2004 season, then followed that up by redshirting the 2005 season. In an effort to find the best position for him to play at Idaho, he moved from defensive back to running back in the spring of 2006 after playing RB on the scout team for much of his redshirt season. Nystrom left the football program after the 2006 season, but in 2009 Nystrom graduated from the University of Idaho with two business degrees in management and marketing.
Ogletree was recruited as an "athlete" to play safety and he did not disappoint as he played in 11 games as a true freshman while moving up on the field as he cracked the linebacker depth chart by mid-season. As a sophomore in 2005 he moved to defensive end. During spring football in 2006 he moved back to linebacker. Ogletree spent most of his senior season (2007) in the SAM position. He made 57 tackles during his first three seasons, but racked up an impressive 87 tackles during his senior year when he was the No. 2 tackler on the team. He played for four straight seasons and graduated in 2008 with degrees in communications and business. He is currently self-employed and living in his home state of Georgia while preparing for the 2014 NFL draft.
Christian Populis, WR
Populis was recruited from Louisiana to play wide receiver for Idaho. He caught his first touchdown pass during the last game of the 2004 season when, during a trick play, WR Desmond Belton threw his only touchdown pass of his career. He left the team after the 2005 season.
Brent Rushin, DT
A promising prospect, Rushin signed with Idaho to play defensive tackle but, for some reason, never arrived in Moscow.
Rust, a graduate of Timberline (Boise) High School, was the first athlete to commit to Holt's recruiting class and came to Idaho as a defensive end, redshirting the 2004 season. He played on several special teams units during the 2005 and 2006 seasons as he worked as a backup defensive end. At the start of his junior season he earned the starting defensive end job and remained a starter for the rest of his college career. After the 2007 season he won the Wayne Anderson Coaches Award. He graduated in 2009 with a business degree in marketing.
Evan Ruud, DE
Ruud, who played alongside Brent Rushin in high school, was a member of the Vandal team for his true freshman season in 2004 (his only season at Idaho) where he worked his way up to No.2 on the depth chart behind senior Brandon Kania.
Shane Simmons, LB
Simons was recruited to play linebacker for the University of Idaho and was expected to redshirt during the 2004 season. But injuries to some of his teammates forced him onto the field as a true freshman where he worked as a backup for most of his only season with the Vandals.
Toailoa, who originally committed to BYU before changing his commitment and signing with Idaho, arrived in Moscow to play on the Vandal defensive line and would contribute immediately to rebuilding the Idaho defense. While competing for the staring defensive tackle position in the fall of 2004 he sustained a season-ending injury and was forced to redshirt the year. By May of 2007 he was off the team due to academic issues and missed the entire 2007 season. He made a triumphant return to the Vandal squad for his senior season in 2008 where he became a starter, and went on to graduate from the University of Idaho in 2009.
Folau Tuione, TE
Tuione was a high school teammate of Ben Alexander, but Falou never made it to Moscow after he went on a Mormon mission. After his mission he attended El Camino Junior College in California and eventually played football from 2008 to 2010 at the University of Utah.
Vobora saw immediate playing time as a true freshman in the 2004 season. He played in every game during all four years at Idaho. In 2006 he made 134 tackles and was named to the All-WAC team. During the 2007 season he made 148 tackles, which was second on the all-time Idaho single season list for tackles, and was named an All-American in 2007. As a senior in 2008 he was the No. 2 tackler in the country and went on to be named the Western Athletic Conference Stan Bates award winner, and went on to graduate from the University of Idaho. He is the No. 6 all-time tackler for the Vandals. He gained some notoriety when he was selected as the last overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, which is otherwise known as Mr. Irrelevant. Vobora was the only Vandal drafted by the NFL in 2008. Later, in his rookie season, he went on to earn a starting spot with the St. Louis Rams where he played for three seasons, followed by one season (2011) with the Seattle Seahawks. He compiled 97 tackles and two sacks in his NFL career. After three shoulder surgeries he retired from the NFL in 2012 and currently lives in Dallas, TX and works as a private football coach at a professional coaching service.
