Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
Same idea, different implementation.
The new coaching staff will go with a one-back set using four
and five-wide formations, sort of like the old coaching staff
did, but there will be an even bigger emphasis on tough running.
That's a good thing with the strength in the running back corps
with four good players, led by junior Jayson Bird, to carry the
offense early on. The quarterback situation will be settled this
fall with the likely winner being 6-5 redshirt freshman Nathan
Enderle, but the receiving corps is going to be a work in
progress well into the season. The starting five up front should
be fine due to its experience, but it's nothing special.
Passing: Brian Nooy
12-24, 194 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brian Flowers
128 carries, 561 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Brian Flowers
18 catches, 161 yds
Star of the offense: Junior RB Jayson Bird
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman QB Nathan Enderle
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Deonte
Best pro prospect: Bird
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bird, 2) RB Brian
Flowers, 3) C Adam Korby
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Proven passing game
Projected Starter: In one of the bigger surprises in spring
ball, redshirt freshman Nathan Enderle became the odds-on
favorite to win the starting job this fall. He'll still have to
work to get the job, but he's 6-5, 223 pounds with a tremendous
arm and good enough mobility to gain positive yards. Potentially
a big-time bomber, he needs to become a good decision-maker
right away to take a firm grip on the job.
Projected Top Reserves: Going into the off-season,
it appeared to be a lock for senior Brian Nooy to take
over the starting job from Steven Wichman, but he'll have to
battle with some newcomers. He saw a little bit of mop-up duty
completing 12 of 24 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. While
he's a good athlete, he's not going to run much and needs to far
better to be in the starting mix this fall.
The likely number
two option will be junior Luke Tracy, a good-looking JUCO
transfer who has just enough overall talent to push hard for the
starting gig. He doesn't have Enderle's arm, but it's not bad,
and he's a bit more polished. His problem is consistency; he has
to be strong from one start to the next.
Watch Out For ... Enderle to be the main man with not
as much of a quarterback controversy as there might seem to be.
He's the best option of the three with the biggest upside.
Strength: Arms. The Vandals should be able to
chuck it around without a problem. They might not always be
consistent, and they'll make a bazillion mistakes, but they'll
be able to push the ball down the field.
Weakness: Experience. Nooy is the only one with
D-I experience, and he's going to be the third man in the mix.
USC is going to look awfully fast in the season opener.
Outlook: There will be a ton of mistakes to work
through, and wild inconsistency, but the Vandal quarterbacks
threw eight touchdown passes and 16 interceptions last year;
it'll be tough to be appreciably worse. The key will be sticking
with one quarterback through thick and thin, even though it'll
be tempting to play everyone throughout the year.
Projected Starter: The coaching staff has opened up the starting
jobs all over the place, but junior Jayson Bird appears
to be one of the sure-things to be a number one despite
struggling through a 506-yard, seven touchdown season. Maybe.
He's a fast 221 pounds who can power it between the tackles and
break off big runs, but his biggest dash was 17 yards last
season and he died down the stretch. Coming off a broken
collarbone in 2005, he struggled to find room and had a hard
time consistently moving the ball. That should change this
season with a better line in front of him.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Brian Flowers
led the team in rushing with 561 yards and four touchdowns,
and was fourth on the team with 18 catches for 161 yards, but
he'll have to fight to get playing time again after missing
spring ball to work on his studies. He's a tough speed back
who'll be a bit of a change-of-pace combining with Bird.
star of the show is redshirt freshman Deonte Jackson, a
former walk-on who finds ways to move the chains, at least in
practice. He started the spring game and worked with the first
team throughout the off-season. Only 5-8 and 185 pounds, he's a quick back who should
be able to carry the workload for extended stretches. The star
of the 2006 recruiting class is a fast, talented 217 pounds and
could quickly work his way into a starting spot if he's as good
Also in the hunt for time will be redshirt
freshman Yusuf Sahahuddin, a tough-as-nails runner
considering he's 5-6 and 176 pounds, and sophomore Devin
Sturdivant, who has the skills to be a top runner, but he
has to say healthy after having problems with a knee injury.
Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to lean on the
running game heavily, even when it's not working well. By far
the strength of the offense, and maybe the team, everyone will
get their chance to see who can crank out the consistent yards.
Strength: Talent. The Vandals have four backs able
to carry the workload, with Bird a workhorse to build around as
long as he stays healthy.
Weakness: Actual production. Can the backs play up
to their skills? The ground game averaged just 3.4 yards per
carry and finished eighth in the WAC in rushing. That has to
change or the Vandals are going to struggle to move the ball
Outlook: The backs are in place to revolve the
offense around with speed, size, and changes of pace to give
defenses different looks. Now they need room to move and have to
all make a few more plays on their own. Everyone will sell out
to stop the run, and the top foursome has to get past that.
