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2009 CFN Idaho Preview
Idaho RB Deonte Jackson
Idaho RB Deonte Jackson
Posted Jun 16, 2009 2009 Preview - Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals

Preview 200

By Pete Fiutak

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2009 Idaho Preview | 2009 Idaho Offense  
- 2009 Idaho Defense | 2009 Idaho Depth Chart  
- 2008 Idaho Preview | 2007 Idaho Preview | 2006 Idaho Preview 

Head coach: Robb Akey
3rd year: 3-21
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 24, ST 0
Ten Best Vandal Players
1. SS/PR Shiloh Keo, Jr.
2. RB Deonte Jackson, Jr.
3. OG Mike Iupati, Sr. 
4. S Virdell Larkins, Sr..
5. OT Matt Cleveland, Soph.
6. QB Nathan Enderle, Jr.
7. RB Princeton McCarty, Soph.
8. DT Oga Faumui, Sr.
9. DT Joah Sataraka, Jr.
10. CB Isaac Butts, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 1-11
2009 Record:

9/5 at New Mexico State
9/12 at Washington
9/19 San Diego State
9/26 at Northern Illinois
10/3 Colorado State
10/10 at San Jose State
10/17 Hawaii
10/24 at Nevada
10/31 Louisiana Tech
11/7 Fresno State
11/14 at Boise State
11/28 Utah State

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 2-10
2008 Record:

8/30 at Arizona L 70-0
9/6 Idaho State W 42-27
9/13 Western Mich L 51-28
9/20 at Utah State L 42-17
9/27 at SDSU L 45-17
10/4 Nevada L 49-14
10/11 at Fresno State L 45-32
10/18 at La Tech L 46-14
10/25 New Mexico St W 20-14
11/1 San Jose State L 30-24
11/15 Boise State W 45-10
11/22 at Hawaii L 49-17

In 1998, Idaho went 9-3 finishing off with a thrilling Humanitarian Bowl win over Southern Miss. Along the way, there was even a win at Boise State. The program followed it up with a 7-4 1999 season and a 5-6 2000 campaign. After winning 21 games over those three years, Idaho fell hard and fast with just 18 since over the last eight years with the nation's worst defense over that span.

How bad have things been for the Vandals? Since their last winning season, they've allowed fewer than 30 points to a D-I/FBS team a mere 23 times in 96 games. Head coach Robb Akey hasn't had much luck in turning things around over his first two seasons going 3-21 with two of those wins coming against FCSers and the third a 20-14 home victory over a woeful New Mexico State team last year. There's nowhere to go but up, and this year's team has the potential to take a nice step forward.

This won't be the year the Vandals bust out a winning season, but there's enough experience and enough speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball to get over a hump and start winning some close games. Effort hasn't been a problem in Moscow under Akey; talent, and the ability to stay in games, has been.

Idaho has a good stable of backs returning, but can the team stay alive long enough to use them? Idaho allowed 255 points in the first half and was completely out of most games after halftime. That put pressure on the passing game, which put pressure on the line that couldn't pass block, which led to multiple interceptions, no use of the the ground game, and a spiral that happened game after game. And while there will be times this year when the Vandals will be out of it four minutes after the opening kickoff, they'll have opportunities in a few close battles and they'll have to find a way to win.

It'll all start on the lines with the offensive front needing to block someone with a pass rush and the defensive line to at least breathe on a quarterback once in a while. The skill players aren't bad and the defensive back seven has good potential, led by one of the WAC's best group of safeties in Shiloh Keo, Virdell Larkins, and Jeromy Jones. The special teams will be solid, and Nathan Enderle is going into his third year as the starting quarterback. There are some good pieces to work around, there just aren't enough of them.

What to watch for on offense: The left side of the line. After allowing 36 sacks, the O line has to get much tighter in a big hurry. It wasn't bad for the running game, but it wasn't able to get into enough of a lather to effectively pound away for a full 60 minutes. this year, the left side of offensive front has the potential to be great, but first, NFL prospect Mike Iupati, a 330-pound guard, has to get healthy. If he's 100%, he's one of the best in the league, while sophomore left tackle Matt Cleveland has the potential to be an anchor on the outside for the next three years. If they're a strength, the offense could quickly become far better.

What to watch for on defense: The knees of the defensive tackles. Oga Faumui and Fono Sekona are two of the team's best tackles, with Jonah Sataraka probably the best of the three, but they have knee injuries to get over. Aaron Lavarias was out of position last year as a small tackle, and now he'll be tried out as a big end. However, he might have to move back inside if health is an overall issue for the line, and that wouldn't be a plus. Idaho gave up 210 rushing yards per game last season and didn't generate any sort of an interior pass rush. Both things have to change.

The team will be far better if … the passing game can keep up in firefights. Basically, Nathan Enderle has to start punching his weight. It's not a fair burden for the Vandal QB to deal with, considering he's always under pressure and his receivers have been awful, but he needs to be able to use his big arm to bomb away more effectively. The defense is what it is ... it's not going to be a brick wall any time soon. Idaho has to start being able to consistently put up 30 points a game it has to be able throw for more than 300 yards an outing to keep up. That could be a problem considering there was only one game against an FBS team, a 45-32 to Fresno State, while the offense only generated more than 300 yards passing once.

The Schedule:
There isn't a sure-thing win on the lot. Starting off the season at New Mexico State needs to be a must-win to set the tone for the first half of the year. When Colorado State is your toughest non-conference game, there shouldn't be too much to worry about. However, Idaho can't take any game for granted and has to go on the road to face Nevada and Boise State. Closing out with four home games in the final six is as nice a break as the team could ask for.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Deonte Jackson. After carrying the offense at times two years ago, he was spelled a bit more last year in an attempt to keep the star fresh. Idaho got out of games so quickly that Jackson wasn't allowed to work as much as he should've but when he's able to be a part of the attack early on, he's among the WAC's most dangerous backs.

Best Defensive Player: Junior SS Shiloh Keo. Hurt last year with a shoulder injury, he's back and should be among the WAC's best defensive backs. While he's only 5-10 and 214 pounds, he's a tackling machine with tremendous quickness. Not only the team's defensive star, he's also an elite punt returner who's a weapon every time he touches the ball.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Nathan Enderle. He was the key to last year, too, and while he wasn't awful, he threw 17 interceptions and he wasn't able to make everyone around him any better. He didn't have time, with pass rushers getting free shots on him way too often, but he's going to have to use his two years of experience to make quicker decisions and to get the ball out of his hands quicker.

The season will be a success if … the Vandals win four games. They haven’t won more than four since 2000, but hitting the mark would be a nice step forward after last year's disaster. However, they might not be favored in any game until the season finale against Utah State. To get to four wins, the Vandals would have to be the Aggies, the Utah State and New Mexico State versions, and will need two big home wins along the way against teams like San Diego State and Hawaii.

Key game: Sept. 5 at New Mexico State. The win over the Aggies was the only one over an FBS team in the Akey era, and another victory is needed to have any hope of a decent year. With NMSU retooling, Idaho has to prove that in year three under Akey, the rebuilding job is bearing fruit.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 162 - Idaho 47
- Touchdown rushes: Opponents 35 - Idaho 9
- Sacks: Opponents 36 for 254 yards - Idaho 10 for 75 yards

- 2009 Idaho Preview | 2009 Idaho Offense  
- 2009 Idaho Defense | 2009 Idaho Depth Chart  
- 2008 Idaho Preview | 2007 Idaho Preview | 2006 Idaho Preview