(Ranked the No.122 RB nationally)
Sturdivant was a talented running back from Boise when Nick Holt's staff recruited him to play Vandal football. He gray shirted and started his playing career in 2005. He battled through numerous injuries and was one of only three players (Ben Alexander and Peter Bjorvik were the other 2004 recruits) to participate in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl victory. He was the special teams captain his senor year. He graduated from Idaho in 2010 and then attended two universities in Spain. Today he lives in Madrid and is employed as an English teacher in a secondary school.
He recently participated in the infamous running of the bulls in Pamplona. We caught up with Devon in Madrid to confirm that he ran with the bulls in Pamplona.
"Yes, I did, and it was perhaps the best/stupidest thing I've ever done. I've never been so terrified and excited in my life. Another former Vandal was there as well, Eric Greenwood."
Sturdivant added some background and described running with the bulls as one of his goals.
"You know, it's kinda interesting because my first year studying abroad I told myself that was what I was going to do. I remember showing Tre'Shawn Robinson and Marcell Posey the big deal with the bulls running through the streets, and I told them this is what I was gonna do. They said: You're crazy. Look at those things. I was like: Yeah, I know."
The class was signed in the spring of 2004 so, without red shirting, those very recruits would receive senior honors in 2007. And, it follows that any redshirt players would participate in Senior Day in the fall of 2008. Three were on the 2009 Idaho football team and received championship rings after winning the Humanitarian Bowl. The University of Idaho honored 14 seniors before the last game of the 2007 season. Of the 14 senior football players honored in 2007, six were signed as high school recruits in 2004. Of the 31 players in the 2004 recruiting class, 17 played as true freshmen in 2004. The two junior college transfers, Herb Cash and Lawrence Guynes, were honored as seniors before the last home game of the 2005 season.
On senior day in 2008 five members of the 2004 recruiting class were honored. Taylor Rust, Adam Korby, Kris Anderson, Taylor Rust, and T.J. Conley were part of the group of 17 seniors honored that day. Senor Day in 2009 included Peter Bjorvik and Devon Sturdivant. Of the 31 recruits that signed national letters of intent in February of 2004, 12 players were eventually honored during Idaho Senior Day activities between 2007 and 2009.
In our summary nine players from the 2004 recruiting class did not graduate and a handful played for and graduated from other universities such as Utah, UCLA, and Colorado. Twenty-two of the players or 71% of the players eventually graduated from a university.
TEN WINS, FOUR PRESIDENTS, THREE HEAD COACHES, & TWO CONFERENCES
The 2004 recruiting class members that did not leave Idaho and that were signed as high school players played for three head coaches: Nick Holt (2004-2005), Dennis Erickson (2006), and Robb Akey (2007-2012). All three head coaches were hired to lead re-building efforts and Akey succeeded when the Vandals won the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl, which included three members of that 2004 recruiting class. During four seasons (2004-2007) and under three coaches, Idaho accumulated an overall record of 10-37 and played in two conferences, the Sun Belt Conference (2004) and the Western Athletic Conference (2005-2012). The University of Idaho had four Presidents during the time the class attended the university. Gary Michael became an interim President when Dr. Hoover resigned; and he was followed by Dr. Timothy White (now the Chancellor of the entire California State University System), who was replaced by another interim President, Steven Daly-Larsen (now working at the US Department of Agriculture), who was succeeded by Dr. Duane Nellis, who recently resigned to become the President of Texas Tech.
HOLT AND HIS FORMER COACHES HAVE SUCCESS AFTER IDAHO
Ironically, four assistant coaches from Nick Holt's staff, Jonathan Smith and Johnny Nansen, remained at Idaho from 2004 through 2009. James Cregg and Jason Eck remained at Idaho through the 2006 season. Jonathan Smith was the Quarterbacks Coach until he left Idaho and became the Offensive Coordinator at Montana in early 2010. Smith then coached the quarterbacks at Boise State until after their loss to Oregon State, his alma mater, in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in December of 2013. Immediately after that bowl loss, Smith moved on to join Chris Peterson's new staff at the University of Washington and will be the Offensive Coordinator for the Huskies in 2014.
