Southern Idaho trench warrior picks Vandals

Last week confirmed that Snake River Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year and All-State selection TYLER KUDER (6-4, 285) out of Payette had officially pledged to the Idaho staff. His dominance on the field the last two years netted him Class 3A First Team All-State honors on both sides of the trench, and he'll get his shot at immediate playing time on the Vandal D-Line.

Last season the Vandals recruited aggressively to boost team speed across the board. Speed will be a premium again this year, but Idaho is putting a heavy emphasis on fortifying the offensive and defensive lines this recruiting cycle. The haul of hosses already committed in this recruiting class is impressive, with both sides of the trenches getting targetted attention.

On the defensive side of the ball, the pursuit of monsterous star lineman Tyler Kuder by Idaho has been relentless. Payette (Ida.) High School isn't normally a hotbed of Division 1A football talent, but what Kuder brings to the table is unmistakable. And at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds with a trophy cabinet loaded with state and conference honors, the potential is off the charts.

The list of honors summarized below speaks for itself:

- First Team All-State, OL (2009)
- First Team All-State, DL (2009)
- Second Team All-State, P (2009)
- Class 3A SRV Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
- First Team All-SRV, OL (2009)
- First Team All-SRV, DL (2009)
- First Team All-State, OL (2008)
- Second Team All-State, LB (2008)
- First Team All-SRV, OL (2008)
- First Team All-SRV, LB (2008)

The list is lengthy, but something to consider is the following. As a 6-4, 260 pound junior in 2008, Kuder lined up on the offensive line AND at linebacker for the Pirates, earning Second Team All-State (Class 3A) honors at linebacker and First Team All-State honors on the offensive line.

The word "linebacker" is not a misprint.

Not only is 6-4, 260 exceptional for a high school junior -- period -- it's virtually unheard of for a player of that size to line up at linebacker. But Kuder did and he excelled at the position.

With more players capable of playing linebacker his senior year, Kuder moved back to defensive line and flourished throughout the 2009 season. Per The Idaho Statesman (from the All-Idaho Team individual bios), Kuder's defensive statistics were eye-popping: 54 solo tackles, 15 assisted tackles, 15 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, five quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. For his efforts he was also recognized as the Snake River Valley Defensive Player of the Year.

He led the Pirates to an 8-3 record and a share of the conference championship, and an historic trip to the playoffs. "Our team didn't accomplish quite what we wanted." Kuder told "We wanted to make it to the state game, we made it to the semi-finals. We're happy with where we got, but we wanted to go to the state championship game."

As far as his senior season was concerned, Kuder was still reflective of his last game. "Personally I did alright, but I could have done better. I keep thinking to myself, that last game there was a lot of errors I made. If I would have done this we would have scored, or held them to less than what they scored."

Despite the disappointing end to the season, Kuder became a part of Payette High School lore, as the Pirates made their first appearance in school history in a state semi-final game.

Without a doubt, Kuder was a major reason behind their unprecedented success this fall.

AS WOULD BE EXPECTED OF A PLAYER OF HIS CALIBER, Kuder got his share of looks from the region's Universities this recruiting season. Throughout the process Idaho, led by defensive coordinator Mark Criner, has been in hot pursuit. Other suitors along the way included Washington State and Boise State.

So what ultimately tilted the table towards Idaho?

"After Boise State contacted me and I went there, that basically finalized it," Kuder said. "They came to me late, and U of I has been looking at me for a long time. They [Idaho] just seemed like they wanted me more. Idaho offered me a full ride, and BSU offered me a grayshirt."

Washington State on the other hand began fading away as Idaho cranked up it's contact with Kuder during the fall, with the Vandals making their strong and persistent interest in the southern Idaho star abundantly clear.

The overall impression for Kuder throughout the process also began to materialize. "The U of I wants me to be part of the family."

The Idaho coaching staff's reaction was priceless when they finally got the call they had been anticipating from Kuder all fall. "They went crazy," Tyler told "When I called and told [Coach Criner] I commit they went crazy, geeked out on the phone, said ‘I'm proud of you' and ‘way to be a Vandal' -- all of that."

Did Idaho's dramatic turnaround this season and bowl appearance influence his decision?

"It kind of did," Kuder stated. "But before the season even started I was leaning towards [Idaho], because the whole coaching staff seemed like they relate like a family does with the football team. And then with their winning season, that's pretty nice too."

But the results on the field this year made an impression. "Akey said he's going to turn it around, and he's proving that he's doing it."

So is there a particular team out there, that if they offered, he'd consider? Turns out there is one.

"Oregon," Kuder said. "Oregon's my favorite college team. I've always liked them, and if they offered me I'd take it."

KUDER IS BEING RECRUITED TO THE VANDAL DEFENSIVE LINE, but what position exactly he will work into remains to be seen. "We'll figure it out, but they're looking more towards a defensive tackle. They said they want to try to get me bigger, and I'm alright with that. They said they want to try to get me up to at least 300."

The Idaho coaching staff will have quite an athlete to start with when he makes it to the Moscow campus. His weightroom numbers are impressive by any standard, reporting a bench of 375, a squat of 600, and a 320 clean.

From a previous GVN report, that process could start sooner rather than later. "I'm going to enroll [at Idaho ] this summer and then they'll find out where they want to put me, and if I'm going to redshirt next year or play."

The plan to enroll early is to get used to the college transition as soon as possible. "It was their [his parent's] idea basically," Kuder told "They want me to get used to the college life when there's hardly anyone there, to get used to it a little bit - get used to the team - instead of just going in the fall and jumping right into it."

Asked to describe his playing style, Kuder pointed to a team-first mentality as his strongest asset. "I'm not the type of player that thinks he runs the team, or is the team," Kuder told GVN. "I‘m just the type of football player that will do whatever I can for the team, wherever they need me."

Playing time as a true freshman is not as high a priority for Kuder right now as is getting valuable time on the field. "Right now it doesn't really matter [playing immediately]. If they want me to play, I'll play. But I'd rather have four great years instead of one okay year and three good years."

With so much potential, it will be hard to keep an athlete of Kuder's exceptional caliber off the field for long, with the potential to begin making an impact immediately next fall.

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