Wrapping Up 2002

With the 2002 season now complete and in the books, the editors at VandalVenue.com would like to weigh in with our picks for MVP this year. Despite the team's struggles, there were alot of new faces being counted on to fill gaps this year who played well, especially on defense where newcomer <b>Kody Kraus</b> made an immediate impact as a starting Defensive End. We also take a speculative look at who we expect to see back in the Silver and Gold next fall.

VANDALVENUE.COM HANDS OUT THE HARDWARE...

With the season complete, we at VandalVenue.com would like to acknowledge the players that we, as fans, thought played the best for the Silver and Gold this fall. There is nothing scientific to this, and its mainly an acknowledgement of the players that led the team and/or the conference statistically, and played the most consistently, week-after-week.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Blair Lewis. This is, of course, a no-brainer. Blair, our senior runningback, led the conference in touchdowns scored per game (averaging 7.2 points per game), averaged 93 yards rushing per game on the season (4th in the Conference), and had a highlight reel worth of fabulous plays this fall. The 50+ yard touchown dashes, a 225 yard rushing game, and truely inspirational play were the norm with Blair. He will be a tough athlete to replace, both emotionally and athletically. Honorable Mention: Josh Jelmberg. This senior wide receiver, before his injury against MTSU, was among the best in the country. Each week he could be counted on for clutch catches, and losing him for 3 full games had its impact.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Jordan Kramer. The senior linebacker out of Parma, Idaho had a huge season, leading the Conference in tackles (127 on the season) and making Idaho's All-Time Top 10 list for tackles in a single season. In addition, he had 14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, an interception, a pass breakup, plus he forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. The only thing he didn't do this year was block a kick. He had a great season under a NEW defensive system, and was truely a leader on the field.

SPECIAL TEAMS MVP: We have a split. First, the obvious choice is Ryan Downes, the junior punter who averaged 41.8 yards per kick, and could most consistently be counted on to deliver every weekend. But we also want to acknowledge the entire Kick-Off unit for Idaho. A year ago, Idaho seemed to practically give up a kick-off for a touchdown every weekend. This year, Idaho did not give up a single TD on a kick, and sailed several into the endzone. Honorable Mention: Keith Stamps, senior field goal kicker, improved significantly this past off-season. He was perfect on PATs this year, leading the conference by going an impressive 36 of 36.


FACES TO LOOK FOR NEXT FALL

Although the team battled consistency issues all season, there were several individual performers who had admirable seasons. Redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Anderson had a solid rookie season, ending the year #3 in tackles as a backup strongside linebacker (54 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and an interception). He will definitely be one to watch in the years ahead. Classmate Jeff Stowe also made an impact this year as a redshirt freshman at wide receiver. He ended the year #4 on the team in reception yards per game, scoring 2 touchdowns with a long of 36 yards and an average of 12 yards per catch. Replacing senior Josh Jelmberg will be tough, but Jeff has 3 more seasons ahead of him, and he has the looks of a go-to receiver early in his career.

Also making an impact were true freshmen Kelly Talavou on the defensive line, and Keith Greer at tightend. These 2 came to Idaho with high expectations by this coaching staff, and both delivered immediately.

Among upperclassmen, newcomer Cedric Thompson was amazing at times returning kicks for Idaho. He set a new mark for kickoff returns at Idaho this year, and was #2 all-time in KO return yards for a season. Again, he will be fun to watch next year, and will probably start making a bigger impact at receiver as well. Third year defensive tackle, junior Brian Howard, began asserting himself up front, and showed his versatility by switching between defensive end and defensive tackle. He ended the year tied with Mike Anderson for third in tackles, #2 in tackles for loss, #2 in sacks, #3 in pass breakups, and also recovered 2 fumbles. Others, such as cornerback Rod Bryant, quarterback Brian Lindgren, receiver Orlando Winston, linebackers Chad Kodama and Patrick Libey, and defensive ends Kody Kraus and Brandon Kania had solid seasons, most as first year starters.



LOOKING AHEAD TO 2003

Idaho's football team has had its fair share of struggles in 2002, but from outward appearances it seems like we have more solid depth than we've had in a long time. The offensive line, tightends, quarterbacks, wide receivers, defensive line, and linebackers have a solid enough mixture of upperclassmen and youngsters that Idaho can focus on recruiting youth to develop at those positions. That is a first since Tom Cable took over this team 3 years ago.