Nick Holt left the University of Idaho immediately after LOI day in 2006, which means he recruited three classes for the Vandals, but only coached two classes on the field. Scott Linehan, a former Vandal player who was just hired as the Head Coach of the St. Louis Rams, initially recruited Holt to leave Idaho to coach the linebackers for the Rams. However, Pete Carroll, then the Head Football Coach at USC, immediately convinced Nick Holt and his wife Julie to not move to St. Louis and to re-join Carroll's staff at USC. After three seasons (2006-2009) as the USC Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach, Holt coached at the University of Washington where he served as the Defensive Coordinator for three seasons (2009-2011). He was the recruiting coordinator for John L. Smith at Arkansas for the 2012 season and in 2013 became the Defensive Coordinator at Western Kentucky for Bobby Petrino, a former Vandal assistant coach, who was recently hired away from Western Kentucky, to return as the head coach at Louisville. Idaho Head Coach, Paul Petrino, is the younger brother of Bobby Petrino.
Another irony was that Scott Linehan was the Head coach of the St. Louis Rams when, two years later, David Vobora was drafted into the NFL in 2008. Today, Scott's son Matt is on the Idaho roster as a freshman quarterback, who was recruited by Paul Petrino as part of his first recruiting class and yet another rebuilding effort of the Vandal football team. Coincidentally, Scott Linehan was the Offensive Coordinator for the Detroit Lions and was recently hired as the Offensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
Another of Matt Linehan's teammates is freshman defensive lineman Zach Cable, who is the son of former Idaho head coach Tom Cable, who was a standout lineman for the Vandals and blocked for Vandal quarterback Scott Linehan during their collegiate careers at Idaho. Another member of the current Vandal squad is Isaiah Saunders, who is the son of Walter Saunders a former Idaho running back. Walter Saunders, Tom Cable, and Scott Linehan played for Dennis Erickson in the 1980's, which, according to many Vandal fans, was the beginning of the "golden era" of Vandal football. That era came to an end in 1999 when the wheels came of Vandal football and the program suffered through disastrous seasons for several years.
Note: After coaching at Idaho Tom Cable became the offensive coordinator at UCLA for two seasons, then became an assistant coach in the National Football League and coached the offensive line for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. In 2007, he was hired by the Oakland Raiders to coach the offensive line, and was eventually promoted to Head Coach of the Raiders in 2008. He held that head coach position through the 2010 season. In 2011 Cable joined the Seattle Seahawks as the offensive line coach and is headed to the Super Bowl next month.
Nate Kaczor, who was a bright mind and an innovator, was the co-offensive coordinator for Nick Holt and was forced out at Idaho when Dennis Erickson was hired to replace Holt in February of 2006. Kaczor then worked at Louisiana Monroe on 2006 as the Tight Ends Coach and became the Offensive Coordinator in 2007. In 2008, Kaczor joined the Jacksonville Jaguars where he was the Assistant Special Teams Coach from 2008 until 2011. In 2012, he was the Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the Tennessee Titans and today he is the Special Teams Coordinator for the Titans.
The other co-offensive coordinator at Idaho was the legendary Joel Thomas, who also coached the running backs. Thomas left Idaho in 2006 and became the Running Backs coach at Purdue where he remained through the 2008 season. In 2009 he re-joined Nick Holt at Washington and worked as the Running Backs Coach through the 2011 season. In 2012 he was an Associate Head Coach for the Washington Huskies and still working with the running backs. For the 2013 season, Thomas was the Running Backs Coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Jeff Mills continued to serve as the Defensive Coordinator for the Vandals after Nick Holt left Idaho in 2006. For the 2006 season, Mills worked for Dennis Erickson and then became the Defensive Coordinator at Youngstown State for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. In 2009 Mills became the Defensive Secondary Coach at Washington and held that position until 2011. In 2012 he was hired as the Defensive Coordinator at the University of New Mexico and he held the same position during the 2013 season.