Projected Starters: With four receivers being used in the new
offense, there will be plenty of players in the rotation. Former
running back Tracy Ford will bring his speed and
quickness to one of the slot positions. Part running back, part
receiver throughout his career, he made five catches for 35
yards and was third on the team with 148 rushing yards in just
eight games. While he's only 5-8 and 166 pounds, he's tough and
should be strong on the move. Fellow ex-running back Raymond
Fry is another small, quick player in the slot. The team's
main kickoff returner has looked like a natural and should be a
The inside receivers are all but set, but the outside targets
are still a question mark. Going into the fall, junior Lee
Smith will likely be at flanker after catching seven passes
for 139 yards and a touchdown on a 58-yard grab against Michigan
State. The former walk-on is a good deep threat averaging 16.4
yards per catch on 15 career grabs, but he's not exactly a
speedster who'll scare too many teams at the flanker.
Max Komar finished fifth on the team in catches making 17
for 313 yards averaging 18.4 yards per grab. A slot receiver, by
nature, he could move around the corps. At tight end, the likely
number one will be senior Rolly Lumbala, a former power
running back who has to prove he can catch on a consistent
basis. At 241 pounds, he'll be a strong blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: The top receivers could
quickly emerge among the newcomers. 6-2, 188-pound Maurice
Shaw averaged 19.2 yards per catch in his senior year and
has the speed and athleticism to take over an outside spot.
Eric Greenwood is an even more intriguing prospect at 6-6
and 196 pounds. A gym rat sort of a player who'll work his tail
off, he should be a number one target sooner than later.
transfer Cory Rhoane could be the team's leading receiver
when he's finally able to shot what he's able to do. He has good
size, excellent speed, and good hands.
Battling for time at tight end with Lumbala will be junior
Eddie Williams, who'll see plenty of time in two tight end
sets and should be used as a receiver coming off a seven-catch,
116-yard, one score season. Lumbala and Williams will have to
fight with JUCO transfer
Jim Reuber for time.
Originally a Kansas Jayhawk, he has good size and the
athleticism to do a little of everything.
Watch Out For ... the depth chart to be printed in
pencil. The projected starters going into the fall could all be
backups by the start of the season. The incoming recruits should
provide an overall upgrade and will make for impressive
competition for jobs.
Strength: Options. With so many receivers to work
with, a few should emerge as dangerous playmakers. At least
that's the hope with the top three receivers from last year
Weakness: Sure-thing, number one target. Do the
Vandals have one? Not coming out of spring ball.
Outlook: The Vandal receiving corps is a major
question mark going into the season. It should be fine by the
end of the year, but it's going to take a while. The hope is for
a strength in numbers situation where all the prospects will
have to find their own roles with a few of the top newcomers
needing to shine right away. Expect plenty of two tight end sets
with Lumbala and Williams seeing plenty of work.
Projected Starters: The right side of the line should be set,
but the left side needs work after losing seniors Nate VanderPol and
Jade Tadvick. Junior Billy Bates spent last year as a reserve
after not quite living up to his freshman year promise. At 6-5 and 271
pounds, he's not a big left tackle, but he has tremendous potential. A
top recruit, he has yet to blossom. At guard will be 6-6, 330-pound
junior Mike Iupati, who saw a little time as a backup and should
be a rock on the line for the next three years. He's a good talent
who'll have to be consistent in pass protection.
Anchoring the line is 6-2, 292-pound junior Adam Korby, who has
been a good quarterback up front over the last two years and is now
expected to blossom into an all-star. He's tough, strong, and athletic
for his size.
Junior Kris Anderson is back at right tackle after
overcoming a knee injury to start every game. He has the size at 6-3 and
299 pounds, and he's a smart, tough blocker who could move to guard if
needed, but he has to be better, especially against the pass. Next to
him will be sophomore Adam Juratovac, who'll rotate with senior
Marcis Fennell, but will get the start. He's a good athlete who
has to do more in pass protection.
Projected Top Reserves: Fennell might not be a
starter, but he might as well be with the amount of time he spends in
the rotation with Juratovac on the left side. At 304 pounds, he's a big
more of a bruiser than Juratovac and can see time at center if needed.
One of the more interesting prospects to keep an eye on will be
sophomore Bryce Sinclair, a 6-5, 345-pound tackle who should be
great for the ground game and could add more bulk inside for power
running plays. He'll start out behind Anderson at left tackle.
6-7, 254-pound redshirt freshman
Kellen Beam, who's a bit too tall and lanky for a center, is
one of the best athletes on the line. He could end up at tackle
battling with Bates for the job this fall.
Watch Out For ... pass protection to be more vital
than run blocking. The one-back offense is hardly going to abandon the
running game, but with a new starting quarterback and a receiving corps
that needs work, giving the passer more time than he had last year will
Strength: The right side. Throwing center Adam
Korby into the mix, the Vandals have one side of the line they can work
behind on a regular basis and know they'll get a little bit of
production. Anderson and the combination of Juratovac and Fennell should
Weakness: Production. The line almost got Steven
Wichman killed last year and did nothing to consistently open holes for
the ground game. Enough size and experience returns to be better.
Outlook: This is the key to the season. If the
line isn't appreciably better than 2006, the offense will sputter and
cough once again. The starting five should be good, with Fennell
providing an extra starting-quality backup at guard, but the tackles
have to start to be better in pass protection and there has to be a
better overall push in the middle.