SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Idaho Vandals

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Tom Cable (4th year, 8-26)
2002 record: 2-10
Sun Belt finish: 7th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 115.0 ypg
(6th in Sun Belt, 97th in nation)
Pass: 289.6 ypg (1st, 15th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 190.2 ypg (6th, 96th)
Pass: 274.4 ypg (7th, 111th)
Projected Starters
Offense (6 returning starters in bold)
WR   14   Orlando Winston   Sr.  
WR  12  Jeff Stowe  So. 
WT   74   Jake Scott   Sr.  
WG   70   Jason Cobb   Sr.  
C   62   Matt Martinez   Sr.  
SG  65  Kyle Stewart  Sr. 
ST  73  Hank Therien  Fr. 
TE   93   Kelly Nead   Sr.  
QB   11   Brian Lindgren   Sr.  
FB  36  Brian Yarno  Jr. 
TB  31  Malfred Shaw  Sr. 
Defense (6)
DE   86   Brandon Kania   Jr.  
DT   3   Brian Howard   Sr.  
DT  91  Kelly Talavou  So. 
DE  Mike Bonelli  So. 
SLB  13  Mike Anderson  So. 
MLB   40   Patrick Libey   Sr.  
WLB   35   Chad Kodama   Sr.  
CB  18  Brandon Mascorro  Fr. 
CB   7   Rod Bryant   Sr.  
S   11   Robert Ortega   Sr.  
23  Darryl Murphy  Sr. 
Special Teams
15  Brian Pope  Sr. 
17  Ryan Downes  Sr. 
KR  Cedric Thompson  Sr. 
PR  Cedric Thompson  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Washington State 
Sept. 6  Eastern Washington 
Sept. 13  Boise State 
Sept. 20  at Washington 
Sept. 27  at Montana 
Oct. 4  at New Mexico State 
Oct. 11  North Texas 
Oct. 18  Middle Tennessee 
Oct. 25  at Louisiana-Lafayette 
Nov. 8  at Arkansas State 
Nov. 15  at Louisiana-Monroe 
Nov. 22  Utah State 
It's now or never for Tom Cable and the Idaho Vandals. The once-proud program has fallen on hard times the past two campaigns, winning a total of three games.

Now Cable, in the final year of his contract and no extension on the table, most likely needs a big improvement to keep his job at his alma mater. The good news for Cable is his team has a chance to be competitive in a balanced Sun Belt.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Brian Lindgren returns for his senior season as the starting quarterback after a campaign of ups and downs. Lindgren didn't have as strong of a 2002 season as Cable had anticipated, but the All-Sun Belt Conference pick still threw for 2,763 yards and 19 touchdowns before missing the final two games with a broken collarbone.

Lindgren will miss Josh Jelmberg, a dependable target who led the Vandals in receptions (64) and TD catches (eight) a year ago. Lindgren still will have two of his top four targets back in Orlando Winston (50 catches, 624 yards) and Jeff Stowe (30, 363). Return specialist Cedric Thompson should give Idaho's offense an additional pass-catching option.

The biggest concern is finding a replacement for tailback Blair Lewis, a rugged runner with breakaway speed who ran for 930 yards in 10 games last year. The leading candidates are Malfred Shaw, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 60 attempts, and Zach Gerstner, who saw action in all 12 games a year ago. Cable is counting on junior college transfer Kevin McKenzie, who joins the program in the fall. Three starters on the offensive line and two experienced tight ends should give the backs room to run and Lindgren time to throw.

Moving the ball (404.6 yards per game) and scoring points (23.8 per game) is rarely a problem for Idaho. The key this season will be to limit turnovers. Last season, Idaho gave up the ball 28 times.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Depth, experience and the second year in coordinator Ed Lamb's system are reasons to believe that the unit that gave up more than 35 points and 460 yards per game will improve. One key will be for the Vandals to force more turnovers. Last season, they forced only nine fumbles (recovering six) and picked off just eight passes.

The linebacking corps is solid with top tacklers Patrick Libey (69 tackles), Mike Anderson (51) and Chad Kodama (48) all returning. Experienced safeties Robert Ortega and Darryl Murphy return, as does cornerback Rod Bryant, who had a team-high two interceptions last season.

The defensive line has three proven returners in Kelly Talavou, Brian Howard and Brandon Kania. Junior college transfers Eric and Ernest Davis -- whose older brother, Chris Mims, is a former Tennessee and San Diego Charger standout -- give the line depth and athleticism.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Cedric Thompson is a fearless returner who was second-team all-conference a year ago. He is a weapon every time he touches the ball. The battle for the placekicking duties between Brian Pope, Sam Parry and Mike Barrow probably won't be decided until the fall. Punter Ryan Downes (41.8 yards per punt in '02) was on the watch list for the Ray Guy Award last season.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Cable has said he believes his current team has what it takes to win a conference championship. In a Sun Belt Conference where talent and depth are close among all eight teams, he may have a point. Idaho returns 12 starters and 40 letter-winners from a team that lost four games by single digits.

One challenge again will be the schedule. The Vandals again will be asked to take its lumps in non-conference play, with road games at Washington and Washington State. Throw in rivalry games against Boise State and Montana, and Cable's crew could find early wins hard to come by.

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