James Cregg joined Holt's staff at Idaho prior to the 2004 season and continued to coach the Idaho defensive line through the 2006 season. In 2007, he became an Offensive Line Assistant for the Oakland Raiders and coached through the 2008 season. Cregg and Tom Cable were on the same coaching staff that season. Cregg spent the 2009 season coaching the offensive line at the University of Tennessee. In 2010 he was hired by Lane Kiffin as the Offensive Line Coach at USC and remained in that position during the 2013 season.
Nick Holt hired Johnny Nansen to coach special teams for the Vandals. Nansen, (along with Jonathan Smith and James Cregg) who remained at Idaho when Holt left to re-join the staff at USC, was re-hired by Robb Akey when Akey took the Head Coaching job for the Vandals in December of 2006. Nansen remained at Idaho from 2007 through the 2009 season and, along with Jonathan Smith, was part of the coaching staff that enjoyed the win at the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl. In 2009, Nick Holt recruited Nansen to join him at Washington (Joel Thomas and Jeff Mills would arrive at nearly the same time) and Nansen remained at Washington until he joined the staff at USC in December of 2013. Nansen has held a number of positions and has coached special teams, the defensive line, and worked as a recruiting coordinator. Another coincidence was that Dan Cozzetto, a former Vandal football player and assistant coach for Dennis Erickson, joined the staff at Washington and worked alongside Jeff Mills, Nick Holt, Joel Thomas, (former Vandal Strength and Conditioning Coach) Scott Gadeken, and Johnny Nansen.
Chad Q. Brown was the recruiting coordinator for the 2004 class and also worked as the Wide Receivers Coach for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Later he coached at Northern Colorado and later left coaching to work in the private sector. Today, he is, as the adage goes, out of football and is a talent and management consultant in Chicago.
Alundis Brice joined the Vandal coaching staff when he was relatively new to coaching, but highly experienced in football. That experience included playing in the NFL and wining a Super Bowl ring while playing for the Dallas Cowboys. He left Idaho after the hiring of Dennis Erickson and he moved on to Portland State. Today, he too, is also out of football and works at a boy and girls club in Portland, OR.
Jason Eck was hired by Nick Holt to be the offensive line coach for the Idaho football team. And, it was no small job to assemble a line and, due to injuries throughout the 2004 season, to cobble together a new line almost every week of the season. The hiring of Dennis Erickson did not force Eck out of Idaho and he coached the offensive line during the 2006 season. In 2007 he was hired at Winona State University and became their co-offensive coordinator for the 2008 season. Prior to the 2009 season, Eck became the Offensive Line Coach for Ball State and remained there until the end of the 2010 season. He coached at Hampton University for the 2011 season. He joined the staff at Western Illinois for the 2012 season and then was hired at Minnesota State for the 2013 season as the Offensive Line Coach. For the 2014 football season Eck will coach the offensive line at UC Davis.
There are many descriptions to describe the seasons that the 2004 recruiting class played and attended Idaho. And with conference re-alignment in a possible state of flux, there is no guarantee that the Vandals will enjoy or benefit from any long-term stability in the near future. However, Idaho will re-join the Sun Belt Conference, which is larger than it was in 2004, and the Vandals will, once again, will play for the usual goals of a conference championship and a bowl ring.
Approximately half of the 2004 recruiting class fulfilled the goal of playing Vandal football and graduating from the University of Idaho while almost three quarters of the class graduated from a university. The vast majority of the coaching staff has enjoyed successful careers and only two members of that staff are out of the football coaching profession.
The class took on a healthy role and played against some big time programs during their collegiate careers. Recently, when I asked Devon Sturdivant about Idaho playing big time programs such as Florida and LSU he was quick to answer with:
"It's nice we're not afraid to play anyone. We've kept that mentality. We played the national champions (Florida State) and another big SEC team (Ole Miss) there this year. We have definitely got the hearts to walk into the lion's den."
Sturdivant should know about such topics, as he just ran with the bulls in Pamplona! As the old saying goes: Once a Vandal, always a Vandal.