2012 Idaho Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Idaho Vandals Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know:
The defense made a few improvements, statistically getting better against the run, but that was mostly because everyone bombed away on the secondary. The Vandal pass rush has to be far more consistent, and the pass defense has to start picking off more passes and making more big plays. There's good size up front and decent versatility and experience in the back seven, but the defense that finished 107th in the nation and 110th against the pass has to find something that works.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Robert Siavii
Tackles: Gary Walker, 109
Sacks: Benson Mayowa, 3
Interceptions: Several with 1
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Benson Mayowa
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NT Karel Kearney
Best pro prospect: Siavii
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Siavii, 2) FS Gary Walker, 3) LB Conrad Scheidt
Strength of the defense: Experience, Front Seven Size
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Pass Rush
The 6-4, 305-pound QuayShawne Buckley is a big, physical presence who started in six games and was arguably the team's best defensive lineman making 38 tackles with a sack and five tackles for loss. Now with experience to go along with his size, he should be the anchor up front and one of the WAC's top defenders.
The Vandals need pass rushers, and it'll start with getting more out of senior Benson Mayowa, a 6-3, 252-pound veteran who has been a key factor up front for the last two years, but only came up with three sacks and 17 tackles as a spot starter. Hurt for part of the season, he wasn't quite right. However, he's a speed rusher with a good burst for his size. Sophomore Maxx Forde will get a long look at the starting job on the other side after spending last year working behind Charles Smith Jr. The 6-5, 261-pound Forde got time in every game with 15 tackles, but he didn't get to the quarterback. Smart and big, he has the frame and the tools to be good against the run.
The hope was for sophomore Karel Kearney to become a factor right away on the inside, and he held down the nose tackle job making 15 tackles in his time as a spot starter. He had a hard time staying healthy, but he's a strong 6-2 and 298 pounds with just enough quickness to potentially be an interior pass rusher.
It'll be a fight and a rotation for Michael Cosgrove's starting defensive tackle job. 6-6, 298-pound sophomore Jesse Davis is more like a 3-4 end than a true tackle, but he worked inside as a part-time backup making nine tackles in his limited time. Athletic, he can work anywhere up front, while the 6-4, 295-pound Dontae Scott is more of a true nose tackle. The former JUCO transfer was a good pass rusher for Golden West College, but he was used last year to gum things up on the inside against the run making 17 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He can play either tackle spot.
Former JUCO transfer Aaron Lazaro worked as a scout teamer last season, but the 6-4, 298-pounder from Southwestern College is a potential pass rusher with good athleticism for his size. When he gets his chance, he'll make plays on want-to, while 6-4, 262-pound junior Vince Keener made six tackles and has good pass rushing upside on the outside. The tools are there, and now he needs to be a bigger part of the rotation.
Watch Out For … Kearney. He was expected to be the key part of the line early on last year, and while he had an okay first season, he has the upside to grow into an anchor on the nose.
Strength: Size. There isn't a lightweight in the front four, and it showed with an improved run defense last season thanks to good bulk and strength across the board. There isn't a whole bunch of speed and athleticism, but there's lots of girth.
Weakness: Pure pass rushers. There were plenty of tackles for loss last season, and the run defense improved, but the pass rush hasn't been there and there isn't a sure-thing star up front to get into the backfield. There's no one opposing quarterbacks will have to worry about.
Outlook: Technically the run defense improved, but that was only because the Vandals didn't play a slew of teams that could pound away. However, at the end of the year, BYU, Utah State, and Nevada ran wild. While starting holes have to be filled, there should be one of the best rotations in the Robb Akey era, and there's enough size to hold up against the stronger O lines. The pass rush has to improve to take another step forward.
Unit Rating: 5
The linebacking corps gets a huge boost with the healthy return of Robert Siavii, a safety-sized 6-1, 227-pounder who missed all of last year with a knee injury. Fortunately, the injury happened early enough that he had time to heal, and now he might be one of the team's leading playmakers again after making 91 stops with 3.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2010. Very fast and built for the weakside, he's solid in pass coverage and is a guided missile of a hitter in space.
Senior Conrad Scheidt is the only returning starter with 6-1, 231-pound size and the experience to be a dominant force on the outside. He started every game but one on the strongside finishing third on the team with 93 tackles with two sacks and eight tackles for loss. The Hawaiian has been a key special teamer, but now he'll be used even more as a pass rusher.
Looking to take over for leading tackler Tre'Shawn Robinson in the middle is senior Sua "Sam" Tuala, a smallish 6-0, 226-pound hitter who worked as a reserve making nine tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. A former JUCO transfer from San Francisco College, he was the NorCal Defensive Player of the Year making 78 tackles a few seasons ago.
Several young players will get their chance in the rotation. 6-3, 240-pound sophomore Jeffrey Bediako is a lightning fast prospect from The Netherlands who's back and healthy after missing all of last year hurt. Twin brothers Jeremiah Walters and Joshua Walters will see time on the outside. Jeremiah is a 6-3, 226-pound redshirt freshman with outstanding athleticism and burst, while the 6-1, 202-pound Joshua is more of a free safety with the speed to do a little of everything.
