Spring Preview: The 2005 Safeties and Cornerbacks

For 2005 the Vandals lose a senior starter at cornerback and a senior free safety (and captain) from the '04 squad. The losses will be difficult to replace, but the athletes moving up through the chart are impressive. Three returners played extensively last year as true freshmen, including a 12-game starter at strong safety. The depth chart is young, but the group gained significant experience last fall and the competition for playing time should be intense in '05.

OUT FOR SPRING... We are not certain of the status of former Coeur d'Alene standout Derek McCleod, but we do not believe he will be working with the team this spring. We'll follow-up on the Derek's status and update later this spring.

PLAYER SHUFFLE... Two major moves happened this off-season. First, we reported that Brandon Ogletree, the Georgia native who began his career last fall as a true freshman backup at safety who moved up to the linebacking unit mid-season, was moving to DE this spring. In addition we've learned that Lawrence Guynes, a JC transfer last fall, has moved from cornerback to free safety for spring drills and will be competing for playing time in the fall.


In a nutshell, despite the loss of key senior Simeon Stewart from last season's safety depth chart (who was a team captain as well), the Vandal safeties in 2005 should be an even more competitive unit overall. And that competition begins immediately this spring.

Back at full speed for spring drills are 2 true freshmen who saw extensive playing time last fall. The unit also gains a former Oregon State signee who joins the Vandals as a JC transfer with 2 years eligibility remaining, a converted corner who saw playing time last fall, a highly regarded gray shirt freshmen, and 2 walkons who should see playing time throughout spring.

Below we separate who is expected to compete at strong safety and free safety this spring. But keep in mind players could be moved to based on performance and the team's needs.

Expected to arrive this fall will be Jason Brown, a graduate of powerhouse Long Beach Poly (southern Cal) who will be given looks at numerous positions (safety, linebacker, maybe some offense). But until he arrives on campus, we'll focus only on the safeties set to compete this fall.

Strong Safety

The strong safety unit welcomes back a 12 game starter in true sophomore D.J. Dykes, plus one of Idaho's top backups in redshirt junior Brandon Mascorro. The experience falls off though behind these 2 as a couple walkons vie for playing time, including A.J. Stone (a Twin Falls native who signed originally with Idaho State University) and Rory Fawler (a Sandpoint graduate who walked on at Idaho last fall).

The strong safety is a player who generally lines up in the secondary to help stop the pass, but often aligns close to the line of scrimmage to help stop the run. D.J. and Brandon proved the mettle last fall, and the rookies will get their shot this spring.

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D.J. Dykes, 6-2, 190, TRUE-Soph
Described by those close to the program as "a heady ball player" with "no let up," D.J. rolled into Moscow last year out of powerhouse Los Alamitos High School (southern cal) and immediately staked his claim to the starting strong safety position. D.J. went on to start all 12 games last year as a true freshman for Idaho, finishing at the teams #3 tackler with 72 tackles on the year (43 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 2 interceptions (including 1 spectacular grab returned for a 61 yard TD), and 4 pass breakups on the year. By mid-season he also became the team's #1 punt returner, bringing back 9 boots for an average of 9.6 yards each and a long of 32 yards. D.J. is looking every bit the cornerstone for the Vandal defensive backfield of the future.

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Brandon Mascorro, 5-10, 185, RS-Jr
Although he dealt with an injury for much of the '04 season, Brandon is described as an a DB with a "good understanding of the game." The former St. Bonaventure High School (northern Cal) star who signed with Idaho in 2002 played in 8 games for Idaho last fall. In those games he recorded 19 tackles, 1 quarterback sack, 1 QB hurry and forced a fumble. After working as a cornerback and safety in '03 as a redshirt freshman, and focusing his attention on safety in '04, Brandon should be in the thick of the hunt for playing time in '05.

