FOR THE 2010 SEASON THE VANDALS must replace four starters from last season's outstanding line, and face the daunting task of replacing concensus First Team All-American Mike Iupati. There is talent in the depth chart, but Idaho also signed a couple impact players as well, including mid-year transfer SAM TUPUA (6-3, 370), a 3-star All-Conference center who is preparing for spring drills at Idaho.

PLAYER PROFILE: Sam Tupua, OL, 6-3, 370

Idaho has a tall order for 2010: Rebuilding it's veteran line from 2009 that saw four seniors graduate, including one of the greatest ever to suit up for the University of Idaho in concensus First Team All-American Mike Iupati, currently projected as a first round NFL draft pick and considered the No.1 guard in the upcoming draft. Idaho has a solid pool of young talent to work with to fill the ranks, but the personnel losses are heavy and several position battles are likely to be waged well into fall camp.

Now is when a player can make significant strides, with dedication in the weightroom and conditioning. On the immediate horizon, the battle moves to the practice field in a couple months when the team reunites for four weeks of spring drills and annual Silver and Gold Spring Game. After that is the summer grind in preparation for fall camp and the 2010 season opener.

Entering into the mix of players competing for a position along Idaho's front line is mammoth Palomar College standout Sam Tupua, a 6-foot-3 All-Conference center who signed with the Vandals in December and has already enrolled at Idaho. Having Tupua in for spring drills should make the battle for the starting center position among the most hotly contested on the line.

Ranked a 3-star prospect by Scout.com, Tupua had many suitors this recruiting season, including three Division 1A offers on the table when he made his final University selection.

"It was between Idaho, Utah, Utah State, New Mexico State and Nevada," Tupua told GoVandals.net. "I had offers from Idaho, New Mexico State and Nevada [Tupua also had an offer from Southern Miss early in the recruiting process]. Utah State and Utah were there - they called me everyday, but they didn't offer me."

Tupua cited his comfort level on the Idaho campus and with the players in the program - including graduating senior defensive tackle Oga Faumui - as primary factors in his decision to sign with the Vandals. "The reason why I chose Idaho is I felt like I was at home on my trip," Tupua said. "Just being with all the boys; the Polynesian boys. It still feels like I'm in California, just the weather is different."

"Idaho was the school that showed me they wanted me the most," Tupua told Scout in a previous interview. "I took a visit there and just knew it was the place for me."

Running point for the Vandals in the recruiting process was linebackers coach Rob Christoff. He and the Idaho staff left little doubt what position they were recruiting Tupua to play. "He wanted me to play center, and that's what they [Idaho] recruited me as. I'll play anywhere they want me to play, but primarily center."

At Palomar Tupua was a dominant force up front, making all the line calls for an offense that averaged 420 yards and 31.9 points per game. Listed at 6-3, 320-pounds on the team roster, he helped guide the team to the state semi-finals. When Idaho unveiled their full recruiting class, few Vandal fans missed the fact that Tupua was now listed in the 370 range. Asked if he planned to play at that weight this fall, Tupua told GoVandals.net, "I would like to play at 320."

Having him in the program now and training for spring camp, combined with his work ethic, there is little doubt Tupua will likely hit that target.

"I think I'm a hard worker," Tupua told GoVandals.net when asked what his strongest attribute for the Vandal program would be this fall. It is that drive that also helped turn his life around and gave him the opportunities before him now at the University of Idaho.

"I never thought I would do anything like go to college," Tupua told Scout.com's Scott Eklund in a previous inteview. "But I actually did pretty well in school, and when the opportunity came to get out and make something of myself, I decided to go to Palomar.

"I was getting involved with the gangs. I hadn't joined or anything, but I didn't want that lifestyle either, so I decided to get away from the trouble. I'm just happy that I did because that decision has led me to where I am today."

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