2009 Idaho Preview - Defense
Idaho S Shiloh Keo
Idaho S Shiloh Keo
Posted Jun 16, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Idaho Vandal Defense

Idaho Vandals

Preview 2009 - Defense

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What you need to know: The Vandal defense was supposed to take a big turn for the better, instead it was among the worst in America. It didn't do anything right, and it all stemmed from the line. Injuries had something to do with the problems across the board, but the line has to be far better and it has to come up with some semblance of a pass rush. The tackles should be solid if Oga Faumui and Fono Sekona can get back from knee injuries, but someone has to come through on the outside. If the ends can't provide any pressure, it'll be more of the same for the rest of the defense. The safeties might be the strength of the team, headlined by the return of Shiloh Keo from a shoulder injury, and now the corners have to come up with more big plays. The loss of two of the team's top three tacklers, Justin Allen and Jonathan Faraimo, when they still had eligibility remaining, might be a killer to the linebacking corps. They left for personal reasons, and now it'll be up to sophomores Robert Siavii and Tre'Shawn Robinson to play big roles.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Virdell Larkins, 82
Sacks: Oga Faumui, 2
Interceptions: Isaac Butts, 3

Star of the defense: Senior SS Shiloh Keo
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DE Hank Bryant
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Tre'Shawn Robinson
Best pro prospect: Keo (as a punt returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Keo, 2) S Virdell Larkins, 3) DT Oga Faumui
Strength of the defense: Safety, Defensive Tackles
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, Production

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
After being totally unable to generate a pass rush last season, Idaho needs someone to step up on the outside. Junior Aaron Lavarias got eight starts at tackle making 21 stops, but he didn't generate much pressure into the backfield with just three tackles for loss. Now the 6-3, 262-pounder will move outside after spending the last two years getting beaten on. He might not be the pass rusher the team needs, but he should be good against the run.

6-3, 222-pound sophomore Hank Bryant saw time in nine games last year and made four tackles, and while he got his feet wet as a true freshman, he also showed how much polish he needs. A top high school fullback as well as a defensive end, he's quick and has the potential to be the athlete needed to be in the backfield on a regular basis.

6-0, 299-pound senior Oga Faumui came over from Garden City CC and started nine times becoming the team's best interior presence with 41 tackles and two sacks. While he's a good defender against the run, he has the potential to do far more as a pass rusher. But first he has to get over a knee injury suffered this spring.

With a knee injury to Fono Sekona, 6-4, 265-pound sophomore Michael Cosgrove will likely be the man to beat at one tackle spot going into the spring. He got two stars last year and ended up with 19 tackles and a sack, but with his quickness he could end up moving to the outside. He's extremely strong for his size.  

Projected Top Reserves: With Faumui hurt, junior Jonah Sataraka will be the starter at one tackle spot. That will change once Faumui is healthy, but he saw starting time last year making 21 tackles and won't be starting from scratch. At 6-2 and 285 pounds, he has good size, but he's more like a big end playing on the inside. He's extremely tough, but he has to be more productive to see more time.

Trying to get past a knee injury will be 6-3, 283-pound junior Fono Sekona. An interesting prospect, he's a beefed up former high school quarterback who can move. Expected to be a starter last year, he ended up playing every game as a backup making just 13 tackles. Now he'll work behind Cosgrove once he gets back healthy.

Watch Out For ... the tackle situation. Just when it seemed like the run defense was going to be better, Faumui and Sekona got hurt. If they're healthy, the run defense will improve. If their knees aren't back to normal, it could be another rough year.
Strength: Size. With Lavarias moving to the outside, and if all the tackles are in place, the line has decent bulk all across the front four. It might not mean too much against the better running teams, it didn't last year, but at least there should be a few times when the size does matter.
Weakness: Sacks. Idaho hasn't gotten to a quarterback on a regular basis for years. After coming up with just 16 sacks two years ago, the line was even worse last season as the defense came up with just ten. Idaho finished 115th in the nation in sacks and 107th in tackles for loss. 
Outlook: The line has been among the worst in America over the last several seasons, but now there's decent experience to go along with the good size. It'll be vital for a pass rusher to emerge from somewhere, the hope will have to be for Bryant to become the main man, but if Faumui and Sekona aren't healthy, forget about it.
Rating: 4


Projected Starters
Jonathan Faraimo was the team's second-leading tackler last year, but he chose to leave the team. Now it'll be up to sophomore Tre'Shawn Robinson to be part of a rotation in the middle after making 14 tackles as a true freshman. The 5-11, 243-pounder has the best size of anyone in the linebacking corps by far, but he has to come back healthy after suffering a knee injury. When he's right, he should be in the hunt for All-WAC honors on stats alone.

Also leaving the team is Justin Allen after making 68 tackles on the strongside. 6-1, 215-pound junior JoJo Dickson started four games and was on the verge of being a key playmaker before getting hurt. He made 34 tackles as a true freshman and 35 last year, but he has to prove he can hold up and stay healthy. Tough for his size, he's not afraid to throw his body around. He'd be better on the weakside, but he'll be one of the team's leading tacklers on the other side.

Working on the weakside will be Robert Siavii, a corner-sized 6-2, 195-pound sophomore who got four starts as a true freshman finishing with 20 tackles. He should be strong against the pass with good ball-skills and the range to potentially be in on every play if he can hold up for a full season.

Projected Top Reserves: Combining with Robinson in the middle as part of a rotation will be junior Paul Senescall, a spot starter last year who worked mostly in the middle of the season and finished with 27 tackles. While he doesn't have the range, the talent, or the upside of Robinson, the 6-1, 225-pounder is a decent veteran backup.

