2004 Spotlight: Scoping the Defensive Backs

Last week we looked at the Front Seven depth chart we expect to see back next season. This week we look at the roster of players we anticipate seeing back next fall in the defensive backfield for Idaho (including cornerback <b>J.R. Ruffin</b>). Plus, we take a glance around the region at several highschool and JC prospects at each position (cornerback and safety).

LINK: 2004 Spotlight: The Defensive Front Seven



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Alundis Brice
Cornerbacks Coach

New CB coach Alundis Brice shown during his playing career as a DB with the Dallas Cowboys.


Idaho made significant strides in the performance of its defensive backfield last season, as a senior-dominated unit took the field for the Vandals. Gone is 11 game starter and All-Conference cornerback Rod Bryant, as well as safeties Darryl Murphy (7th on the team in tackles) and Robert Ortega (8 game starter, including several starts at corner). The unit excelled under first year Defensive Backs coach Greg Jackson, a former All-Pro who joined the staff last season and significantly improved the unit's performance.

Gone is coach Jackson, but in his place is new Defensive Coordinator Jeff Mills (safeties) and new Cornerbacks Coach Alundis Brice. Brice, announced earlier this week, comes to Moscow from his GA post at Ole Miss last season and following 5 years in the NFL. Jeff and Alundis aren't necessarily inheriting a "rebuilding job", but there are holes to be filled. There is experience in the depth chart (particularly if cornerback J.R. Ruffin returns for his senior season), but there is a tremendous amount of youth as well. We've separated the defensive backs into CB and Safety groupings, but the players have been fairly interchangeable in the recent past (Allen, Mascorro and Stewart in particular have played both CB and S at Idaho). Holt's staff will likely move players around to find the best fit.

So, with that in mind, below is a look at the players we expect to see back for Idaho next fall.


(NOTE: For the sake of looking ahead to next season, ALL PLAYERS ARE LISTED BY THEIR 2004 CLASS. For instance, this year Brandon Mascorro was a true freshman, but he's listed in our 2004 Projected Depth Chart as a sophomore, because he will be a soph in 2004).



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Simeon Stewart
5-8, 179, Sr

Simeon is a fifth year senior out of Mt. Tahoma HS (Tacoma, WA) who has earned significant playing time at CB and S at Idaho.


CORNERBACKS
OVERVIEW: During the Cable-era Idaho relied heavily on JC transfers at the cornerback position. Consequently, this year we have a significant gap between the returning players with experience (3 seniors) and the rest of the depth chart, which has none (2 RS-Freshmen). The 2 redshirt freshmen have good speed (comparatively, the entire defensive backfield has improved its speed the last 2 years), but will need experience in a hurry. The upper classmen all have starting experience and a lot of PT to fall back on. They also have a year of experience under the coaching of former All-Pro defensive back Chris Jackson, who did an admirable job in his one year on former coach Tom Cable's staff. For all intents and purposes, both CB positions appear to be wide open.

J.R. Ruffin was one of the bigger surprises last fall, his first at Idaho. He's one of the most sure open field tacklers in the backfield, good cover skills, and gets to the ball quickly. Assuming he makes it back on the roster (he was suspended indefinitely towards the end of the 2003 season), he will be one of the top candidates to earn a starting job.

Both Chris Nathan (JC transfer who joined the Vandals last fall) and Simeon Stewart (recruited to Idaho as a HS senior in Cable's first recruiting class) played significantly in 2003. Both had about 20 tackles last year, while Chris also had one interception. Chris started 4 of the first 5 games in 2003, while Simeon started one (Simeon was Rod Bryant's primary backup most of the year). Both of these players will be fighting for starting duties next year.

CONCERNS: Lots of youth and inexperience in the depth chart. Behind J.R., Simeon and Chris the depth chart looks like it will be filled with RS-Fr, new freshman recruits, and will likely see at least a couple JC prospects added to the mix. Throw in the fact that a new coaching staff is involved, and you can bet this group will be tested early and often next fall.

WILD-CARD(S): The Redshirt Recruits: Eric McMillan and Kyle Williams. Kyle has outstanding speed out of Oakland, while Eric was a mainstay on a powerful defense. Its been awhile since Idaho has had a RS-Freshman come in and see significant playing time, but this group might just be capable of doing just that. Herb Cash A JC prospect who has reportedly committed to Idaho already. We have very little data on Herb, other than we know that he did sign with New Mexico last year but had issues with transcripts. He does have a redshirt year available, and comes to Idaho as a junior. His freshman numbers were solid, as were his HS stats. Will likely come in and compete for PT immediately.

Recruiting PROSPECTS:
Below are prospects from around the region that we've been made aware of from a variety of sources. Some have been contacted by Idaho, some have not. This is NOT a complete list, so expect Holt and his staff to be looking at a much larger group of players, and searching for several "diamonds in the rough." The prospects shown below are listed in alphabetical order.

