2010 Idaho Preview
Idaho QB Nathan Enderle
Idaho QB Nathan Enderle
Posted Aug 10, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Robb Akey
4th year: 11-26
Returning Lettermen
Off. 18, Def. 26, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 11
Ten Best Idaho Players
1. SS Shiloh Keo, Sr.
2. QB Nathan Enderle, Sr.
3. LB JoJo Dickson, Sr.
4. WR Maurice Shaw, Sr.
5. TE Daniel Hardy, Sr.
6. DE Aaron Lavarias, Sr.
7. WR Preston Davis, Jr.
8. LB Robert Siavii, Jr.
9. RB Princeton McCarty, Jr.
10. NT Jonah Sataraka, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 North Dakota
Sept. 11 at Nebraska
Sept. 18 UNLV
Sept. 25 at Colorado St
Oct. 2 at Western Mich
Oct. 16 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 23 NMSU
Oct. 30 at Hawaii
Nov. 6 Nevada
Nov. 12 Boise State
Nov. 20 at Utah State
Nov. 27 at Fresno State
Dec. 4 San Jose State

Every year there are shockers that come from out of leftfield, but the 2009 Idaho Vandals took things to a whole other level.

In hindsight, the 8-5 season might have been foreseeable. Even though the program won just three games in the first two years under head coach Robb Akey (and with two of those wins coming against FCS programs), the team always played hard, didn't quit, and always gave the right effort; it just wasn't very good. Last year, the effort combined with experience and a little bit of talent to beat the mediocre teams on the schedule (and there were a LOT of those), and that's what the Vandals have to keep on doing.

Considering the program had just one winning season since 1999 and had won just nine games in the previous four seasons, coming up with eight wins, no matter who they were against, was a major step forward. Yeah, the two best wins came over MAC teams, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green by a combined four points, and the team wasn't even close against most of the other teams with a pulse, but again, 8-5 is 8-5 is 8-5. Now the question is whether or not the production can continue.

There's a ton of experience returning with 18 starters back including an emerging star at quarterback, Nathan Enderle, and, arguably, the best defensive player in the WAC, safety Shiloh Keo. But the defense that hasn't stopped anyone in years isn't likely to get a whole bunch better, even with all the returning experience. And after getting destroyed by Nevada and Boise State, and allowing an average of 49 points per contest over the last six games, there's still a lot of room for improvement. A LOT.

The offense picked up the slack most of the time with an ultra-efficient passing game and big seasons from the line and the skill players, but that could all go into the tank with four starters gone from the line. The skill players are among the best in the WAC (at least among those not named Boise State), but they need time to operate.

If nothing else, there's a buzz around Idaho football again and there's a lot of excitement about where Akey could take the program. With Boise State moving out, the WAC will be looking for new teams to step up and take over as the new stars, and after recruiting plenty of speed and athleticism, and with some decent young talents waiting in the wings, the needle is pointing up, even if this season is a slight step back.

What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. With Mike Iupati off to the NFL and three other starters gone off a line that barreled the way for a big year from the running game, the line will be the team's biggest focus. The skill players are in place with two good, shifty backs in Princeton McCarty and Deonte Jackson, and the receiving corps has a great combination of speed and upside, but none of it will matter if Nathan Enderle is getting beaten up. The line is huge … HUGE … but the JUCO transfers have to be ready to shine from the opening snap and the pass protection has to be solid.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. Idaho hasn't gotten to the quarterback in years, and that's a problem against the better passing WAC teams. In a trickle-down effect, the inability to get into the backfield has killed the secondary. The defensive backs have speed and athleticism, but they've been sitting ducks against quarterbacks that get 15 days to throw. With six starters back on the front seven (and the seventh guy a veteran in the middle, Tre'Shawn Robinson), everyone knows what they're doing. However, the Vandals generated just 15 sacks and 54 tackles for loss. That has to change and now the defense will take more chances to make more things happen.

The team will be far better if … the defense could stop someone on third downs. Opponents converted on third down a whopping 53% of the time (only Colorado State's defense was worse), and of the bottom 17 teams in the nation in third down conversion percentage defense, Idaho was the only team to make a bowl game. Again, the line has to generate pressure to keep quarterbacks from having the time needed to keep the chains moving.

The schedule: Considering North Dakota won't be a pushover from the FCS ranks, the first half of the schedule will be sneaky-tough with a stretch of four road games in five and five in seven before November. On the plus side, the Vandals get Nevada and Boise State at home, but on the down side, the Vandals get Nevada and Boise State at home; they need as many winnable home games as possible. With San Jose State and New Mexico State coming to the Kibbie Dome, the season isn't going to be a total wash if there isn't much luck on the road, but coming up with wins at Hawaii and Utah State will be a must to have any hope of going to another bowl game.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Nathan Enderle. Thrown out on the field as a redshirt freshman, Enderle had a 423-yard passing day against Northern Illinois to suggest that he might be a franchise quarterback to build the team around. But over his first two seasons he didn't find an interception he didn't like to throw, giving away 35 along with 30 touchdown passes. With size, a great arm, and experience, he became a more effective and more efficient passer lsat year throwing just nine picks, with three coming against San Jose State and none over the final two games, with 22 touchdown passes. While he was banged up late and missed two games, he still threw for 250 yards or more six times and tossed 13 scoring passes in his final four games.

Best defensive player: Senior S Shiloh Keo. Returning after missing most of 2008 with a shoulder problem, Keo was one of the few playmakers in the secondary with 113 tackles with three interceptions and five broken up passes. Incredibly quick and extremely tough, he has had to clean up a lot of messes over his great career. If he stays healthy, he'll finish with at least 400 tackles on the résumé. Along with being one of the WAC's top defenders, he's also an elite punt returner averaging 14.2 yards career try.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OT Matt Cleveland. The offensive line got ripped apart in 2008 allowing 36 sacks and the offense finished 93rd in the nation with the passing attack finishing 86th overall and 97th in efficiency. The line was terrific last year allowing 25 sacks and far fewer quarterback pressures, and the offense finished ninth in the nation, 12th in passing and sixth in passing efficiency. As the lone returning starter up front, and as the starting left tackle, Cleveland has to be a rock to help keep Enderle clean.

The season will be a success if … the Vandals go back to a bowl game. It's not going to be easy and there can't be any slip ups (like last year's loss to Utah State) and there will have to be some key road wins, but for a team with so much returning experience and so many good pieces, it'll be considered a major disappointment if the team can't capitalize on the momentum from last year and go bowling again.

Key game: Oct. 30 at Hawaii. To get to a bowl game, Idaho will have to beat a few teams at its own level (unlike Boise State and Nevada). After getting ripped apart five years in a row by Hawaii, the Vandals came up with a 35-23 win last year that was the one to become bowl eligible for a 6-1 start by mid-October. With Nevada and Boise State to follow, Idaho has to come away from paradise with a victory.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 25 for 147 yards – Idaho 15 for 82 yards
- Average yards per catch: Idaho 15.5 – Opponents 12.4
- Points per game: Opponents 36 – Idaho 32.7

- 2010 Idaho Preview | 2010 Idaho Offense
- 2010 Idaho Defense | 2010 Idaho Depth Chart
- Idaho Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006