Opponent Preview - Idaho State Bengals

It will look a little different around the football program in Pocatello this year. Idaho State brings in a new head coach with John Zamberlin, who moves up to the D I-AA level after a successful ten year stint at Central Washington and the team must find a new quarterback.

Idaho State Bengals
Big Sky
 

2006 Record: (2-9, 1-7)
Coach: John Zamberlin (1st year at Idaho State, 63-41 overall)



Starters Returning: 14 (5 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists)

Offensive Starters Lost: QB Matt Gutierrez, WR Akilah Lacey, TE Brandon Mennear, OL Clifton Buckway, OL Sam Downs, OL Shawn Oram

Offensive Starters Returning: RB Josh Barnett, WR Clyde Logan, WR Eddie Thompson, OL Evan Dietrich-Smith, OL George Yarno

Defensive Starters Lost: DE James Drake, LB Atelea Raass, LB Pago Togafau, S Erik Stoll

Defensive Starters Returning: DT Vilami Akoteu, DT Geo Simmons, DE Joel Janke, LB Ryan Phipps, CB D.J. Clark, CB Anthony Melvin, S Terrence Calloway

Starting Specialists Lost: None

Starting Specialists Returning: K Branden Jones, P Dan Zeidman

 

For starters: It will look a little different around the football program in Pocatello this year. Idaho State brings in a new head coach with John Zamberlin, who moves up to the D I-AA level after a successful ten year stint at Central Washington and the team must find a new quarterback. Replacing former Michigan Wolverine Matt Gutierrez under center is the main problem facing the new coach, but he does have enough talent around to improve on the 2-9 record of a year ago.

 

Offense:   Gutierrez did not light the Big Sky on fire, throwing for 2,237 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but he was a steady leader on the field. Worse than just losing Gutierrez is the fact that there is very little experience ready to take over the starting job. Luke Butler, a sophomore, is the only quarterback with collegiate experience at this level and he completed half of his 12 passes he attempted in 2006. Redshirt freshman Russel Hill and sophomore junior college transfer Kyle Blum will be in the mix as well. Highly touted incoming freshman Evan Mazzochi will be given the opportunity to play, but it is likely Butler's job to lose.

Whoever the quarterback may be, he will have some quality receivers to help him out, despite the loss of top catcher Akilah Lacey. Eddie Thompson was on his way to great season before going down with an injury in game seven. Now fully healed, Thompson will be the go-to-guy. Clyde Logan and Jaron Taylor are proven players and Idaho State seemingly has an endless group of underclassmen and junior college transfers that have the potential for a breakout campaign.

But in all reality, ISU will have to depend on the running game more this year. With the return of Josh Barnett, who rushed for 1,117 yards in 2006, the Bengals should be effective on the ground. The concern, however, is that Barnett had no help in the running attack. Ken Cornist was disappointing last year after a solid freshman season and bruiser Clint Knickrehm rarely got an opportunity. Those two need to be more effective to help compliment Barnett, or the Idaho State ground game could be in trouble. The absence of three starting linemen does not help either. However, the return of center George Yarno, alone will make the group very effective.

 

Defense:  The defensive line struggled at times in 2006, but the return of three starters and the addition of three junior college transfers should put an end to those struggles. Geo Simmons, Joel Janke and Viliami Akoteu will have to fight for their starting jobs with the influx of talent. With the absence of the team's top two tacklers in linebackers Pago Togafau and Atelea Raass, there is some concern about finding effective replacements. Sterling Mennear, a part-time starter in 2006, will be asked to join former Oregon Duck Ryan Phipps in the unit. Returnees Nic Edgson and Ash Nyong-Dunham, along with junior college transfers Mike Jablonsky and Brad Rife, will add depth to the unit.

The secondary will be the strength of the defense. D.J. Clark and Anthony Melvin are back on the corners and Terrance Calloway returns to his safety spot. There is also a bevy of experience ready to come in off the bench, but none of them may be more exciting than junior college transfer James Francis. The junior out of Diablo Valley Junior College is highly touted and is expected to make an impact right away.

 

The Bottom Line:  Idaho State will not win the Big Sky and it would take a vast improvement to even place in the top half of the league. Yet, the Bengals do have a history of competing in big games against D-IA competition. The team beat Utah State in 2000 and almost again in 2001 and nearly knocked off Kentucky in 2005. It will take a miraculous effort in 2007 for Idaho State to beat most of the teams on their schedule, but simply finding some improvement is enough to move the program back into the right direction under the new coaching staff.

 

Schedule:

09/08 Southern Oregon
09/15at Oregon State
09/22 Eastern Washington
09/29at Montana State
10/06Northern Colorado
10/13at Northern Arizona
10/20Portland State
10/27Cal Poly
11/03at Weber State
11/10Montana
11/17 at Sacramento State

 

Links: ISUBengals.com (official) | BigSkyConf.com | TheISUBengalDen

MediaIdaho State Journal | Idaho Statesman | The ISU Bengal (student)

 


C George Yarno is a preseason all-Big sky selection.


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