Battle for Strong Safety Begins

Having confirmed that 23-game starting strong safety D.J. Dykes has left the program, the next question was "who would replace him?" Unlike '04 when Idaho started the rebuilding process and a loss like this would have been crushing, this time the list of candidates is solid. Atop the list is JEVON BUTLER, a hard-hitting sophomore out of Everett, WA with significant playing experience.

With the transfer of 23-game starter D.J. Dykes out of the Idaho program, a junior-to-be who this spring had garnered preseason 1st Team All-WAC accolades from The Sporting News, a rather hugeish hole opened up in the Vandal secondary at strong safety. Dykes was a fixture back there, having started for Idaho since the first game of his true freshman season in '04. He hadn't missed a single game, starting all 23; he rarely left the field, and was essentially refered to as the "quarterback" of the Vandal D.

Such a loss prior to '04 would have been a huge setback to the program. But since '04, when previous head coach Nick Holt and his staff revived the Idaho program with a renewed energy and a recruiting focus on talented high school prospects, depth within the ranks has sharply improved.

In fact it was the loss of then-redshirt freshman Lee Jones, an athlete out of Seattle's powerful O'Dea High School program expected to see serious playing time in '04 who became an academic casualty, that opened the door for true freshmen Dykes and Jevon Butler to step in and see significant playing time.

Well, Jones is back at Idaho and joins a safety depth chart that includes hard-hitting sophomore Jevon Butler, a touted '04 recruit who played significantly at Free Safety as a true freshman and was Idaho's starting FS in '05 before being sidelined virtually all of last season with an injury. Butler experimented this spring with a move to inside linebacker for Idaho, but by the middle of spring drills Butler had refocused his attention on safety, working in non-contact drills at free safety next to Dykes (the staff avoided much contact for Butler as he continued to rehab his injury). Butler will move to strong safety this fall, and is a top candidate to start.

Also in the mix is redshirt senior Jarvis Huff, a JC transfer in '03 who has been slowed by injuries the last two seasons after seeing significant playing time in '03. He's reportedly been hitting the weights hard this off-season and is poised to make an impact in '06.

And, as reported on Letter of Intent day, the Vandals will be welcoming in two safety recruits that were expected back then, before Dykes' departure, to compete for immediate playing time. We've also heard significant rumors of a JC transfer who is currently on campus and preparing to walkon this fall who could be a major contributor immediately. We have our scouts digging into more information on this prospect, and will report on him as soon as we get a more complete picture.

Regardless, although the loss of Dykes is a setback, the cupboard is hardly bare with a solid list of candidates preparing to step into the vacated spot atop the SS depth chart.

Below are our bios on each of the top SS prospects.

Butler in action at UNLV last fall after missing the opener against Wazzu.
Jevon Butler
6-1, 215, Redshirt Sophomore

Last fall Butler missed the season opener with an injury then started the next two games for Idaho (at UNLV and at Washington). He missed the rest of the season with a lingering injury. In '04 Butler played in 11 of 12 games backing up team captain Simeon Stewart, and as a true freshman recorded 19 tackles (3rd among safeties last season), 7 solo takedowns, and picked off a pass. One of the top Class 1A football players in Washington High School football history, Butler led Archbishop Murphy 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.

Jones back in Vandal gear this spring.
Lee Jones
6-2, 204, Redshirt Junior

Jones missed the last two seasons to focus his attention on academics, but rejoined the team this past spring and worked extensively at safety (both free and strong). Jones joined the Vandal program in '03 and redshirted the season. As as high school senior Jones made a name for himself among Seattle-area coaches as a solid DB for the always powerful O'Dea High School Fighting Irish which ended the 2003 season ranked third in Washington's 3A classification. The Irish finished with a 10-1 record, their lone loss coming in the State Quarterfinals to eventual State Champion Bellevue. Jones recorded 4 interceptions that season (returned 112 yards, with one going for a TD), 4 deflections, 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. The effort earned him 1st Team All-Metro League honors.

Jarvis Huff
5-11, 214, Redshirt Senior
He's been hitting the weights hard this off-season and according to at least one source is looking "ripped." Described College Football News as a "pure hitter", Huff played sparingly in '05 as a backup to Dykes at strong safety, as he eased back onto the field after an '04 campaign that prevented him from playing due to an injury. Because he joined the Vandal program in 2003 after transferring to Idaho from El Camino Junior College (CA) as a TRUE SOPHOMORE, Huff was able to redshirt the '04 season. In 2003 he played in 5 games, started 3, and recorded 27 tackles on the year. He will be a redshirt senior this season and will be one of the primary candidates to earn playing time this fall at either safety position.

New Blood...
We know that there are several walkons who will be competing for time in the Vandal defensive backfield, including a JC transfer who will be walking on this fall (more on this later). However, we also know that both safety recruits signed this spring will be competing for immediate playing time. That was the case before Dykes left, and it will especially be the case going into fall drills. Both athletes will be working on the Idaho campus this summer in preparation for the 2006 season.

Adam Anderson
5-11, 210, True Freshman

Adam, a three-sport standout for the Rams, made his mark at runningback on the football team, as a small forward on the basketball team, and as a member of the baseball team. From the Spokesman Review article (1-23-06): "Despite being hampered with ankle injuries, Adam Anderson led the Rams in rushing last season. The 5-11 1/2 , 200-pounder also played safety in passing situations, and he will likely be a fulltime safety at Idaho." In a game this past fall against Timberlake, Adam scored the first four touchdowns of the game enroute to a 42-6 thumping. Anderson returned a punt 83 yards, ran for a 79-yard score, caught a 36-yard pass from Micah Kuntz and scampered in from 8 yards out.

Shiloh Keo
5-10, 175, True Freshman

A Class 2A All State selection, Keo transferred to Murphy from Woodinville High before his junior year and quickly became a difference maker. In two seasons at Murphy Keo rushed for 2,946 yards and 37 TDs. He also was 7-for-13 passing for 184 yards and four TDs, and made eight receptions for 162 yards and one score. As a senior he rushed for 1,675 yards (13.4 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns in 15 games, and made the Associated Press 2A all-state team at defensive back. ARCHBISHOP MURPHY HEAD COACH TERRY ENNIS: "He was a playmaker both offensively and defensively," Archbishop Murphy coach Terry Ennis said. "He was a big hitter for his size."

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