2002 Outlook: The Offense

With 8 returning starters, including all starters across the offensive line, tight end and full back, the Vandals should be strong in the power positions. Idaho must find starters at QB (there is plenty of talent in the depth chart), WR (again, plenty of talent), and possibly at RB, depending on the ability of starter <b>Blair Lewis</b> to recover from his torn ACL injury.


(Jay Drowns/AP)
WR Chris Belser
5-11, 173, SR
The OFFENSE (8 Returning Starters)

In 2001, a complete offensive overhaul in the power positions took place (offensive line, tightend, fullback, and also at running back). We witnessed a completely reconstructed offensive line finding itself (4 first year starters, who ultimately paved the way for a passing game ranked 6th nationally and produced over 38 points per game in league play). We witnessed two freshman tightends learning the game (1 just 12 months removed from high school football). And, we watched a JC running back become a force with the football, before suffering a season-ending (and potentially career-ending) knee injury at the mid-way point last season. We even lost senior quarterback John Welsh for 3 games, and watched as his backup, then-shophomore Brian Lindgren, rewrote the Idaho record books with a 637 yard passing performance against Middle Tennessee. The efforts of these youngsters went mostly for naught, however, as the Idaho defense gave up points faster than the offense could score them.

This year, the entire offensive line returns, but the depth is good enough that changes could be in store. Tightend and Fullback are loaded for years to come, as is quarterback. The biggest question mark is at running back (if senior Blair Lewis cannot recover from his knee injury) and wide receiver. Obviously, these positions are critical to Idaho's success on offense this year.

Below is the complete depth chart, to the best of our knowledge, for the 2002 Idaho offense.

(Note: Starters, Backups & Redshirts refer to status last year. Recruits are this year's recruits)
WIDE RECEIVER (10)
Starters (0) .
Backups (5) Josh Jelmberg (6-1, 190, Sr), Chris Belser (5-11, 173, Sr), Orlando Winston (6-0, 182, Jr), Robert Nembhard (5-9, 160, So), Eric Hunter (6-5, 215, Sr), Jimmy Labita (5-8, 165, So)
Redshirts (2) David Akers (6-0, 179, Jr), Jeff Stowe (6-0, 181, Fr)
Recruits (3) Brandon Mascorro (5-10, 175, Fr), Wendell Octave (6-1, 185, Fr), Cedric Thompson (5-8, 175, Jr)
Outlook: The top 3 receivers from last year's offense have graduated, leaving a large group of receivers who are mostly unproven. There is talent in this group, but a "go to" receiver and a game breaker must emerge. Recruit Thompson will probably see immediate action this season (may also be utilized as a kick/punt returner on special teams), Mascorro and Octave will probably be redshirted.

Venue Picks: Josh Jelmberg and Chris Belser. This whole group has the potential to see significant playing time, but Jelmber, Belser, Winston and Stowe get the most press. If Winston has improved his ability to catch everything thrown his way, he could emerge as a real threat. JC speedsters Akers and Thompson are the unknowns, but both have the wheels to provide a deep threat missing last season. We heard great things about RS-Freshman Stowe all last fall.

QUARTERBACK (4)
Starters (0) .
Backups (3) Brian Lindgren (6-4, 210, Jr), Adam Mallette (6-2, 213, So), Ryan O'Brien (5-10, 195, Jr)
Redshirts (1) Michael Harrington (6-4, 190, Fr)
Recruits (0) .
Outlook: Lindgren started 3 games last season, and set single game UI passing yardage records in just his second start. Although Lindgren is the likely frontrunner, expect Mallette and Harrington, both talented youngsters, to vie for the starting job all season.

Venue Picks: Brian Lindgren. We believe the starting job is Lindgren's to lose. We also expect Cable to continue his trend of inserting the second string QB into game situations, so the backup will likely see plenty of playing time next season.

RUNNING BACK (6)
Starters (1) Blair Lewis (5-11, 205, Sr) - Injury may end career.
Backups (1) Zach Gerstner (5-10, 208, Jr)
Redshirts (2) Paul Ziegler (6-0, 175, Fr), Matt Gower (5-11, 192, Fr)
Recruits (2) Shung Peoples (5-10, 182, Jr), Malfred Shaw (5-10, 205, Jr)
Outlook: Without Lewis (if he is unable to recover from a severe knee injury sustained last season), Idaho will be looking to 2 JC transfer recruits and a backup (Zach Gerstner) for a reliable and effective starter. Both recruits (Shung Peoples and Malfred Shaw) are on campus and will be working with the offense this spring.