       Micah Berteau, 5-10, 171 (Hughson, CA)
       Jared Billups, 5-10.5, 163 (Playa Del Rey, CA)
       Chris Camacho, 5-8, 160 (Riverside, CA)
       Quinton Jackson, 6-0, 170 (Renton, WA)
       Reggie Jones, 5-10, 175 (Kent, WA)
       Chris Meadows, 5-11, 185 (Redondo Beach, CA)
       Zach Richardson, 5-11, 170 (Boise, ID)
       A.J. Stone, 5-10, 170 (Twin Falls, ID)


Cornerbacks
Projected 2004 Depth-Chart
(Listed by 2003 stats)

Name Ht. Wt. Yr. 2003 Stats
Chris Nathan 6-0 170 Sr GS=5, GP=8, 20 TKL, 1 INT, 1 PBU
J.R. Ruffin 6-0 175 Sr GS=3, GP=5, 32 TKL, 2 PBU, 1 FF
Simeon Stewart 5-8 179 Sr GS=1, GP=9, 18 TKL, 1 PBU
Herb Cash 6-0 175 Jr JC Transfer (joining Vandals in 2004)
Eric McMillan 5-10 180 RS-Fr Redshirted
Kyle Williams 5-9 170 RS-Fr Redshirted






VandalVenue.com Image
Ben Allen
6-0, 181, Sr

Ben, a senior who transferred to Idaho out of Ricks College 2 years ago (graduate of Centennial HS in Boise, ID), is expected to be one of the DB leaders in 2004.


SAFETIES
OVERVIEW: Just as is the case with the corners, there is solid experience at the top of the depth chart (2 seniors and a sophomore with starting experience), and a ton of youth behind them. Senior Ben Allen (Ricks College) leads the group in experience, having started 3 games at the end of the season. Senior Jarvis Huff (El Camino College) played well and started 3 games early in the year, but was out of the line-up for much of the season. Then-RS-Freshman Brandon Mascorro (St. Bonaventure HS) broke into the starting lineup at the end of the season, starting at safety opposite Ben Allen, picking up 16 tackles and fumble recovery in 2003. The rest of the depth chart has no game time experience, although there are a couple of solid prospects who redshirted last season who could make a splash in 2004.

CONCERNS: The biggest concern appears to be depth. Allen, Huff and Mascorro all earned solid experience in 2003. But behind them Idaho will be looking at RS-Freshmen and new recruits to fill-in and compete for starting duties. It also appears Idaho is looking the JC route to provide some immediate depth. Three DBs from a year ago (Nate Nichols, Curtis Bibolet, and Robert Davis) moved from Safety to LB last year, and its possible one or more could be moved back if necessary.

WILD-CARD(S): Lee Jones. Redshirted freshman out of Seattle's O'Dea High School. Has nice size and good athleticism. Derek McCleod. Walk-on redshirted last season. Was stated by sources close to Cable's staff to have had the best fall pre-season camp last season of all the walk-ons.

Recruiting PROSPECTS:
Below are prospects from around the region that we've been made aware of from a variety of sources. Some have been contacted by Idaho, some have not. This is NOT a complete list, so expect Holt and his staff to be looking at a much larger group of players, and searching for several "diamonds in the rough." The prospects shown below are listed in alphabetical order.

       Jevon Butler, 6-2, 205 (Everett, WA)
       John Coombs, 6-1, 175 (Bellevue, WA)
       Steve Davis, 5-11, 200 (Kennewick, WA)
       Jeff Dixon, 6-1, 215 (Saddleback CC – CA) Rivals Profile
       Jeffrey Minter, 6-2, 180 (Los Alamitos, CA) Rivals Profile
       Brad Mundt, 5-11, 175 (Grangeville, ID) Read More!
       Brandon Nystrom, 6-2, 190 (Junction City, OR)
       Matt Patterson, 6-2, 205 (Burbank, CA)
       Rashaad Richards, 6-1, 185 (North Hills, CA)


Safeties
Projected 2004 Depth-Chart
(Listed by 2003 stats)

Name Ht. Wt. Yr. 2003 Stats
Ben Allen 6-0 181 Sr GS=3, GP=9, 35 TKL, 1 INT, 7 PBU
Jarvis Huff 5-11 207 Sr GS=3, GP=5, 27 TKL, 1 TFL
Brandon Mascorro 5-9 170 So GS=2, GP=7, 16 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 FR
Ace Davis 6-0 200 So Walk-on, No Data
Lee Jones 6-1 180 RS-Fr Redshirted
Derek McCleod 5-11 177 RS-Fr Walk-on, Redshirted
Jeremy Praegitzer 5-11 172 RS-Fr Walk-on, Redshirted
Mike Scorcio 5-8 166 RS-Fr Walk-on, Redshirted