Spring Preview: The 2005 Vandal Linebackers

LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com

For all the discussion about the depth challenges the Vandals have faced recently, one group where that is not the case is the Vandal linebacking unit. The returners include a <i>Lombardi Award</i> Watch-List honoree, 2 athletes that have led Idaho in tackles the last 2 years, a 1st Team All Conference selection, and virtually the entire depth chart from last season. Not a bad situation at all.



OUT FOR SPRING... No injuries to report.

HANGING UP THE CLEATS... Nobody!

PLAYER SHUFFLE... It's been a busy off-season as far as player shuffling and the linebacking unit is concerned. Topping the list is the move of senior Mike Anderson (6-3, 235) back to linebacker after a 1-year stint at DE. Although the linebacking unit is gaining by having Mike back, they are also losing a 2004 player as Ben Alexander (6-1, 230), a true freshman last fall who played in 8 games as a middle linebacker (MIKE), takes his game to the defensive line and will be moving up to DE in '05 (nice sized athlete with excellent speed who will give the DE rotation a nice burst off the edge). Also making a change is redshirt freshman walkon Joel Jones who moves over to the H-Back unit.



OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Idaho's base 4-3 defense utilizes a 3 linebacker set. The outside linebackers flanking the middle linebacker (WILL and SAM) are a versatile bunch, several of whom joined the Vandals as defensive backs who have moved forward. In 2004 the starting outside linebackers were Nate Nichols (6-2, 231) and Robert Davis (6-4, 225), both of whom are back for '05 (Davis was the #2 tackler for Idaho last fall, and is also on a watch list for the 2007 NFL draft). Back in the fold is senior Mike Anderson (6-3, 235) who spent last fall at DE after dominating the linebacking position as a RS-Fr and Soph (as a RS-Soph he led Idaho in tackles while splitting time at OLB and MLB, and playing 3 games at DE). The top backups return as well, including Josh Bousman (6-2, 215) and David Vobora (6-1, 210).

Focusing only on the outside linebackers, the group is solid with plenty of experience and accolades going into next fall.

In the fall the linebackers will be joined by high school signees Adam Shamion (6-2, 215), Eddie Williams (6-2, 228), and Jason Brown (6-1.5, 200). We'll discuss this group of recruits in more detail in the fall when they get to campus. In this article we will focus our attention below strictly on the athletes competing for playing time this spring in Moscow.


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Robert Davis, 6-4, 220, RS-Jr
What an outstanding 2004 season. Last fall Robert ended the season as the #2 tackler on the Vandal team with 76 tackles in 11 games, including 43 solo takedowns. He recorded 9 tackles for loss including a quarterback sack and 1 QB hurry, and had 1 interception he returned for 11 yards. Before the season started he was recognized by NFLDraftBlitz.com on a watch-list for Top Prospects In The 2007 NFL Draft, and he didn't disappoint. As a RS-Fr in 2003 he earned the #2 spot as an OLB behind Mike Anderson and played in 10 games, recorded 25 tackles (14 solo), 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. Robert signed with Idaho in 2002 as a DB out of Royal HS where he was a 2-way starter and earned All Conference honors as a wide receiver.


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Nate Nichols, 6-2, 231, Senior
The redshirt senior out of Walla Walla High School signed with Idaho in 2001 and has been an integral part of Idaho's defense since earning playing time as a RS-Fr safety for the Vandals (played in 11 games and started against UW). Nate made the move to OLB in 2003, playing in 10 games (2 starts) recording 49 tackles (#8 on the team), including 2 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and 1 QB hurry. In 2004 Nate started 11 of Idaho's games at SAM, recording 40 tackles on the year with 5 tackles for loss including 1 QB sack and 1 QB hurry.


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Mike Anderson, 6-3, 235, Senior
Mike joined the Vandals in 2001 as an invited walkon out of Lewiston High School and has been an integral part of the defense ever since. As a RS-Fr he ended the year the #3 tackler on the team, played in all 12 games and started 3, recorded 2 quarterback sacks, an interception and 3 pass breakups. As a soph Mike led the Vandals in tackling (104, 5th in the SBC), with 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 pass breakups, and force 3 fumbles switching between MLB and OLB until the last 3 weeks of the season, when he moved to DE to help Idaho's defensive line. In 2004 he moved to DE for the season and though his numbers dropped, he started every game and was the only Vandal to earn Conference Player of the Week honors. He's back at linebacker for 2005, and is expected to be a force.


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Josh Bousman, 6-2, 215, RS-Soph
One of the most decorated Class 1A athletes to come out of the state of Washington (1st Team AP All State RB, League MVP, 3-time Class 1A State Champion in the 100 meter sprint), Josh signed with Idaho in 2003 and redshirted. As a RS-Fr in 2004 Josh played extensively, earning Special Teams Player of the Year honors from the Vandals, while also being listed as Idaho's #2 SAM for much of the season, getting the starting nod in Idaho's victory at EMU, and ultimately recording 37 tackles in 12 games (24 solo), 3 TFL, 1 sack, 3 QB hurries and 1 forced fumble.