Watch Out For … the return of Siavii. He was one of the WAC's top playmakers before he got hurt, and now he's back and ready to go. He'll pick up the slack left by Tre'Shawn Robinson and Korey Toomer.
Strength: Hitters. Idaho linebackers can all provide the pop and they're all physical. While they make too many plays down the field, they hold up well. There's a nice blend of youthful athleticism and experience to form a steady rotation.
Weakness: Run defense against the speed teams. The Idaho linebackers couldn't figure out Utah State's ground game and struggled against Nevada's. The linebackers might be able to pop, but the run defense stats aren't nearly good enough.
Outlook: The linebacking corps has nice potential now that Siavii is back. Tuala is a hitter, Scheidt is a nice veteran who should do even more on the outside. The depth needs to develop, but there are some good young players to get excited about. This should be one of the WAC's better linebacking corps as long as everyone can stay healthy.
Unit Rating: 5
The secondary was a disaster last season, finishing last in the WAC in both pass defense and pass efficiency defense, and now it's on the rest of the secondary to be better around Gary Walker. The 6-0, 203-pound senior free safety can play either safety spot with the strength to come up with good support against the run and the speed and quickness to be decent against the pass. He finished second on the team with 109 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss, but he didn't come up with any picks and only broke up three passes. The all-star potential is there if can be more of a ball-hawk.
6-2, 206-pound junior Trey Williams spent last year as the main strong safety backup behind Quin Ashley while also working as a strong special teamer. He can be used in either safety spot or as a nickel back, making 27 tackles, but he needs to make more plays when the ball is in the air, as does 6-1, 202-pound sophomore Bradley Njoku. Like Williams, Njoku was also a good special teamer and a key backup with 23 tackles and a pick-six. Extremely fast, he has a world of upside.
Back in the safety rotation is senior Thaad Thompson, a 6-3, 217-pound former JUCO transfer from Ellsworth College who was supposed to be a huge part of the equation right away last season. He suffered a knee injury and was out for the year, but now he's back to bring some size and some thump.
Senior Aaron Grymes has to be more of a playmaker against the pass. There aren't any problems against the run, making 55 tackles, but he only came up with one pick with seven broken up passes. At 5-11 and 183 pounds he has good size, and he's one of the team's fastest players with 10.8 speed in the 100.
Junior Tracy Carter was one of the team's top backup defensive backs making 23 stops with a pick and a 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Hawaii. At 5-11 and 178 pounds he has decent size with the ability to work as a nickel or dime defender. He'll battle it out with sophomore Dion Bass for corner time. The 5-9, 197-pound Bass – brother of RB Ryan Bass - got on the field as a true freshman and finished with 12 tackles.
Watch Out For … Ma'ne Manaea. The 5-11, 175-pounder is only a true freshman, but he was also the team's top recruit with the talent to play anywhere in the secondary. There might not be a more talented defensive back on the roster.
Strength: Experience and versatility. Even with two starters gone, the Vandals are loaded with players who saw just enough time to be ready to do more. The safeties are big, but the corners are versatile enough to move in and out of spots at either safety or in nickel and dime positions.
Weakness: Pass defense. The Vandal secondary was lit up, coming up with just nine picks on the year and just three in the final seven games. Fresno State bombed away for five scores and Nevada ended the year with six touchdown passes. The defense allowed fewer than 200 yards just three times.
Outlook: The pass rush wasn't there and the secondary suffered because of it. However, the defensive backs didn't make the plays needed to turn games around. There's experience, depth, speed and options, but the production has to be better. Idaho can't make a big step up with the worst pass defense in the WAC.
Unit Rating: 4.5
The Vandals have a weapon with one of the nation's best punters. Senior Bobby Cowan is a 6-5, 229-pound blaster who averaged 46.4 yards per kick while putting 17 inside the 20 and forcing 27 fair catches. If he's not the best punter in America, he'll be a close second and will be on the short list of Ray Guy candidates.
Senior Trey Farquhar is automatic from inside the 40, but struggled a bit on his deeper kicks. He has a good deep leg, but he has to hit on more midrange shots with all five of his misses coming from beyond the 40. While he nailed a 55-yard bomb against San Jose State, he also missed three of his final six kicks from 44, 48, and 47 yards away.
The punt return game was among the best in the nation with Justin Veltung averaging 16.8 yards per try with two scores. He's back to handle the workload, and should be used on kickoff returns from time to time as well after averaging 21.5 yards per try. Corner Tracy Carter will get more opportunities.
Watch Out For … Farquhar to be better from deep. He has the leg, and he has the dome to work with, and he has the experience. He doesn't have to connect on all of his 50-yarders, but he should be more consistent from 49 and in.
Strength: Cowan. Considering the problems with the Idaho offense, he was a savior with his ability to get the team out of trouble with one big kick. He has unlimited range and next-level upside.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. A complete and utter disaster, the Vandals allowed a ridiculous 28.5 yards per kickoff return, struggling time and again to keep teams deep.
Outlook: The coverage teams have to be better, and there could stand to be more pop on kickoff returns, but the Vandal special teams should be among the best in the WAC. Cowan is a next-level kicker, Veltung is an elite returner, and Farquhar is a reliable mid-range kicker.
Unit Rating: 7
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