Sizing up the 2005 Vandal OL

With spring drills set to kick-off on April 1st, we begin our annual spring preview of the various offensive and defensive units on the Vandal football team. It's said that football games are won and lost in the trenches, and for this reason we start with a look at the Idaho offensive line. With 4 returning starters the unit will be a combination of solid experience at the top of the chart and youth throughout.

As University of Idaho head coach Nick Holt embarks on his 2nd season at the helm of the Vandal football team, the rebuilding job he and the staff began last year will continue this spring and fall. With Idaho joining the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) this season, the team's depth will be put to the test every week. Youngsters throughout the depth chart will be counted on to play prominent roles on the team again for the 2005 campaign, and the Vandal offensive line is certainly no exception.

Last season an Idaho offensive line that could not afford any losses battled injuries from fall camp throughout the schedule. The only lineman who didn't miss a single game was senior right guard Tony Kiel. Moreover, only once in Idaho's 12 game schedule last year did they start the same 5 linemen 2 weeks in a row. Other than that, a different group of linemen started every single week.

Despite the lack of continuity, there is, of course, a silver lining to the challenges of last season. A lot of young linemen earned significant playing time, played a variety of positions, and most of them will be back. There will also be some key changes as well.


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Among the topics of discussion this spring is the status of 2004 team captain and starting left tackle Hank Therien. Suspended for the season opener last year for violating team rules, Hank battled injuries (including a high ankle sprain as reported in the local media) for much of last season, limiting him to just 5 starts in Idaho's 12 games. Then this winter rumors swirled that Hank had parted ways with the program. At press-time our sources indicate Therien is doubtful to participate in spring drills. If he leaves the loss of a 6-7, 320 pound lineman will have an impact on the depth chart, especially an athlete with the potential of Therien (a preseason All Sun Belt selection in '04).

Fortunately a very solid group of linemen who saw extensive playing time last season at tackle in Therien's absence will return, including Nate VanderPol (6-6, 296), Desmond Clark (6-3, 308), Jade Tadvick (6-5, 315), and Geoff Zuber (6-4, 302). Among the surprises of 2004 was the emergence of strong tackle Desmond Clark, a true freshman last year who started 7 games and is one of the strongest (385+ pound bench) and fastest (5.1 – 40 yard dash) linemen in the depth chart. Joining this group of returners is redshirt freshman Kris Anderson (6-3, 285) and JC transfer Matt O'Donnell (6-4, 288) this spring.


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In addition to the possible loss of Therien, senior guard Ryan Waage and redshirt freshman Eric Nave also appear to be questionable / unlikely to participate in spring drills due to injury. Waage, listed #2 on the guard depth last season and the starter against Utah State, has battled injuries throughout his career in Moscow and may miss his senior season. Nave sat out all of last season with an injury.

Among the walkons from last season, Brandon Schulte (younger brother of starting center Jarrod Schulte and the top performing walkon last seasson) will work with the team this spring (likely at guard). Gone are fellow walkons Don Benz (also reportedly had a solid redshirt season), Greg Donadio, and Dryden Long.


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And finally, center/guard Marcis Fennell, a true freshman in 2004 who started 2 games and played extensively throughout the season, will be given an opportunity to switch over to the defensive line this spring. With the potential loss of Therien we wondered if Fennell might remain on the OL this spring, but we've confirmed that he will indeed work with the DL during spring drills.

So, with all that, we take a look now at the returners, JC transfers, and redshirt freshmen expected to work with the OL this spring. We'll wait to include Idaho's recently signed recruiting class (a stout group which includes 5 high school signees) until they get on campus and fall camp starts. We've also learned that Idaho is planning to invite 3-4 offensive line walkons to join the team in the fall, and will provide an update as soon as we get confirmation of who the new hosses will be.

For now, we will focus only on the spring depth chart.

We know that very few positions are "locked up" by anyone, and that players will be shuffled to find the best combination(s) moving forward. We also would expect that several players will learn multiple positions (i.e. guard and tackle) to give the team options if/when injuries effect the regular starting unit. Consequently, we expect to see quite a bit of shuffling throughout spring drills.

Below we take a closer look at each position. Each player is listed showing their class rank NEXT SEASON (i.e. center Jarrod Schulte will be a senior next fall).



CENTERS

The one common theme for the entire offensive line is the following: The top of the depth chart has some nice talent and experience, the rest of the depth chart will be inexperienced and young. This rule holds true for center where senior Jarrod Schulte tops the depth chart and will be joined by JC transfer Jon Verwey and redshirt freshman Adam Korby competing for playing time.


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Jarrod Schulte, 6-3, 267, Sr
Jarrod is the player that the offensive staff typically names first when asked "who is the hardest worker on the line." What Jarrod lacks in size he more than makes up for in hard work and effort on the gridiron. His dedication ultimately earned him a scholarship last spring after walking on at Idaho in 2001. Last season, the first in which Jarrod earned any playing time at all, he started 11 of Idaho's 12 games and proved to be one of Idaho's most reliable and durable linemen.



Fresno CC Photo
Jon Verwey, 6-3, 290, Jr (JC TRANSFER)
The Vandals will be joined this spring by walk-on Jon Verwey of Fresno City College. FCC's offensive philosophy is based on linemen who are skilled pass blockers and run blockers for an offense who's run/pass ratio is 50/50. FCC utilized two backs half the time, and 3 or 4 wide receivers and one back the rest, similar to Idaho's new scheme. Jon is one of 4 Ram OL headed to Division 1-A schools, including 2 to Oregon. We've also learned that Jon is considering majoring in Ag Science and was interested in the UI for academics, independent of football. In high school Jon was a starter at TE and a 2-time All League defensive lineman for Kerman High School (CA).