A.J. Stone, 5-10, 175, RS-FR TRANSFER WALKON RS-Jr
A 2-time 2nd-Team All State selection (and 2-time 1st Team All Conference pick) at outside linebacker, A.J. brings a nice nose for the ball to the Vandal depth chart. A.J. originally signed with Idaho State and was on their roster for the 2004 season as a freshman. A.J. rejoins former Twin Falls High School team mate Carl Ott, a walkon kicker who joined the Vandal program last fall.

A former standout on offense carrying the rock in high school, Rory Fawley walked on at Idaho last fall and takes his game to the defensive side of the ball this spring. As a senior at Sandpoint High School in 2004, Rory was the Bulldogs' starting fullback, gaining 1,050 yards on 135 attempts (averaging 7.8 yards per carry). Was voted by the Idaho Statesman a 2nd Team All State selection at runningback (Class 4A). Rory helped lead the Bulldogs to a 10-1 season mark before falling to Century High School in the 2003 4A state championship game.

Free Safety

By definition, a free safety is one of the two deepest defensive backs and the one who is free to follow the play wherever it happens to develop. He is not generally assigned to cover a specific offensive opponent. Last fall this position was manned largely by team captain Simeon Stewart, but true freshman backup Jevon Butler saw plenty of playing time and should be in the thick of the hunt for starting duties in '05.

However, this absolutely will be a competitive unit this fall as Idaho welcomes in former Oregon State signee Tone Taupule, a solid prospect who joins the team this spring as a JC transfer. Also in the mix is Lawrence Guynes who worked the cornerback rotation last season, and also touted gray shirt freshman Brandon Nystrom out of Oregon's Junction City High School. This should be an interesting 4-way battle for playing time that will likely go deep into fall.

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Jevon Butler, 6-2, 205, TRUE-Soph
One of the state of Washington's all-time Class 1A athletes, Jevon wanted to play defense in college and he got that wish immediately last fall with Idaho. As a true freshman he played in 11 games, recorded 19 tackles (3rd among safeties last season), 7 solo takedowns, and picked off a pass. He's looked sharp this off-season and spring. As a senior he led his HS team to a perfect 26-0 mark while he was on the varsity squad, and 2 consecutive state championships. During his tenure, he was voted the Class 1A Player of the Year as a senior (2003), and for 2 consecutive years was voted to the AP All-State 1st Team at runningback and defensive back. He set the State 1A mark for rushing yards (227) and longest TD run (84) in a state championship game.

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Tone Taupule, 6-1, 215, RS-Jr (JC TRANSFER)
One thing you can certainly say about BOTH JC transfer DBs working with the Vandals this spring. They have good instincts. Both have been a part of Division 1-A programs before, and both understand the caliber of play at this level. Instincts is one thing Tone Taupule will bring this spring and fall. Voted to the L.A. TIMES 1st Team All-Region Football Team as a HS senior defensive back for Long Beach Jordan High School in 2001, he recorded 117 tackles (43 solo) and 9 sacks. He signed with Oregon State and redshirted his freshman season. As a RS-Fr worked into the linebacker rotation in the spring, then left the OSU program after spring drills due to the coaching change. As a JC OLB earned 2 consecutive 2nd Team All Western States Conference honors. He brings nice size and speed to the safety depth chart.

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Lawrence Guynes, 6-2, 185, Senior
One of the few defensive backs making a position this change is senior-to-be Lawrence Guynes out of Pomona, CA. Lawrence joined the Vandals last fall as a JC transfer and earned playing time in 7 games (where he made 7 tackles on the year). The tall athlete makes the move inside to safety and is working on the transition this spring. As a sophomore with excellent size and good speed at Citrus college in 2003, Guynes picked off 6 passes, blocked 12 more passes, and recorded 45 tackles enroute to an All Conference selection. As a HS senior was picked to participate in the CIF (CA) All Star football game.

