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NEW ... 2011 Idaho Preview
Idaho QB Brian Reader
Idaho QB Brian Reader
Posted Jul 28, 2011 2011 Preview - Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Robb Akey
5th year: 17-33
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Idaho Players
1. QB Brain Reader, Sr.
2. LB Robert Siavii, Sr.
3. DT Michael Cosgrove, Sr.
4. CB Aaron Grymes, Jr.
5. LB Tre’Shawn Robinson, Sr.
6. P Bobby Cowan, Jr.
7. WR Preston Davis, Sr.
8. PK Trey Farquhar, Jr.
9. OT Tyrone Novikoff, Sr.
10. FS Gary Walker, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 1 Bowling Green
Sept. 10 North Dakota
Sept. 17 at Texas A&M
Sept. 24 Fresno State
Oct. 1 at Virgiia
Oct. 8 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 15 at NMSU
Oct. 29 Hawaii
Nov. 5 at San Jose State
Nov. 12 at BYU
Nov. 19 Utah State
Dec. 3 at Nevada

No, Idaho didn’t come up with a winning season, and it didn’t go to a bowl game, but 2010 was a relatively successful year for a program that’s not used to having a whole bunch of good luck go its way.

After winning a total of 18 games in eight years, the Vandals came up with a shocking 8-5 2009 campaign finished off with a Humanitarian Bowl win over Bowling Green. But even with the bowl victory, the season ended with a thud, losing four of the last five regular season games and with the defense getting its doors blown off by the Falcons. Even though last year’s team was full of veterans, it needed to come back with a strong season to show that two years ago wasn’t a fluke. It did.

The loss at Colorado State was costly and the Louisiana Tech game could’ve gone either way, but the Vandals beat the teams they were supposed to, came up with a nicer-than-it-looks road win over Western Michigan. While it might not seem like a big deal to beat teams like UNLV, San Jose State, and North Dakota, the Vandals didn’t always come up with those types of victories in the past. They weren’t a given.

Now Idaho has to once again prove itself. Last year’s team was loaded with veterans, but this year’s team has to replace seven starters on offense and has to hope for the defense to be stronger even with eight starters back. That’s not a given.

The Vandal D has been steamrolled over for the last several years, finishing 95th in the nation in both total D and yards last season, but that’s better than things were. The expectations are there to finally start to produce more on a regular basis, and not just against the mediocre teams, with defensive coordinator Mark Criner trying to get more out of the pass rush. The line should be fine and the linebackers have potential, and three starters are back in the secondary.

The offense will be the typical Idaho offense with lots of passing, lots of bombing away, and lots of work being done to keep up with the points the defense gives up. The O line has to be far, far better, after it was a strength in 2009, and Brian Reader has to prove he can handle the full-time starting quarterback gig.

The coaching staff is great at keeping the team moving forward and keeping things positive, the combination of PK Trey Farquhar and P Bobby Cowan is the best in the WAC, and now there’s a little success to build on.

With Boise State gone and the rest of the WAC star programs leaving next year, the league is there for the taking. Idaho might be the program to do it, but this year has to show it can be done.

What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. The Idaho front five had to deal with the loss of Mike Iupati last year, but his departure wasn’t the only reason the production wasn’t there. Idaho finished 118th in the nation in rushing, partly because of all the yards lost on sacks, giving up a whopping 45. Three starters are back including both tackles, Matt Cleveland and Tyrone Novikoff, and they have to be terrific with a new starting quarterback, uncertainty in the backfield, and with a new redshirt freshman center, Mike Marboe, stepping in to quarterback the line.

What to watch for on defense: Even more of a pass rush. In 2009 the Vandals were 114th in the nation in sacks and 115th in tackles for loss. The defense was miserable mostly because the front seven couldn’t generate any pressure and couldn’t come up with enough big plays. That changed last year with a more concerted effort to sell out and disrupt things from the outside, and it worked with 31 sacks and 88 tackles for loss – a HUGE improvement. Only two starters are back up front, but he the coaching staff is going to stay ultra-aggressive in an attempt to be even more disruptive. The D needs to come up with takeaways, and the only way that will happen is by getting to the quarterback on a regular basis.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line stops getting the quarterback killed. Idaho doesn’t pretend to run the ball on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t want to. The defense gives up points in bunches, so most of the passing production, especially against the better teams, has come in comeback mode, and that’s when defenses tee off to get into the backfield. The Vandal line has to do something, anything, to protect Brian Reader and give him time to operate. Last year Idaho attempted 549 passes and was sacked 45 times. Getting sacked 8% of the time, not to mention all the hurries, is unacceptable.

The schedule: The regular season finale is at Nevada, but Idaho can’t complain much about the WAC slate with three of the league’s better teams – Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, and Hawaii – coming to the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals have to win at least one of those, and coming up with two wins would be nice. While going to Texas A&M, Virginia, and BYU will be a problem, home games against Bowling Green and North Dakota should start out the season on a high note, and playing New Mexico State and San Jose State on the road isn’t all that bad. Four of the final six games are on the road, but there’s a two week break before facing Nevada.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Brian Reader. It’s not like he’s not ready for the gig. A backup behind Nathan Enderle, now of the Chicago Bears, the 6-3, 224-pound Reader has been holding a clipboard long enough. A JUCO transfer, he’s seasoned, prepared, and ready to put up big numbers after completing 59% of his passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns in his limited work. Consider it a shock if he doesn’t throw for 3,000 yards.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Robert Siavi. Michael Cosgove is the team’s top pass rusher and Gary Walker is a strong-looking free safety, but it’s Siavi’s defense to run. The veteran weakside linebacker isn’t all that big at 6-1 and 217 pounds, but he moves extremely well, has excellent range, and he’s extremely fast. He led the team with 91 stops last year and was one of the team’s best players at getting into the backfield.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Charles Smith. Aaron Lavarias came up with a huge season making 9.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, and he needs to be replaced to start on the other side of Benson Mayowa. Smith is a 6-6, 266-pound veteran backup with the quickness and the athleticism to make the jump up into a starting role, while fellow senior, Andre Ferguson, will also get every shot at the job after making 22 tackles.

The season will be a success if … Idaho gets back to a bowl game. While the team is inexperienced, the schedule is just light enough to hope for six wins, possibly seven. Beating North Dakota and Utah State is a must, and there can’t be mistakes on the road against New Mexico State or San Jose State. It’ll take some work, and there will need to be a few upsets, but the Vandals should be steady enough, and the program appears ready, to be a consistent six-win team.

Key game: Oct. 8 vs. Louisiana Tech. This will be one of the key big tests to see how far the program has come in a battle of two of the biggest holdovers in the new WAC world starting next year. It’ll be a shootout with both high-octane passing attacks sure to bomb away, but it’s also going to be key home game for Idaho, who doesn’t play another home game for 20 days. If the Vandals don’t win the WAC opener at home against Fresno State, this game will mean everything to any conference title hopes.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 45 for 309 yards – Idaho 31 for 216 yards
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 11.0 – Idaho 3.7
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Opponents 188.9 – Idaho 88.2

- 2011 Idaho Preview | 2011 Idaho Offense
- 2011 Idaho Defense | 2011 Idaho Depth Chart