Running backs, the defensive backfield, and to a lesser extent the wide receivers, will probably be looking for a mixture of youth and JC experience for recruiting. But the holes that were evident throughout the team in the recent past, particularly on defense, are getting smaller.

Below is a look at whom we expect to see back for Idaho next season.

OFFENSE (8 Returning Starters)
At times, Idaho's offense this season was impressive. Unfortunately, consistency was a major issue throughout the season. This year Idaho broke-in 2 first-year starters at Wide Receiver, lost the top 2 players on the Tightend depth chart to injuries before the season even started (and were forced to start a JC transfer and true freshman), and although junior Quarterback Brian Lindgren had started 3 games in 2001, consistency became an issue for him as well. Even with 4 returning starters on the offensive line, Idaho had stretches in games where they would oscillate between dominating and struggling.

Next season Idaho returns 8 players with starting experience, including the entire Tightend depth chart, Quarterback Brian Lindgren, Wide Receiver Orlando Winston, and 3 starters on the offensive line. The biggest shoes to fill will belong to a couple graduating seniors in Running Back Blair Lewis, the emotional spark plug for the team, and Wide Receiver Josh Jelmberg, possibly the most consistent player on offense before his injury against MTSU. Returning running back Malfred Shaw started 6 games last season, and had moments of brilliance, including a 51 yard touchdown run against Oregon. Receivers Winston and Jeff Stowe (sophomore-to-be) both saw extensive action this fall, and should be weapons next fall. Senior-to-be wide receiver Cedric Thompson will be one of several receivers looked to to try and stretch the field. And, the "massive" depth issues we had at offensive line in years past dissolve, as an army of sophomores and redshirt freshmen look to begin filling the depth chart next fall.

Note: * = Walk-on last fall; [bold] = returning starter
OFFENSIVE LINE RECEIVERS
Jake Scott, 6-5, 283, Sr
Jason Cobb, 6-4, 298, Sr
Matt Martinez, 6-2, 304, Sr

Kyle Stewart, 6-3, 296, Sr
Michael Togafau, 6-3, 291, Jr
Tony Kiel, 6-3, 336, Jr
Jake Leachman, 6-4, 271, So
Drew Burton, 6-3, 298, So
Ryan Waage, 6-4, 308, So
Kelly Adams, 6-4, 322, So
Jarrod Schulte, 6-3, 260, So
Matt Newell, 6-8, 285, RS-Fr
Jade Tadvick, 6-5, 298, RS-Fr
Hank Therien, 6-7, 317, RS-Fr
Nate VanderPol, 6-6, 290, RS-Fr

Possible addition(s)...
Geoff Zuber, 6-4, 290, RS-Fr
Orlando Winston, 6-0, 187, Sr
Jeff Stowe, 6-0, 198, So
Cedric Thompson, 5-8, 175, Sr
Jimmy Labita, 5-10, 166, Jr
Robert Nembhard, 5-9, 170, So
Wendell Octave, 6-0, 185, RS-Fr
*Rory Tipton, 6-0, 165, Jr
*Justin Barnes, 6-1, 195, RS-Fr

Possible addition(s)...
Brandon Mascorro, 5-9, 179, RS-Fr
Robert Davis, 6-4, 195, RS-Fr


TIGHTENDS
Michael McCoy, 6-2, 242, Sr
Kelly Nead, 6-4, 236, Sr

Keith Greer, 6-2, 250, So
Luke Smith-Anderson, 6-5, 240, So
Brendan Floyd, 6-6, 235, Jr
Tyler Scott, 6-3, 260, So


QUARTERBACKS TAILBACKS/FULLBACKS
Brian Lindgren, 6-4, 208, Sr
Michael Harrington, 6-3, 194, So
*Rory Cordial, 6-0, 197, Jr
*Drew Pearce, 6-4, 206, RS-Fr

Malfred Shaw, 5-10, 212, Sr
Zach Gerstner, 5-10, 202, Sr
Shung Peoples, 5-10, 182, Jr
*Mike Lowry, 5-10, 196, RS-Fr


