2013 Idaho Preview - Defense

Posted May 26, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Idaho Vandals Defense

Idaho Vandals

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Idaho Preview | 2013 Idaho Offense
- 2013 Idaho Defense | 2013 Idaho Depth Chart
What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee has lots and LOTS of work to do. The positives are on the defensive front with Maxx Forde leading a decent group of promising ends, and the tackle options are in place to do a bit more against the run. The back seven is a huge issue with a slew of JUCO transfers needing to become instant starters at linebacker, while the secondary has to replace three starters and also has to hope for a slew of newcomers to make a big splash. After struggling with the pass rush and getting ripped apart by any decent passing attack, it's going to be a struggle with so much turnover.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Bradley Njoju, 43
Sacks: Maxx Forde, 4
Interceptions: Solomon Dixon, 4

Star of the defense: Junior DE Maxx Forde
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Jesse Davis
Unsung star on the rise: Junior S Bradley Njoku
Best pro prospect: Davis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Forde, 2) Njoku, 3) DE Vince Keener
Strength of the defense: Defensive End, JUCO Transfers
Weakness of the defense: Linebacker, Defensive Back

Defensive Line

The loss of the best player on the line, QuayShawne Buckley, after getting booted from the program, shouldn't hurt too much if junior Karel Kearney can hold up on the inside. At 6-2 and 301 pounds he's built for the nose, and he's quick enough to be a decent interior pass rusher, but he has to stay healthy and needs to make a much bigger impact when he gets his chances making just seven tackles last year. He'll combine with Ryan Edwards, a 6-2, 294-pound sophomore who turned into a decent reserve making nine tackles with two fumble recoveries. One of the team's strongest players, he should be able to hold up inside without a problem.

6-6, 286-pound junior Jesse Davis is more like a big 3-4 end than a true tackle, but he worked inside over the last few years with the combination of size and athleticism making 13 tackles with three tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. Against Louisiana Tech he took a fumble 86 yards before getting caught.

The pass rush needs to be stronger, but it'll only happen if junior Maxx Forde comes up with another strong season. The 6-5, 261-pound end tied for the team lead with four sacks to go along with 37 tackles. Smart and big, he has the frame to be good against the run, and he showed a decent burst at times. He'll start on one side, while 6-3, 240-pound sophomore Quinton Bradley will likely get the call on the other side after serving as Benson Mayowa's understudy. A nice part of the rotation, he came up with 21 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. With more of a role, he'll be a pass rusher. Senior Vince Keener is another strong part of the rotation with 6-4, 263-pound size and decent production making 20 tackles with two sacks and six tackles for loss.

Watch Out For … Anthony Rice, an undersized 6-2, 251-pound JUCO transfer from Hartnell Community College with a good burst and pass rushing skills. Always working and with a great motor, he should be able to find a role right away if he can get to the quarterback.
Strength: Experience. This was a young, emerging group last season that tried to find the right combination. The rest of the defense has a severe experience problem, but this should be a strength with a nice rotation.
Weakness: Pass rush. It's been a problem for a while. The Vandals came up with nine sacks in their first four games – with three against Bowling Green, LSU and Wyoming – and then the production went bye-bye with a mere five over the final eight games. Ford, Bradley and Keener have to shine.
Outlook: There should finally, finally be a big improvement. Losing Buckley isn't a plus, but almost everyone of note is back. This group should be better at getting into the backfield with a nice rotation and decent athleticism to keep everyone fresh. It's not going to be a dominant force, but the front four should do a decent job with a little more time.
Unit Rating: 4.5


The Vandals have to replace all the top linebackers, and so it's on to the JUCO ranks to fill the holes. 6-3, 235-pound Juan Martinez is a big option from City College of San Francisco with tremendous speed and range. He's an almost perfect middle prospect for the Vandal defense with the potential to be a statistical superstar. Also pushing for time on the inside is 6-3, 225-pound Broc Westlake comes in from Sierra College where he made 132 tackles. A huge hitter who can play inside or out, he's a tall, rangy defender, but he's tough as nails when it comes to wrapping up and getting to the ball.

At 6-1, 215 pounds, Marc Millian is a smallish inside presence from Santa Ana College, but he's likely going to end up on the outside to utilize his speed and athleticism. He's a pass rusher who came up with five sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last season. Also built for the outside is 5-11, 215-pound Eric Tuipulotu from College of San Mateo, a versatile hitter who can play anywhere in the linebacking corps. A tone-setter, he brings the big pop.

Not quite ready to concede the job in the middle is senior Matthew Willis, a 6-0, 230-pound senior who came in from LA Harbor College and came up with 36 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss in his time behind Su'a Tuala. He has the time on the field to know what he's doing, but he's going to have to fight off all the JUCO talents to take over the gig.

