Idaho Preview 2006
Idaho Vandals
Posted Aug 9, 2006

If the Idaho program is going to be turned around, it has the right coach to give it a shot.

Offense | Defense | Further Analysis

Nick Holt appeared to be on his way to making the Vandals a living, breathing football team again for the first time since the late 1990s. He suffered through growing pains by playing several young players who weren't close to being ready, and he brought in the school's most highly regarded recruiting class in years to add more depth and provide hope for the future. And then he bolted to take his old job back as the defensive coordinator at USC.

While the timing of Holt's sudden departure might have been jarring, it also might have been a blessing in disguise since it meant the eventual hiring of Dennis Erickson, one of the more underrated college head coaches over the last several years.  

Head coach: Dennis Erickson
2nd year at Idaho: 6-6
18th year overall: 145-56-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22 Def. 18, ST 3
Ten Best Vandal Players
1. RB Jayson Bird, Soph.
2. P/K Mike Barrow, Sr.
TE Luke Smith-Anderson, Jr.
QB Steven Wichman, Sr.
5. LB Josh Bousman, Jr.
6. CB Jason Martin, Sr.
7. RB Rolly Lumbala, Jr.
8. OG Jade Tadvick, Sr.
9. OT Nave VanderPol, Sr.
10. WR Wendell Octave, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9

9/2 at Michigan State
9/9 at Washington St
9/16 Idaho State
9/23 at Oregon State
9/30 at Utah State
10/7 New Mexico St
10/14 at Louisiana Tech
10/21 Boise State
10/28 at Hawaii
11/4 Nevada
11/18 at Fresno State
11/25 San Jose State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 2-9

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/1 at Wash St L 38-26
9/10 at UNLV L 34-31
9/17 at Washington L 34-6
9/24 Hawaii L 24-0
10/1 Utah State W 27-13
10/8 at Nevada L 62-14
10/22 Fresno State L 40-10
10/29 at NMSU W 38-37 2OT
11/12 Louisiana Tech L 41-38
11/19 at Boise State L 70-35
11/26 at San Jose St L 26-18

How many times do you get a chance to get a head coach with two national titles on his résumé? Erickson not only helped keep the train rolling at Miami from 1989 to 1994, he also made Oregon State a powerhouse for a brief period and was great for Washington State. Of course, he made his initial mark at Idaho where he had a 32-15 record from 1982 to 1985.

Is it possible Erickson's return to Idaho can have the same effect as Chris Ault's return to Nevada a few years ago? It'll take a little while, but Erickson has certainly generated plenty of excitement with his four and five wide receiver sets and sophisticated offense that should provide a consistency that hasn't been there in years. The return of QB Steven Wichman for his senior season provides a veteran to run the attack, and the running game should finally get going again with Jayson Bird coming back from a collarbone injury.

But the big problem for Idaho has been defense allowing 39 points per game over the last two seasons. There's hope for a bit of an improvement with the lumps taken by playing so many young defensive lineman over the last few seasons about to pay off. The corners are potentially good, and there's good overall speed everywhere else.

For a program that has won a total of 11 games over the last five years, baby steps will have to be taken. This isn't going to be a night-and-day turnaround team, but it should be explosive and it should be a fun show to watch.

The Schedule: It's not bad at all considering there's only three bowl teams from last year to deal with, and they're all in the WAC. Fine, so the Vandals won't win at Michigan State, at Washington State, or at Oregon State, but there's no reason they can't equal the two wins of last year by the end of September playing Idaho State and at Utah State. A home game against New Mexico State needs to be a must-win considering the second half of the slate is nasty before getting San Jose State at home.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Jayson Bird. QB Steven Wichman will put up ridiculous, top ten passer numbers in the new offense, but Bird is the dangerous player who'll life the nation's 117th ranked running game. He's a big back with tremendous speed and potential now that he's healthy after breaking his collarbone in the second game of last season.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Josh Bousman. With so little returning experience on defense, the steady Bousman has to get healthy and be a star from day one. If he doesn't have a big year, the defense will struggle to find any consistency..

Key player to a successful season: Quarterbacks QB Steven Wichman. There are good options behind Wichman, but they're untested and could use a year of seasoning. The senior has to be a sharp leader of the new attack and has to be the type of quarterback who can handle all that'll be thrown at him. He'll have huge, 400-yard games here and there, but he has to cut down on his interceptions.

The season will be a success if ... Idaho wins at least four games and pulls off one good upset. Considering Idaho hasn't won more than three games since 2000, four wins would be a nice first step back. Just as important will be the play against the better teams. There was a close battle with Louisiana Tech last year, but the Vandals lost to Nevada, Fresno State and Boise State by a combined score of 172-59, or an average of 57-20.

Key game: Oct. 21 vs. Boise State. Idaho has lost seven straight to the Broncos by a total of 353 to 124, or an average of 50.4 to 17.7. It's not like there's a fierce recruiting war for Idaho talent, but Dennis Erickson has to close the gap between the two programs and show that the Vandals won't be a pushover anymore for the WAC's top power.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 183.3 - Idaho 78.4
- Yards per punt return: Opponents 13.1 - Idaho 6.1
- Sacks: Opponents 34 for 229 yards - Idaho 19 for 125 yards

Related Stories
Idaho Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 9, 2006
Idaho Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 9, 2006
Idaho Preview 2006 - Defense
 -by  Aug 9, 2006

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