Adam Korby, 6-2, 285 REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
The Vandals are going to take a look at Adam Korby working at center this spring, although his true strength may be at guard. He had an outstanding redshirt season and is one of the "newcomers" expected to battle for some serious playing time this fall.

NOTE: Adam is also listed in the guard depth chart below.





GUARDS

The guard depth chart is particularly young this year, anchored by junior moose Jade Tadvick and backed up by 3 redshirt freshmen. Among the redshirt freshmen are 2 athletes who had earned recognition on the Vandal 2-deep depth chart last season but retained their redshirts throughout the season. As mentioned earlier most of the line depth chart will be given looks at multiple positions and players listed as tackles could move to guard (or center) and vice versa, but going into spring the guard depth chart looks like the following.


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Jade Tadvick, 6-5, 315, Jr
The winner of the "Mr. Versatile" award in 2004 has to go to Jade Tadvick, and he could also qualify for the "Iron Man" award as well for his durability. Jade started 11 of Idaho's 12 games last season, and he started at EVERY position except center. His "natural" position is left guard, but his outstanding size and mobility (he was actually a wide receiver for part of this HS career in Montana) makes him interchangeable across the Vandal offensive line and one of Idaho's biggest assets.


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Adam Korby, 6-2, 285 REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
Adam is going to get a shot at center, but his more natural position is reportedly at guard. Idaho's 2004 Scout Team Player of the Year, Adam worked his way into the Vandals' 2-deep depth chart by mid-season and was warming up with the team prior to games. Described by those close to the program as a "throw back" player, Adam is also reportedly among the fastest linemen on the team. This combination could result in the standout from Poudre High School (Colorado) getting serious playing time this fall.


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Kris Anderson, 6-3, 285 REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
The Idaho coaching staff is going to take a look at Kris Anderson working at guard this spring, but his strength may be at tackle. He had an outstanding redshirt season and is one of the "newcomers" expected to battle for some serious playing time this fall.

NOTE: Kris is also listed in the tackle depth chart below.


Brandon Schulte, 6-3, 283 REDSHIRT FRESHMAN WALK-ON
If Brandon's name doesn't look familiar, it should. He is the younger brother of Jarrod, Idaho's starting center in 2004. He inherited big bro's work ethic, and was among the top 2 performers of last year's offensive line walk-ons. He is blessed with a little more size than his brother, and with time could develop into a solid lineman for the Vandals.



TACKLES

The tackle depth chart this spring will include 3 athletes who saw significant playing time in 2004. Nate VanderPol (10 starts) and Desmond Clark (7 starts) top the chart, while Geoff Zuber saw playing time throughout the season. The group also includes a redshirt freshman who moved into the 2-deep last season, a JC transfer with 3 years of eligibility, and a senior from the scout team.


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Nate VanderPol, 6-6, 296, Jr
Injured in the first game of last season, one of Idaho's strongest offensive linemen, Nate VanderPol (385+ bench), played through the pain to start 10 of 12 games. He went into 2004 as Idaho's top Right Tackle, but moved to Left Tackle (responsible for protecting the quarterback's blind side) when Therien was unavailable…which resulted in him starting 6 games at LT and 4 games at RT. One of Idaho's top 4 linemen going into '05, we expect to see Nate start at either tackle this spring.


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Desmond Clark, 6-3, 300, Tr-So
Idaho needed it's freshman class of linemen to step up last season, and Desmond Clark responded. He's reportedly the fastest (5.1 – 40) and overall one of the strongest (385+ bench, huge squat) offensive linemen on the team. Amazingly he started 7 games for Idaho last season as a true freshman, including the season opener, and played in virtually every game. Desmond is clearly one of Idaho's top 4 offensive linemen and we expect to see him spend the spring at the top of the tackle depth chart.


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Geoff Zuber, 6-4, 302, Jr
In 2004 Geoff saw his playing time increase significantly. Though he didn't start any games for the Vandals, he was listed early in the season as a back-up guard, then was listed as the #2 left tackle by the end of the season. He saw playing time last year in a reserve role at both positions. Among the most versatile of the 5 mammoth OL prospects signed by the Vandals in 2002, Geoff played a wide-variety of positions in highschool, including fullback, TE, OT, DE, DT, long-snapper and punter.


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Kris Anderson, 6-3, 285 REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
Kris will be given a shot at guard this spring but his more natural position may be at tackle. Either way Idaho will look for the best combination of athletes to fill the depth chart. Kris had a solid redshirt season and by mid-2004 earned a spot on the 2-deep depth chart as a backup strong tackle. He warmed up with the team before games and was ready to take the field if needed (the staff was able to keep the redshirt on him all season). An All League selection at St. John Bosco High School (CA), Kris should see serious PT this spring.

Matt O'Donnell, 6-4, 288, So (JC TRANSFER)
At San Jose College, Matt O'Donnell moved from TE (his high school position) to the OL, bulked his frame up to 288 pounds, and immediately earned All Conference honors as a freshman. A mid-year transfer to Idaho, he's listed going into spring drills as a tackle and has the size, strength and mobility (was an All Conference TE in high school) to come in and immediately compete. In high school he was a 2-year Team Captain, 1st Team All Santa Clara Valley League TE as a senior in 2003, earned All-League and All-Peninsula honors as a junior (2002), and All League honors as a HS sophomore (2001). His senior year he recorded 237 receiving yards on 19 receptions with 4 TDs, plus 62 tackles and 9.5 sacks defensively. He will work multiple positions this spring, but will be given an early look at tackle.


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John Neddo, 6-2, 273, Jr
John joined the Vandals in 2001 out of Kuna High School and has worked primarily as a scout team player throughout his career. Last spring he saw significant playing time at right tackle throughout spring drills.









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