It was somewhat expected that this unit would be in a bit of flux going into the season. There is a lot of new blood, not to mention a new attack completely new formations. It is to be expected with so many changes that finding the best combination, and the VARIOUS combinations for various situations, would yield significant competition. Idaho's first depth chart revealed significant changes, with redshirt freshmen Jonah Sataraka (noseguard) and Aaron Lavarias (strongside defensive end) being named to the top unit. JC transfer Marcus Pedro this week also was named to the top unit at DT. Three year starting rush end Ben Alexander is the stalwart, and will be a standing DE/OLB combo for the Vandals this fall...a combination that maximizes Alexander's speed and range. Idaho's No.2 defensive line is loaded with experience across the board. Southern Idaho's Taylor Rust will backup Lavarias, Spokane product Josh Shaw will rotate extensively with Pedro, and lone senior interior defensive tackle Siua Musika - a three year starter - will rotate in with Sataraka. Powerful grayshirt freshman Jonathan Faraimo moves from middle linebacker to rotate in with Alexander. The two-deep chart for this unit isn't the biggest group of defensive linemen by any stretch, but the group is solid and is easily the most depth Idaho has fielded up front in several years.
|br> Billy Bates|
A little over a week ago Idaho swapped it's offensive tackles. Left tackle Billy Bates moved to right tackle, while last year's starting right tackle Kris Anderson switched over to the left side of the line. During his post-game comments Coach Robb Akey said the staff was evaluating the move, but that nothing was final. Well, the swap seems to have stuck and Bates remains Idaho's top RT with Anderson topping the chart at LT. Idaho's ongoing battle at right guard between sophomore Adam Juratovac and senior Marcis Fennell continues, with both athletes expected to get significant playing time this fall. The two split starting duties all last season and the rotation was rich. Juratovac tops the chart, but Fennell is right there keeping the battle alive.
KICK-OFF SPECIALIST NAMED
Junior placekicker Vicente Rico has been named Idaho's top kickoff specialist after a stellar fall camp. He has routinely punched the ball into the endzone on the SprinTurf Practice Fields, and appears to be Idaho's best weapon heading into its date with USC this weekend.
STABLE OF RUNNINGBACKS
This week redshirt freshman speedster Deonte Jackson was named Idaho's top runningback with Idaho product Jayson Bird in hot pursuit. The two have been getting the lion's share of the carries this week and offer an interesting one-two punch (Jackson the swivel-hipped 'back with nice range and good speed, Bird the bruiser with wheels that drew comparison's to Redskins great John Riggins during the ESPN GameDay telecast last year when Idaho played at Michigan State). This pair will get pushed heavily by senior Brian Flowers all season long.
DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD SOLIDIFYING
JC transfer Breyon Williams staked his claim to the cornerback position opposite Stanley Franks, but he didn't get it without a fierce battle from impressive redshirt freshman Eric Hunter. Hunter actually started most of fall camp, but Williams came on strong the last week and took the top spot. We anticipate both getting significant reps Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Backing up Franks (the 2006 NCAA Interceptions Champion) will be JC transfer T.J. Taylor who comes to Idaho with an outstanding background. The four cornerbacks for Idaho appear to give the Vandals much more depth at the position than originally anticipated. Behind the corners the safeties will be a combination of significant experience at the top of the chart (both starters from last year return), backed up by a pair of freshmen. Redshirt freshan Cary Jensen-Madison, a 6-2 athlete, will be backing up true sophomore Shiloh Keo. Keo had a phenominal true freshman season while being thrown into the fire as Idaho's top strong safety, and ended the year being named an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American. Senior Chris Smith quietly came to Idaho last year as a JC transfer, but early in the season made his presence felt and earned the starting nod in most of Idaho's games at free safety. Smith will be backed up by true freshman Dewey Hale, a versatile athlete out of Paris, Texas.