FULLBACKS
Nate Griffin, 5-11, 236, Sr
Brian Yarno, 6-0, 236, Jr
Willie Sipoloa, 6-2, 259, Jr
Andrew Stobart, 6-3, 240, RS-Fr
*Ryan Mann, 6-1, 193, Jr



DEFENSE (7 Returning Starters)
Although it was subtle, Idaho's defense made significant strides this year to improve on its 2001 performance. Big plays undermined an otherwise solid performance by this rebuilt unit, as 4 JC transfers started for Idaho most of the season (DE Kody Kraus, DT Talifaia Atoe, CB Rod Bryant, DB Darryl Murphy), 3 redshirt freshmen saw significant playing time (LB Mike Anderson, DE Mike Bonelli, and DB Nate Nichols), and one true freshman broke into the starting rotation on the defensive line (Kelly Talavou). At one point, Idaho started 5 first-year Vandals on defense. Considering this group's lack of experience, we believe they made a significant improvement this fall.

Among other things, they reduced the number of points allowed from 45 to 36 points per game. In conference play, they allowed just 27 points per game. They doubled interceptions (8 this year), practically doubled sacks (26 this year, 17 last year), and had over 80 tackles for loss. Four of Idaho's defensive linemen (including Brian Howard and Brandon Kania) ended in the SBC Top 8 in tackles by defensive linemen. Brian Howard was #3 in the conference in tackles by defensive linemen (54, including 5 sacks). All-in-all, first year Defensive Coordinator Ed Lamb appears to have Idaho pointed in the right direction, and he's doing it with an impressive rotation of youth and experience (Idaho rotated its top 8 defensive linemen and top 6 linebackers every game, all season).

Idaho returns 7 starters from this unit next fall. The defensive line and linebackers have a better mix of youth and experience then we've had in recent years, and recruiting should be able to focus on bringing in highschoolers to develop for the future at these positions. By early accounts, the defensive backfield will likely need to bring in a couple players from the JC ranks to help improve depth next fall, but the focus can be on recruiting highschool talent to take over in the years ahead.

Note: * = Walk-on last fall, [bold] = returning starter
DEFENSIVE TACKLES DEFENSIVE ENDS
Brian Howard, 6-3, 285, Sr
Kelly Talavou, 6-2, 310, So
Jason Jones, 6-4, 325, Sr
Johnny Parra, 6-3, 310, Jr
Jason Dutton, 6-2, 285, Sr
Zane Hines, 6-1, 250, Sr
Geoff Zuber, 6-4, 290, RS-Fr
*Peter Foss, 6-2, 290, Jr

Possible addition(s)...
Michael Togafau, 6-3, 291, Jr
Tyler Scott, 6-3, 260, So

Kody Kraus, 6-3, 235, Sr
Brandon Kania, 6-3, 236, Jr

Mike Bonelli, 6-2, 236, So
Jeff Edwards, 6-3, 245, So

Possible addition(s)...
Tyler Scott, 6-3, 260, So
Andrew Stobart, 6-3, 240, RS-Fr


LINEBACKERS DEFENSIVE BACKS
Chad Kodama, 6-2, 235, Sr
Patrick Libey, 6-2, 240, Sr

Jordan Lampos, 5-10, 238, Sr
Mike Anderson, 6-2, 235, So
Tim Bertalot, 6-1, 230, So
Jaron Williams, 6-1, 210, RS-Fr
*Cole Snyder, 5-11, 216, RS-Fr
*Nathan Zody, 5-11, 226, RS-Fr

Possible addition(s)...
Nate Nichols, 6-2, 206, So

Rod Bryant, 6-1, 185, Sr
Darryl Murphy, 5-11, 185, Sr
Robert Ortega, 6-1, 200, Sr^^^

Chad Troxel, 5-6, 175, Sr
Simeon Stewart, 5-8, 175, Jr
Nate Nichols, 6-2, 206, So
Antjuan Tolbert, 5-11, 174, Sr
Ben Allen, 6-0, 190, Jr
Nathaniel Banke, 6-1, 178, So
Brandon Mascorro, 5-9, 179, RS-Fr
Robert Davis, 6-4, 195, RS-Fr
*Ace Davis, 6-0, 200, RS-Fr


^^^ Robert may return to the team next fall...if so, he would be the 8th returning starter.



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