2007 Idaho Preview - Defense

Posted May 14, 2007

Preview 2007 Idaho Vandal Defense Preview

Idaho Vandals

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Idaho Preview | 2007 Idaho Offense Preview  
2007 Idaho Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Idaho Preview 

What you need to know:
There's experience and all-star talent to work with, so why was the Vandal defense so miserable last season? The line. The front four has to find tackles that can stop the run, and ends that can get into the backfield. If that happens, there could be a night-and-day improvement as the coaching staff looks to attack, attack, and attack some more. With MLB JoArtis Ratti back and healthy, he should combine with David Vobora to create the WAC's most dangerous linebacking duo. Corner Stanley Franks is an interception machine, and safety Shiloh Keo is an undersized hitter. Now everything has to start working around those four.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: David Vobora, 114
Sacks: JoArtis Ratti, 3
Interceptions: Stanley Franks, 9

Star of the defense: Senior CB Stanley Franks
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DT Alex Toailoa
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Marcus Pedro
Best pro prospect: Senior LB David Vobora
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Franks, 2) Vobora, 3) LB JoArtis Ratti
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, Franks
Weakness of the defense:
Defensive line

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
While finding more of a pass rush will be the main goal for the line, getting more out of the tackles will be even more important. 293-pound senior Siua Musika came back from a knee injury to make 24 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. While he's a good athlete and should do more against the run, he hasn't proven to be a true anchor yet.

Next to Musika will be 299-pound junior Alex Toailoa, who made 12 tackles as a part time starter. Now he's one of the main defenders on the inside, and he needs to play like it from day one, once he's back from spending spring ball working on his studies, or everyone will be running up the gut.

258-pound senior George Fa'avae will likely rotate for one of the starting end jobs, but he has to show he can get into the backfield on a regular basis. A pass rushing star at LA Harbor College, he struggled to make big plays last year finishing with no sacks and just 14 tackles.

JUCO transfer Marcus Pedro has all but cemented himself as the new star up front. He's 270 pounds with a tremendous motor and the type of pass rushing ability Shaw and Fa'avae haven't shown enough of.

Projected Top Reserves: Considering the issues at tackle this year, with Toailoa out in spring ball due to academic issues, and rising star Marvin Jones arrested and booted off the team for allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover cop, 275-pound redshirt freshman Jonah Sataraka should play a big role on the inside. He got stronger this off-season and should be a regular at both tackle spots.

On the end, 254-pound junior Josh Shaw has seen time as an undersized tackle, but played better on the outside where he made 24 tackles. However, he's not a pure pass rusher, at least has hasn't shown he can be one.

Watch Out For ... this to be the team's Achilles' heel. The secondary is decent enough to come up with a big season if opposing quarterbacks don't have ten days to throw, and the front four hasn't proven they can apply any pressure. They have to be far stronger against the run, too.
Strength: There's good size on the end. While it might be more beneficial to move a few smaller, quicker players to the outside, there's enough beef to potentially be better against the run, at least at end, not at tackle.
Weakness: Tackle size. Thanks to Jones being a knucklehead, the size on the defensive interior has now gotten a whole bunch smaller. The tackles haven't shown they can stop the run, and the ends haven't proven they can get into the backfield. That's a bad combination.
Outlook: Simply put, this group has to be far better if Idaho is going to have any shot of improving. This was a decent line at times in spring ball, but that was against the mediocre Vandal offensive line. One guy has to start to stand out to revolve the rest of the line around, whether that's a pass rusher or a run stopper.
Rating: 4


Projected Starters
The hope is for a big improvement in the linebacking corps with the emergence of senior JoArtis Ratti, who made 32 tackles, three sacks and an interception in just six games due to shoulder and foot problems. He's a 6-1, 220-pound guided missile who should blow up in the attacking style of defense the coaching staff wants to run.

At one outside spot will be senior David Vobora, who at 240 pounds packs a huge wallop and is the tackling machine in the back seven with 134 stops last season with 15.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. His 101 solo tackles alone would've made him the team's leading tackler by 29 stops. While he's a weakside linebacker because of his quickness and range, he's more suited to the strongside.

On the other side will be
senior Brandon Ogletree, who saw plenty of action last season finishing third on the team with 48 tackles to go along with two sacks and five tackles for loss. Speedy enough to have played safety and tough enough to have played end, he's perfect at strongside linebacker.

Projected Top Reserves: Part of the starting mix will be 228-pound senior, Josh Bousman, who made 44 tackles in nine games. He can be deadly when turned loose and gets room to roam, and now he has to be stronger against the run while doing more in the backfield.

While top recruit Andre Ferguson might not be ready to roll right away, it'll be tempting to find a spot for him on the field, maybe in "Okie" situations, or when Idaho goes to the 3-4. He's only 205 pounds, but he's 6-3 and has plenty of room to grow. He's one of the team's faster players and he packs a wallop when he gets to a ball-carrier.