Watch Out For … Tony Lashley. All the JUCO guys are getting the pub, but Lashley is a good-looking true freshman from Missouri with a great combination of strength and athleticism for his size. He fell off the recruiting map after getting hurt as a senior, but the 6-1, 233-pounder will eventually be one of the team's leading tacklers.
Strength: All the new guys. The coaching staff did its job finding a slew of ready-made producers from the JUCO ranks. Last year's group wasn't bad against the run, but it was hardly a dominant threesome. The Vandals brought in several athletic, aggressive hitters.
Weakness: Experience. Yeah, getting good JUCO transfers is nice, but it's a whole different world at the next level. There are some decent young prospects to help provide a few options, but it's going to be a work in progress.
Outlook: A disappointment overall last year, now the Idaho linebacking corps has to find replacements for all of last season's top producers. If nothing else, the new guys will be flying all over the field and should make things interesting. This might not be a good group of defenders, but they'll be fun.
Unit Rating:

Defensive Backs

Gone is leading tackler and top playmaker, free safety Gary Walker, serving as the understudy last season was 6-1, 202-pound junior Bradley Njouku, a terrific part of the rotation last season making 43 tackles with a pick. The team's leading returning tackler, he has good size, 4.5 speed and great range. He should put up huge numbers now that the job is his. Back at strong safety is Trey Williams after coming up with 28 tackles as a spot starter, but he has to do more against the pass with no picks and just two broken up passes. At 6-2 and 206 pounds he has great size and phenomenal, Mississippi state champion-level speed. He'll get to the ball, but he needs to become more of a playmaker.

True sophomore Jayshawn Jordan is back after seeing a little time in his first season making 19 tackles with a broken up pass. A potential playmaker with the ball in his hands, first the likely new starting cornerback has to start coming up with picks for a secondary that couldn't make enough gamechanging plays. Trying to work on the other side is sophomore Solomon Dixon, a four-game starter with no size at just 5-9 and 164 pounds, but he led the team with three picks to go along with 36 tackles. A Hawaii state champion sprinter, he can fly, but he'll get shoved around by anyone generating a push.

On the way to provide a push for one corner job is Delency Parham, a 5-11, 180-pound JUCO transfer from Santa Barbara City College with great ball skills and the talent to quickly be the team's No. 1 option on the outside. The coaching staff is looking for him to grab a starting job by the horns, and the tools are there to do it.

Watch Out For … corners Armond Hawkins and Reuben Mwehla. The 5-10, 198-pound Mwehla could end up moving to wide receiver with tremendous athleticism and the type of cutting ability that could make him a great route-runner or a lockdown corner. Hawkins is a pure defensive back with fluid athleticism, and while he's not huge at 5-10 and 175 pounds, he can hit.
Strength: Cornerback. Helped by the recruiting class, the Vandals have plenty of corner options to go around and a few defenders who could work in nickel or dime situations. The coaching staff can play around with the position.
Weakness: Picks. Dixon came up with three interceptions, but for the most part the secondary couldn't come up with big picks in key times. The secondary has to start becoming a bigger positive against the better passing teams.
Outlook: Not only do the Vandals lose leading tackler Gary Walker, but they have to replace Tracy Carter, who left the program, and fellow corner Aaron Grimes. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of coaching to find the right combination.
Unit Rating: 4

Special Teams

Gone is Trey Farquhar, a steady kicker who nailed 19-of-25 field goal attempts. The Vandals needed a kicker, and now it'll be up to true freshman Austin Rehkow, a terrific athlete with a gigantic leg nailing a 67-yard shot. He could also fight for the punting job if needed.

There's no replacing Bobby Cowan, a special punter who averaged 43.1 yards per kick and put 13 inside the 20 and forced 18 fair catches. However, his brother, Trent Cowan will come close. The younger Cowan can blast away with a huge leg, and yes, he might really be every bit as good.

The punt return game was a colossal disaster last season, but after making one attempt for -5 yards Bradley Njoku will give it a shot. Receiver Naje Lovett is the top returning kick returner, but he averaged just 13.7 yards per try.

Watch Out For … the new kickers. Normally it would be an utter disaster to try out two true freshman kickers, but Cowan and Rehkow were great recruits with the skills to shine for the next four seasons.
Strength: Cowan. The hope is for another four years with a Cowan coming up with great production for the punting game. He has the skills to be special.
Weakness: The return game. Averaging just 1.6 yards per punt return and 17.9 yards per kickoff return, the Vandals had some of the worst returners in America.
Outlook: The kicking game was amazing, but everything else was a total disaster. Idaho needs to be far, far better on the coverage teams and in the return game. The kickers will turn out to be fine, but everything else needs a whole bunch of work just to get to mediocre.
Unit Rating: 4.5

- 2013 Idaho Preview | 2013 Idaho Offense
- 2013 Idaho Defense | 2013 Idaho Depth Chart