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David Vobora, 6-1, 205, TRUE-SOPH
A graduate of Churchill High School (OR), David joined the Vandals last fall and immediately earned playing time as a true freshman WILL. His father was a linebacker at Oregon and David is carrying on the tradition at Idaho, where he started the last 3 games in 2004 and and played in all 12 and recorded 17 tackles on the year. As a high school senior he was invited to play in Oregon's prestigeous Les Schwab Bowl, and played virtually every skill position throughout his career. He also was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated with a 3.95 GPA

Matthew Whipps, 5-10, 200, Redshirt Freshman WALKON
A graduate of Bishop Kelly High School in Boise (ID), Matthew walked on at Idaho last fall and redshirted. At BK he was a two-time all-conference linebacker as well as a Southern Idaho all-star and team captain. He also played fullback and guard.







MIDDLE LINEBACKERS

The performance of Cole Snyder last fall virtually came out of nowhere, even for fans that have followed Vandal football closely over the years. But what an amazing effort it was. A northern Idaho native, Snyder is a graduate of Kamiah High School (ID) who originally went to Eastern Washington out of HS (2001). In 2002 he transferred to Idaho as a walkon, sat out the 2002 season, and in 2003 became an immediate factor in the middle linebacker rotation.

When Idaho hired Nick Holt and his staff, Snyder asserted himself in 2004 (largely through outstanding off-season conditioning) and had a bust out season for Idaho. He led the team in tackles (an astonishing 135 total tackles, which includes 74 solo stops and 61 assists). He was Idaho's ONLY 1st Team All Sun Belt selection in 2004. He was voted the team's Defensive MVP for 2004. And this spring he qualified for the preliminary watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award, an award for which the winner is honored as the nations #1 offensive or defensive lineman.

These are some hefty honors, and we salute Snyder's commitment to the game and look forward to following his career this fall.

Battling Snyder for the starting job will be Jaron Williams, a junior-to-be out of Muir High School (Pasadena, CA) who earned significant playing time last fall. Jaron spent most of '04 listed as the team's #2 WILL, but his move inside bolsters the entire linebacking depth chart (given the move of last season's #2 MLB Ben Alexander to DE), giving Idaho a 2-deep across the board with significant game experience. Included in the mix are walkons Nathan Zody (a redshirt junior out of Alaska) and John Williams (a transfer from Western Washington University).

As listed above in the OUTSIDE LINEBACKER preview, the linebackers will be joined this fall by high school signees Adam Shamion (6-2, 215), Eddie Williams (6-2, 228), and Jason Brown (6-1.5, 200). For now we'll focus our attention below strictly on the athletes competing for playing time this spring in Moscow.


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Cole Snyder, 5-11, 220, Senior
The #1 tackler on the team in 2004. Started 12 games, recorded 136 tackles (76 solo), including 16 tackles for loss and 4 quarterback sacks. Broke up 3 passes, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 2 fumbles, and registered 3 quarterback hurries. Was voted a 1st Team All Sun Belt Conference selection (the only Vandal to earn 1st Team honors in 2004), and was voted the Defensive MVP for Idaho last fall. His impact is being felt beyond the borders of Idaho as he has been selected to the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List for 2005. In 2003, after transferring to Idaho as a walkon from EWU in 2002 and sitting out the season, Snyder immediately made the MLB rotation making 35 tackles for the year.


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Jaron Williams, 6-1, 220, RS-Jr
Muir High School (CA) product Jaron Williams joined the Vandals in 2002 and redshirt his first season in Moscow. He missed much of the 2003 season with an injury while working primarily with the scout team. He came back in 2004, bulked up his frame, and earned playing time as Idaho's #2 WILL, played in 6 games and recorded 5 tackles on the year. Looking back at his high school career, as a senior at Muir he made the switch from TE to LB and recorded 70 tackles, 6 pass deflections, 4 quarterback sacks, and 1 interception.


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Nathan Zody, 5-11, 225, RS-JR WALKON
A walkon out of Lathrop High School in Fairbanks (AK), Nathan has worked primarily as a scout team player since joining the program in 2002. As a high schooler Zody was an all-conference selection after playing linebacker and fullback at Lathrop. He graduated in 2002 after being highly recognized for his playing and leadership ability. He was his team's Defensive MVP, Most Valuable Linebacker and Most Valuable Football player after recording 140 tackles as a senior. He had 122 tackles as a junior. He also wrestled and competed in track.

John Williams, 5-11, 215, Redshirt Sophomore WALKON
A 2002 graduate of Eastlake High School in Snohomish (WA), John originally signed with Western Washington University. He redshirted his first season at WWU, then transferred to Idaho last fall (2004). Because of the transfer John sat out last fall but will be working with the team this spring. At Eastlake HS he was a 1st-Team All-Kingco League pick as a senior … Team co-captain and defensive MVP … Credited with 60 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 pass interceptions … Helped Wolves to 9-1 record, league title and first round of Class 4A state playoffs … Second-team all-league as junior and honorable mention as sophomore … Started and lettered three years … Also earned two letters in track. His father, John Williams, played fullback at University of Wisconsin and had seven-year pro career in NFL with Seattle, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Dallas.





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