Returning sophomore nose guard Siua Musika focuses on retaining his starting position on the Vandal interior defensive line for 2005.......The wide receiver depth chart is taking form, and the newcomers are battling for some serious playing time........Idaho's punting game looks to be in good hands with a grayshirt freshman topping the chart.
STRETCHING THE FIELD…
Vandal fans have waited patiently for months to get an update on how the wide receiver position is shaking out for 2005. Competition has been intense, and the newcomers this season are making their presence known. In a nutshell, this depth chart has looked impressive at times with both JC transfers Matt Askew
and Daniel Smith
having a solid fall camp. Both have seen extensive reps with the #1 offense and have benefited immensely from being in the fold for spring drills. Based on what we've seen so far, this is how we see each position looking for ‘05:
Split End (X)
– Undoubtedly Matt Askew has had one of the best spring and fall camps on the team. The 6-4, 210 pound JC transfer joined the team for spring drills and led the receivers with 4 receptions for 58 yards and 2 TDs in the spring game. He's been equally effective throughout fall drills and appears to be at the top of the split end chart. In the mix is sophomore Ryan Heacock
, who hauled in 10 receptions in 2004 (best game was 3 catches for 60 yards and a TD against Washington State
), and redshirt freshman Lee Smith
, a walkon in 2004 who brings some quickness to his game.
– It's impossible to say who will be topping this chart for sure come September 1, but true sophomore Desmond Belton
and junior Wendell Octave
have been seeing the lion's share of the reps with the number one offense. More importantly, both return some serious experience from 2004 as Octave led Idaho with 36 receptions last fall, while Belton came on strong towards the end of the season with 15 receptions in 12 games, including an 8 catch, 156 yard performance against North Texas
#5 Daniel Smith
6-2, 210, Jr
– From everything we've seen and heard, Daniel Smith has been looking as good as advertised (3-star JC recruit who joined the team this spring) and appears to be topping the slot depth chart. We've seen him bump out to split end as well, and he's developing into a versatile wideout who we expect to see A LOT of this fall. Right on his heels is grayshirt freshman rocket Tracy Ford
who brings a tremendous amount of energy to the wide receiving corp. Add true sophomore Christian Populis
to the mix and you have a solid depth chart at this position.
One key element to keep in mind is that the Flanker and Split End, and even Slot, are all virtually interchangeable. Situational substitutions and receiver rotation will be key in '05, so you can expect to see a lot of movement between charts.
BUILDING DEPTH IN THE TRENCHES…
Quick, name the last time Idaho could rotate 4 or more interior defensive linemen routinely in a game. We'd be willing to bet that it's been at least 5 years. Certainly the Vandal defensive line has not been completely void of talented starters in recent years, having shipped a couple off to the NFL recently (Mao Tosi and Brian Howard
), while others have earned All Conference honors in that span (Tosi, Howard, Wil Beck, and Ryan Atoe). But depth in recent years has always been an issue, with a significant drop-off in skill level between the 1s and 2s.
#83 Andrew Stobart (6-2, 270, So)
and #84 Alex Toailoa (6-1, 294, rFr)
That trend could change this fall, however, as recruiting defensive linemen has been a top priority in Coach Holt's first 2 recruiting classes. The effort may yield some nice dividends in 2005 as a strong, albeit young, rotation is beginning to take form. At nose guard is returning sophomore Siua Musika
(6-0, 301), a 12-game starter for Idaho last fall as a true freshman (20 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 QB sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries). He's been a force throughout spring and fall drills, and made the weightroom his home over the summer. Working into the NT rotation with Musika has been Andrew Stobart
(6-2, 270), who made a tremendous recovery since a December 2003 accident forced him to miss all of 2004. The kid is strong, and before the injury had earned a starting DT job as a redshirt freshman in 2003 (21 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 QB sacks, 2 pass breakups and 1 forced fumble). Also factoring into the rotation is senior Eric Davis
(6-5, 255), who played in 9 games in '04 recording 8 tackles, 2 QB sacks with a fumble recovery, 2 QB hurries, 2 pass deflections, and a blocked kick.
#94 Ryan Davis
6-0, 270, Jr
Defensive tackle looks to be led by either senior Jeff Edwards
(6-3, 267) or JC transfer Ryan Davis
(6-0, 270). Edwards recorded 21 tackles in 2004 while playing in 9 games, including 4 tackles for loss and sack. Davis joined the Vandals in spring after a solid JC career (including being named to the California All-JC Team) and has shown an impressive motor throughout fall drills. Also in the mix will be redshirt freshman Alex Toailoa
(6-1, 294) getting some serious reps this fall. Alex shot up the depth chart last fall before redshirting the '04 season with an injury. He's looked strong throughout fall camp, has been substituted liberally into the rotation with the #1s, and should factor heavily into the rotation throughout the season.
Finally, we were seeing quite a bit of true freshman Marvin Jones
(6-2, 285) earlier in fall drills, and would not be surprised at all to see him break into the rotation sometime this fall.
AIRING IT OUT…
6-2, 200, rFr
Grayshirt freshman T.J. Conley
is clearly Idaho
's #1 punter, and for good reason. The kid has skills. Most of the boots we saw had impressive hang-time, which is one of the primary keys to success in the punting game (a facet Idaho struggled in last fall). Granted, this was a practice and not a game situation, but at least 2 punts we saw traveled 55+ in the air, with defenders waiting for the ball when it hit the ground. Given this, and based on some of the impressive punters Idaho has had over the years, Conley is already exhibiting nice form and a strong leg as just a freshman going into the 2005 season.