5-9, 190-pound sophomore Tyrone Turner is way undersized, but he's scrappy enough to possible be in the outside mix behind Vobora. He could be shoved out of the way by a pair of redshirt freshmen, as Jonathan Farimo and Paul Senescall are each playing well enough to see time in the rotation. Farimo will likely backup Ratti in the middle, while Senescall is a 220-pound hitter on the weakside. He had a great spring and will see time either in the middle or on the weakside.

Watch Out For ... Ratti and Vobora to combine to become the WAC's best linebacking duo. These two will be all over the field and should combine for over 200 tackles.
Strength: Hitting. Everyone is able to apply the lumber in this group. It should be the intimidating tone-setter for the team's season.
Weakness: Backups. Ogletree is a player and can step in and start any time, but that's about it as far as proven reserves. If injuries his Ratti and Vobora, there will be bit problems.
Outlook: The edict has gone out: attack and make plays. The linebackers will be the strength of the defense, and they'll have to dictate the tempo and the action from the start. While there's little in the way of depth and not enough overall production against the run at the line, the top four in the rotation will be as good as any in the league as long as they make more meaningful tackles.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
The star of the secondary is senior corner Stanley Franks, a former JUCO transfer who cranked out an All-WAC first season finishing third on the team with 48 tackles to go along with nine interceptions and seven broken up passes. The former receiver is a rail-thing 5-11 and 167 pounds, and he still covers like a wide receiver far too often, but he's lightning fast and dangerous with the ball in his hands averaging 24.4 yards per interception return.

The other corner job is wide open, but for now, redshirt freshman General Parnell has the job after a solid spring. He's not big at only 5-9 and 175 pounds, and he'll have to get used to everyone throwing his way.

The safeties are all but set let by sophomore Shiloh Keo, who's pound-for-pound one of the biggest hitters in the WAC making 72 stops despite only being 5-10 and 175 pounds. While he has the range of a free safety, he hits like a strong safety, which he is, and is great at getting into the backfield. He hurt his hamstring this spring making an interception, but he's expected to be back this fall.

At free safety will be senior Chris Smith, a part-time starter who made 42 tackles and three interceptions. While he's a good tackler, he has to do even more when the ball is in the air and has to read short-to-midrange passes far better.

Projected Top Reserves: The backup jobs will be wide-open this fall when top redshirt freshman Terrance McCoy returns after getting his schoolwork in order, and when JUCO transfer T.J. Taylor is on the team. McCoy is one of the team's most athletic players, and while he's still raw at corner, his speed and potential might get him the nod over Parnell at some point. Taylor was a lock-down JUCO defender who'll also get every shot to win the starting corner job on the other side of Franks.

At safety, senior Lee Jones will be the first in the mix behind Smith at free safety and could even see time at strong safety. At 6-2 and 204 pounds, he brings some much-needed size to the corps, but now he has to prove he cam play after making just two tackles last season.

Sophomore Brandon Nystrom has the talent, the size (6-1 and 208 pounds) and the measurables to become a starting safety, but he'll start out behind Keo.

Watch Out For ... a far better season. The secondary is too experienced and has too many good players to be so awful.
Strength: Franks and Keo. In the pass-happy WAC, defenses need defensive backs they can rely on. Franks and Keo are all-star talents who should be key leaders and playmakers to make offensive coordinators worry.
Weakness: Production. Most of the parts are back from a secondary that got torched was too often. The overall experience has to mean more big plays and more stops.
Outlook: While the overall numbers were lousy, the secondary improved over the second half of the year only allowing one team, Hawaii, to throw for more than 200 yards in the final six games. While they didn't get as many big plays, quarterbacks were still able to dink and dunk at will. Franks will be great again, but now he has to erase everyone's number one receiver, while the second corner has to hold up. Good passing teams will still get their yards, but the Vandals will get their share of picks.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
6-3, 216-pound junior punter T.J. Conley bounced back from a broken leg suffered in 2005 to average 39.4 yards per punt. While he didn't hit the 40-yard mark, he was terrifically consistent at pinning teams deep with a mere one touchback in 67 kicks with ten fair catches and 12 put inside the 20.

Returning at placekicker is junior Tino Amancio, who hit 12 of 17 field goals and showed decent range nailing a 49-yard shot. He's solid from inside the 40, and now he has to be consistent from midrange.

Watch Out For ... the kicking game to be a major plus. If Amancio can be reasonably consistent from 40-45 yards, he'll be used more.
Strength: Conley. With a defense that's going to struggle at times, pinning teams deep is a must, not a luxury.
Weakness: The return game. Averaging a mere 5.5 yards per punt return and 17.8 yards on kickoff returns isn't going to cut it.
Outlook: Finding more pop to the return game will be job one, making plays in coverage will be the next thing to work on. With kickoffs starting at the 30, Idaho will give up several big returns if it doesn't figure something out in fall practices.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2007 Idaho Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 14, 2007
2007 Idaho Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 14, 2007
2007 Idaho Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 14, 2007

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