When Idaho’s 2014 season came to a close, so did the career for much of the Vandal starting offensive line. Among them was four-year starter Mike Marboe at center, plus tackles Jesse Davis (2+years) and Nick Von Rotz (2 years), and guard Sione Maile who worked into the rotation each of the last two years.
Idaho will be losing a lot of experience with this senior class, but they also have some bright prospects working their way through the system, led by returning starters Steven Matlock, Mason Woods, and Jordan Rose. The process of determining how the line ultimately fills out around these three will start taking form in a couple months when spring camp opens.
Among those vying for a starting job will be 2015 newcomer Andrew Erbes, a 6-foot-3, 290-pounder out of Mesa Community College who comes to Idaho with three years to play three. The rigors of Division 1 competition and commitment will be no shock either to the Glendale (Ariz.) native, who spent one season at Arizona State out of high school as a preferred walk-on and redshirted with the Sun Devils before transferring to Mesa CC. Although he played just one year with the Thunderbirds which started the season ranked among the Top 15 programs in the country, Erbes was named a Team Captain for 2014 and went into the 2015 recruiting cycle ranked as a three-star prospect by Rivals and the No.7 junior college guard prospect in the nation by 24/7 Sports. An honorable mention All-WSFL and ACCAC selection, he picked Idaho over offers from Memphis and Texas State, and a late charge by Utah State.
On signing day Coach Petrino held little back about what he most looks forward to in Erbes. "He's really thick and physical, he's not going to get pushed around and definitely has a nasty streak to him. You see him getting after guys all the time and finishing them."
With a year of D-1 experience already under his belt and coming in as a mid-year transfer to the Idaho program, Erbes is poised to make an immediate impact.
SO WHEN EXACTLY did Idaho get onto Erbes’s radar? “They were my second offer after Memphis,” Erbes told GoVandals.net recently. “It was about the sixth game of our season, and Coach Erickson came down and offered me then. He also recruited one of my best friends, D.J. Foster, to Arizona State. Coach Erickson built a good relationship with my old high school coach (Saguaro High in Scottsdale, Arizona), coach Sanders, and I just knew his reputation as a really good player’s coach. He came to visit me three times in Arizona, and he’s a lot of the reason I chose Idaho. He’s just a really good recruiter and he does a great job with home visits and everything else.”
Erbes visited the Idaho campus on December 5th and was hosted that weekend by current starting guard Steven Matlock. His commitment to the University of Idaho was solid, but it came with a late charge by other suitors for the coveted prospect.
“Texas State offered, and Utah State did an in-home visit with me," Erbes recalled. “But USU never offered because I had already committed to Idaho. When they were talking to me I told them I was committed to Idaho and would take their call, but that was about it.
“Texas State offered me at the airport when I was leaving Idaho. It was kind of awkward, because the Idaho coaches were saying goodbye when the phone rang. I explained to them what it was about, and then about an hour later during my connection I told them [the Idaho coaches] that I wasn’t going to take the trip.”
As would be expected, the Idaho coaches were relieved and excited to get the call. “Yeah [laughing],” Erbes said. “He [Erickson] said it was like an early Christmas present. I knew he was concerned, and I wanted to put his mind at ease."
So what sold him on the Idaho program? “The thing I liked is as soon as I got there on my visit, Matlock came up to me and I asked him what position he played. He said guard, but that he was probably going to move to center now that I was coming to Idaho. So it wasn’t like a head-butting situation. I think it’s going to be the best five linemen are going to be starting, whether they’re a tackle, guard or center, and that’s the way it should be. So I don’t think it’s going to be so much whose going where, it’s going to be the best five, most athletic, strongest, most powerful linemen are going to be starting.
“And I think that’s how you win football games.”
A determined athlete, Erbes knows there will be competition this fall to earn his stripes. “It will all work itself out. If I’m not meant to start this year, then I’m not meant to start. But I have every intention of coming in there and playing.”
The connection with his future teammates and coaches were also key factors in picking Idaho for Erbes. “Playing time was a huge influence on my decision and I also like Coach Cinkovich a lot. And they’ve got Jordan Barge coming in. I ran into him in Arizona and we hung out, and he’s a really good player. I could see him playing tackle, or I could see him playing guard next to me if I'm playing center.”
With the athletes coming back from last fall, it should make for an interesting competition leading up to the 2015 season opener.
THE BIG LINEMAN COMES TO IDAHO with three years of eligibility remaining (he will be a sophomore next season), plus a season under his belt at Arizona State. With the loss of four senior linemen for the Vanals, all of which contributed significant playing time last fall, the question now becomes what position Erbes will slot into during spring drills and fall camp? “They run a strong and quick side,” Erbes said. “They were talking about wanting me to run guard, and center would be something I could play too. I think what I can see happening is me playing guard initially, and then as we continue to bring in talent a tackle may move to guard and I’d play center. I’d want to play center at least my last year, before trying to play at the next level.”
And his strength? “I play guard because I like to hit and I’m a good hitter. But center …I think I’m a good leader on offense and I think it’s an important position. I’d say I’m a true guard who can play center.”
While at Arizona State for his redshirt freshman season, he began the year competing for 2nd team center before moving over to guard as the season progressed. The experience he earned on the field and in the classroom should pay dividends for both Erbes and Idaho. He knows what he will need to work on this spring and next fall, and it isn’t on the gridiron alone.
“I need to get used to getting back into a routine of being in a Division 1 program,” Erbes said. “JUCO is different than D1 as far as commitment, as far as the hours it takes. That includes the classroom and everything. It’s not the same as being in a University obviously; balancing school and practice.
“But as far as football, football is football. It’s going to be like anywhere else. As far as what I need to work on, perfect snaps if I am going to play center.”
Obviously he’s competing to play any position he can help the team at this fall, but is he leaning a little bit towards wanting to play center for the Vandals? “Absolutely, but I’ll play what I need to play.
“I just want to win.”
|br> Erbes on signing day with fellow Idaho recruit and Mesa CC cornerback Dontavius "DJ" Hampton.|