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Brandon Nystrom, 6-2, 190, GRAY SHIRT FR
We are certainly looking forward to seeing how Brandon transitions into the college game. There is little disputing the stack of honors he earned as a HS senior. He was the state of Oregon's Class 3A Player of the Year, and was voted a 1st Team Class 3A All-State selection at runningback, and 1st Team Class 3A All State selection at defensive back. Also earned 1st Team All League Honors, RB/DB. On the season, he rushed for 1,799 yards, had 582 yards in receptions, and scored 30 touchdowns. Defensively, he had five interceptions, forced four fumbles and recovered four fumbles.


Competition at cornerback should be interesting this spring. With the loss of 2 seniors from last year's squad (including 12-game starter J.R. Ruffin and 8 game starter Chris Nathan) the depth chart is light with just 4 athletes competing for playing time, but the athletes are impressive. Returning are 2 players who saw playing time last fall in true sophomore Reggie Jones and senior-to-be Herb Cash. Joining them will be redshirt freshman Chris Meadows who made some waves at fall camp last season before being lost for the year with an injury. Also joining this crew will be Jason Martin, a JC transfer who played as a true-freshman for the Arizona Wildcats before their coaching change prompted him to leave the Arizona program.

For all their youth and "inexperience" (3 of the 4 have Division 1-A experience), the unit has some nice speed and all have strong backgrounds going into spring drills.

Expected to join the team in the fall are high school signees Wesley Williams a speedster out of Esperanza High School in southern California (the UI track team is already looking forward to his 4.3 - 40 speed), and Keith Charles, starting quarterback for perrenial powerhouse Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. But, until these prospects make it to campus, we'll focus on the spring players vying for playing time next fall.

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Reggie Jones, 5-10, 175, TRUE-Soph
One of an army of true freshmen playing for Idaho last season, Reggie's performance definitely stuck out. Often considered one of the most difficult positions to play right out of HS, Reggie came in and played admirably before going down in the 5th game of the season with a season-ending injury. He's back and reportedly at full strength and full speed for spring, and should be one of the front-runners for a starting job next fall. As a true freshman last fall he played in 5 games, started 1, and recorded 7 tackles and 1 pass breakup. He also worked as a kick returner, returning 5 kicks for 71 yards and 14.2 yards per return average. In HS was voted to the All State Team and a 1st Team All League selection at CB, and at the Washington NIKE Camp ran a 4.49-40.

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Herb Cash, 5-11, 170, Senior
Another front-runner for returners we would anticipate seeing some serious playing time next fall is Herb Cash. A JC transfer who joined the program last fall, Herb played in 10 games for Idaho, recorded 14 tackles including a quarterback sack, picked off a pass he returned for 24 yards, and broke up 2 other pass attempts on the year. Herb originally signed with the University of New Mexico out of Compton College in '03, but transcript issues forced him back to Compton where he completed the '03 season then signed with Idaho the following spring. At Compton he recorded 60 tackles and 35 pass deflections.

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Chris Meadows, 5-11, 175, REDSHIRT FRESHMAN
A standout 2-way starter for Redondo Beach High School (CA), Chris joined the Vandals last fall and immediately made a strong impression with the staff. He looked like an athlete that could see plenty of PT as a true freshman cornerback until he went down with an injury near the end of fall camp. The injury sidelined him for the season, and he was able to redshirt. At Redondo Beach he had 1,500 all-purpose yards of offense and 80 tackles and 4 interceptions on defense as a senior. The Ocean League MVP as a junior, Chris saw time at RB, WR, QB and DB.

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Jason Martin, 5-9, 170, JC TRANSFER
As was stated in the Tone Taupule bio above, Jason Martin also brings some nice instincts and, equally important, has some serious 1-A experience under his belt. As a true freshman in 2002 Jason earned a spot on the University of Arizona Wildcats 2-deep depth chart at cornerback. Jason redshirted the 2003 season, then left the program when Arizona changed head coaches. In '04 he spent just 1 season at Mt. San Antonio College and earned 1st Team All Conference honors. A star at CB and WR in HS, Martin was listed as one of Cali's top CB prospects, signing with UA before his senior season.

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