[Vandal] Defense Looks To Take Center Stage

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Sat Aug 14 08:34:17 PDT 2021

>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoSaturday, August 14, 2021
Defense Looks To Take Center Stage
For good reason, Idaho thinks that side of ball has chance to do big things heading into first scrimmage
By Donn Walden
Idaho’s coaching staff hopes a spirited first practice in pads on Thursday will translate into a successful scrimmage Saturday.
Particularly on the defensive side, where there was a ton of energy and anticipation to hit someone else.
“I thought we did a lot of good things today,” defensive line coach Luther Elliss said. “Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but overall, I thought the effort was great. I thought guys were working hard, I thought they were working well together, encouraging each other, helping to correct each other.”
The scrimmage will take place at 10 a.m. today. Originally, it was set to take place at the East Practice Field. However, because of the area’s wildfires, it will be conducted at the Kibbie Dome and will be closed to fans.
Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said he was impressed with how the team has performed so far through the early days of camp.
“We’ve been doing some doggone good things outside, and the young guys our coming around with the install,” said Breske, who is in his seventh season leading the defense. “And we got to hit a little bit today, and it was fun to see the guys very spirited.”
Redshirt junior linebacker Fa’avae Fa’avae was glad to finally be able to put the pads on.
“I felt great, man,” said Fa’avae, who played at Washington State for two seasons before joining the Vandals for the spring season. “I felt the energy and enthusiasm was wonderful. We came out there ready to hit. It’s always a blessing to tackle, and we felt great.”
The blessings are great, considering what Idaho has returning.
Go no further than junior middle linebacker Tre Walker. Walker, a 6-foot-1, 240-pounder out of Dos Palos, Calif., was a five-time All-American after the spring campaign, including first-team honors from the Associated Press, STATS, Hero Sports and Phil Steele FCS. He led the Big Sky Conference with 13.5 tackles per game, and was named the conference preseason defensive player of the year in July.
Redshirt senior linebacker Charles Akanno comes back after leading Idaho with 7.5 tackles for loss. In 2019, the 6-1, 250-pounder was on his way to earning national honors before sustaining a season-ending injury.
Up front, big Rahsaan Crawford takes up a ton of space. The 5-11, 309-pounder from Tucker, Ga., was an honorable mention All-Big Sky pick after recording eight tackles in four games during the spring.
Alongside will be redshirt junior Nate DeGraw. The 6-3, 262-pounder from Post Falls had 16 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and one sack this spring, including five tackles and a sack at No. 9 Eastern Washington.
In the back, seniors Tyrese Dedmon and Jalen Hoover will hold down two of the four spots.
Dedmon, a 6-1, 196-pounder from Lancaster, Calif., made second team All-Big Sky after finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 32, including a carer-high 10 against UC Davis.
Hoover, a 5-9, 175-pounder out of Brandon, Miss., also was a second-team All-Big Sky slection after recording 20 tackles, 11 solo, in the spring. He made just more than half of those tackles in wins against Southern Utah and EWU.
So there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the unit will fare this season. But it starts with the scrimmage.
Elliss, who is in his fifth year leading the line, thinks the Vandals could run a good eight to 12 players out there and not lose any production.“I think out of my unit, I just want to see guys running to the ball,” Elliss said. “We have a talented group of guys. I think we can be two-, maybe three-deep at some spots. So with that being said, there’s no reason why we can’t run full speed every play, chase plays down, do those things.”
As a whole, Breske looking for his unit to be solid in the fundamentals.
“Be productive, make plays, tackle well,” Breske said. “That’s the big thing. We get very limited opportunities to tackle in fall camp with the new NCAA rules, and we have to take advantage of that.”
High Chief
Fa’avae saw a lot of playing time in the spring, averaging almost eight tackles per game in being named honorable mention All-Big Sky.He more than tripled his amount of tackles from the two seasons he spent with the Cougars, when Fa’Avae made just 10 total stops in 17 total games between 2018-19.
When he transferred, Fa’avae took on the No. 3 on the roster. However, he will wear No. 2 this season.The reason? It’s quite simple.
“First of all, my first and last name is the same thing, so everybody calls me F2,” he said. “It’s the Samoan culture. If you are the chief of the village, you get passed down that title and that name. I’ve gotta take 2 on and represent that culture.”
Vandals On Television
It was announced this week that Idaho will play on SWX four times this season, including the season opener at 1 p.m. at home against Division II Simon Fraser.
Other games on SWX include the battle for the Little Brown Stein against Montana at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 23, the Vandals’ 1 p.m. Oct. 30 home game against Northern Arizona, and the Nov. 13 game against Montana State. That game kicks off at noon Pacific.
Idaho’s Oct. 16 game at Eastern Washington starts at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on ROOT Sports, the Sept. 11 game at Indiana begins at 4:30 p.m. Pacific on the Big Ten Network, and the Sept. 18 game at Oregon State will kicks off at 12:30 p.m. will be shown on the Pac-12 Network. All other games will be streamed on ESPN+.
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