Idaho Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Idaho Vandals
Posted Aug 9, 2006

Idaho Vandals Preview 2006 - Idaho Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Once a Vandal, always a Vandal – Typically, sequels are never as good as the first movie.  Sure, you could argue Rocky II was the anomaly of the bunch, but for the most part, sequels never live up to the billing of the first time around.  But, that doesn’t always hold true for coaching returns and Dennis Erickson is back to prove that what worked once in Moscow could work again.  And, work well.  The highly acclaimed Erickson has a past rooted in the Northwest, so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that he would take the Idaho job after a year away from the game.  But, this is a guy who won two national championships, survived two tours of duty in the NFL and perhaps most importantly, made Oregon State football a consistent threat in the Pac-10.  And, he falls right into the laps of the Vandal athletic staff – how’s that for fortunate?  Erickson has been successful at every college stop on his coaching ‘tour’.  He was 32 and 15 in his first stint at Idaho, when they were at the D1AA level.  He put WSU on the map as a football program, leading them to an Aloha Bowl win over Houston and former Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware.  What he did at Miami is well-documented – two national championships, and his turnaround efforts at Oregon State paid off in three bowl appearances in four years.  Idaho couldn’t have found a more outstanding resume to put in front of the head coaching selection committee, but how is it the second time around?  Is his return more apt to be Rocky II or Glitter - The Return.  Okay, so one Mariah Carey movie was bad enough, and never again will she be mentioned in a football article again.  The Vandal machine wasn’t broken when Nick Holt decided to depart.  They didn’t win many games, but he didn’t leave the cupboards absolutely barren.  As such, Erickson has a tremendous shot at moving this program into the 6 or 7 win season atmosphere in the near future.  This year?  Maybe a bit of a stretch, but then again, so was getting Erickson in the first place.  Well, not the first time, but, okay, so the first time and the second time.  Understand?  Good.

2nd and Seven – Nothing is as ever bad as it seems, right? – Sometimes when things are bad, you’ve just got to face them head on, so here goes – the Vandals ran for a total of 862 yards last year.  Total.  That’s not a misprint.  862 yards on the whole year?!?  Now, the loss of RB Jayson Bird in game two was monumental and the 34 sacks given up go against rushing numbers, but it still comes out to 862 yards.  But, Erickson’s coming – they’ll throw the ball a million times anyway, so who cares, right?  That’s true in some respect, but Erickson’s team could still run the ball out of his one back formations and his best teams had effective running games.  Stephen McGuire ran for big yardage in big games at the U, while Steven Jackson from Oregon State, well, you can see how good he is on Sundays this fall.  His coach?  Erickson.  The offensive line struggled through some rough times last year, but they all return from last year.  They’ll have to adapt to a new scheme, but they should be much better.  Bird returns, along with bruising Rolly Lumbala, so there’s power in the backfield.  Does it all add up to more than 862 yards this season?  It better.

3rd and Three – The Cali kid – From day one, strong safety DJ Dykes has been in the starting lineup for the Idaho defense.  Averaging 71 tackles a year, he’s consistently around the ball, and his six career interceptions prove that theory true, on another level.  The junior from Los Alamitos, CA (man, they’ve got some players coming out of that place) is a versatile threat who is a key component of both the run and pass defenses.  Defensive coordinator Jeff Mills can use Dykes to fortify the run defense after losing magnificent linebacker Cole Snyder to graduation, which should up Dykes’ overall tackle totals.  He’ll be the leader of this defense this year.

4th and One – One lucky guy – Can you imagine the feeling that Idaho QB Stephen Wichman must’ve been feeling when he heard that Erickson was coming to Moscow?  Well, of course, it was apprehensive, silly, but when he had some time to think about the situation and what he was about to do as a senior in his offense, his eyes had to light up.  Not only does Wichman have the opportunity to learn from Erickson, he’ll be tutored by a former Erickson protégé and Oregon State QB Jonathan Smith, the new Idaho QB coach.  Wichman threw it often last year, including 61 times against Boise State, but Erickson’s offense stretches defenses to the limit, throwing deep and challenging defenses vertically.  Wichman has to cut down on the picks (18 last year), but Erickson has to like what he sees.  And, the feeling should be mutual.

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