Venue Picks: Blair Lewis. Blair is The Man until we're told otherwise. Watching highligt films on his away games last year shows a back that is simply awesome. Even so, it'll be fun to see what Malfred and Shung can do. Don't be surprised if Shung and Zach end up as H back types.

FULL BACK (5)
Starters (1) Kevin O'Connell (6-2, 247, Sr)
Backups (3) Willie Sipoloa (6-1, 250, So), Nate Griffin (5-11, 247, Jr), Brian Yarno (6-0, 230, So)
Redshirts (0) .
Recruits (1) Andrew Stobart (6-3, 239, Fr)
Outlook: O'Connell appears to be the most durable of this group. Sipoloa is the bruiser. You have to be able to catch the ball in Cable's offense, and these guys can. The group is also deep with significant game experience. We expect Stobart to be redshirted next season, but there is a strong possibility that he may break into the rotation as a true freshman.

Venue Picks: Kevin O'Connell. Kevin started most of last year (8 games), while Sipoloa started twice before being injured. Griffin started a number of games in 2000. We'll give senior O'Connell the nod, with the entire depth chart seeing playing time next year.

TIGHT END (5)
Starters (1) Michael McCoy (6-3, 245, So)
Backups (2) Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 225, So),
Mike Davis (6-3, 216, So)
Redshirts (1) Kevin Neill (6-6, 215, Fr)
Recruits (1) Keith Greer (6-2, 250, Fr)
Outlook: Both McCoy and Smith-Anderson had substantial playing time last season, but it was RS-Soph McCoy who started most often (7 games last year). Neill has the height to make this one of the best groups of TEs, top to bottom, ever at UI. Greer will probably be redshirted this year.

Venue Picks: Michael McCoy. We'll give the starting nod to McCoy, but both he and Smith-Anderson will likely share starting duties again this year. We've heard Davis has great hands but needs some weight, and redshirt freshman Neill's excellent size could get him time on the field this season.

OFFENSIVE LINE (23)
Starters (5) WT Jake Scott (6-5, 275, Jr), WG Jason Cobb (6-4, 304, Jr), C Matt Martinez (6-2, 317, Jr), SG Robert Mitchell (6-2, 312, Sr), ST Ray DeAnda (6-9, 315, Sr)
Backups (9) Seann Mumford (6-6, 297, Sr), Kyle Stewart (6-2, 305, Jr), Tony Kiel (6-4, 321, So), Michael Togafau (6-5, 274, So), Sean Flaherty (6-3, 281, Jr), Kevin Reese (6-3, 270, Jr), Jason Dutton (6-1, 283, Jr), Richie Crum (6-4, 301, Jr), Ryan Coles (6-1, 310, Jr)
Redshirts (5) Kelly Adams (6-5, 300, Fr), Drew Burton (6-3, 280, Fr), Jake Leachman (6-5, 260, Fr), Ryan Waage (6-3, 305, Fr), Jerrod Schulte (6-3, 243, Fr)
Recruits (4) Matt Newell (6-8, 285, Fr), Jade Tadvick (6-5, 298, Fr), Hank Therien (6-7, 318, Fr), Nate VanderPol (6-6, 290, Fr)
Outlook: Easily, this is the deepest group on the team. All 5 starters return, as do 4 primary backups. The 4 freshmen redshirted last season should push the upperclassmen all year. All 4 recruits (Idaho's biggest class of linemen ever) will probably redshirt this season.

Venue Picks: WT Jake Scott, WG Jason Cobb, C Matt Martinez, SG Robert Mitchell, ST Ray DeAnda. This is the same group that started most of last season. The fiercest battle for playing time was between DeAnda (7 starts at ST last year) and Mumford (4 starts at ST, 1 at SG, and 1 at WT). We'll side with size for now, and expect another fierce battle. Its also very likely that one of the younger guys could win a starting job, although returning All-Conference tackle Jake Scott appears to be a lock to start.





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