Korey Toomer is going to start, it's just a question of when. The potential star of the linebacking corps, he made 86 tackles last season for Arizona Western College and brings tremendous athleticism and a motor to the weakside. He'll do whatever he needs to for the defense.

Redshirt freshman Brad Marboe is a smart speedster for the strongside, but he's not all that big. Better suited for safety at 6-3 and 190 pounds, he should be a tough tackler who needs to use his athleticism to hold up against the stronger running teams.

Watch Out For ... Toomer. He's the potential playmaker the team is sorely lacking at linebacker. He brings more size on the weakside than Siavii and he's a ready-made producer.
Strength: Potential. It might take a year for this group to gel, but Robinson and Siavii are nice prospects to work around with Toomer and Dickson each good enough to be among the team's leading tacklers. There aren't any seniors among the team's top six linebackers.
Weakness: Personal reasons. That's why Justin Allen and Jonathan Faraimo decided to leave the team. Had they returned, the linebacking corps would've been second behind the running backs as the team's strength.
Outlook: There will be plenty of tackles, but they have to be meaningful. The Vandal linebackers haven't been able to get into the backfield in years and they make too many plays down the field. This group will be aggressive, but they have to be better despite losing the two best players, Faraimo and Allen.
Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
Strong safety Shiloh Keo is one of the WAC's best defensive backs and a great tackler for his 5-10, 214-pound size, but he's trying to come back healthy after missing most of last year with a shoulder injury. He made 153 tackles in his first two seasons and came up with 31 in the first four games of last year before getting hurt. Now that he's healthy, he should make a night-and-day difference for the Vandal secondary with his tone-setting hits and his range against the pass.

Also returning is 6-0, 200-pound senior Jeromy Jones, who stepped in at strong safety when Keo got hurt. The former JUCO all-star made 52 tackles in his first year for the Vandals with an interception. Now he has to prove he can be more of a playmaker against the pass with more room to move at free safety. However, he'll likely end up as a nickel and dime back with Virdell Larkins moving in.

Junior Isaac Butts started for most of last year at one corner making 42 tackles while leading the team with three interceptions. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he has nice size and the toughness to play free safety if needed. He can also be used as a nickel or dime back if others emerge at corner, but with his experience, he'll likely be the No. 1 cover-corner.

Sophomore Kenny Patten spend most of last year as a nickel back and closed it out starting at corner. The 5-9, 183-pounder has great range and wasn't a bad open field tackler finishing with 37 stops, but he has to be able to pick off passes. He's a smart defender, but he's not necessarily a ball-hawker.

Projected Top Reserves:
Former JUCO transfer Virdell Larkins, the cousin of NFL star, Marshawn Lynch, originally signed with Cal, but went to Laney Junior College and was a star pickup for the Vandals. He started every game last year at free safety and will likely end up taking back the job at some point, but he'll start out working at strong safety behind Keo after making a team-leading 82 tackles with two interceptions. The 6-0, 191-pound senior has next-level potential if he be more of a playmaker against the pass.

Junior Eric Hunter is only 5-6 and 154 pounds, but he can fly. He's a star on special teams and saw time on as a key backup corner finishing with 12 tackles. He has no shot against anyone with size, but he has no problem getting to the ball with his range. He'll star out playing behind Butts.

Watch Out For ... Patten to shine at corner. He spent last year working in a variety of ways, but he should grow into the team's best corner over the next few years. He's not big, but he has good skills.
Strength: The safeties. Keo and Larkins might be the best tandem in the WAC, while Jones is a strong veteran. They'll tackle everything in sight.
Weakness: Production. There hasn't been any help from a pass rush, but the secondary hasn't done much to help when it has had the chance over the last few years. There were only nine interceptions last season while the pass defense finished 107th in the nation and 113th in pass efficiency defense.
Outlook: The Vandal secondary hasn't done much over the last few years and it needs to start making more big plays to help out the front seven. Most importantly, there have to be more stops on third downs. The safeties should be terrific, but the corners need to be better. They can't be much worse.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Gone is Tino Amancio after hitting 8-of-13 kicks and showing off fantastic range, but freshman Trey Farquhar might be even better. The grayshirt had a fantastic spring showing off a nice deep leg and consistency. He's expected to be a weapon for the next four years.

T.J. Conley was a special punter averaging a ridiculous 47.4 yards per kick. Now it'll be up to redshirt freshman Bobby Cowan to take over, and he's going to be a good one. A solid high school quarterback, he was a three-time Washington all-state punter who has a big leg and was consistent in practices.

Star safety Shiloh Keo is back as the top punt returner after missing most of last year hurt. He averaged 14.8 yards per try after averaging 16.8 yards per attempt two years ago. He's a special return man, and now sophomore Kama Bailey has to follow suit. He averaged a good 23.3 yards per return, but the team was merely average with 20.6 yards per kickoff return.

Watch Out For ... teams to stay away from Keo. The Idaho offense isn't anything special, so the last thing opposing teams want to do is give away good field position. Keo isn't going to get many shots to make a big return.
Strength: The return game. Being 71st in the nation in kickoff returns doesn't properly show just how strong Bailey was. Keo is one of the nation's best punt returners in the nation.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. The punt coverage team wasn't a prize, allowing 14.1 yards per try, but the kickoff coverage was atrocious allowing 26.9 yards per try.
Outlook: The special teams need more from the coverage teams, but everything else is in place with a great return game and promising kickers who should seamlessly step in for two excellent starters. There's good potential all across the board.
Rating: 7