Admittedly, compared to many of the BCS programs around the country, the 2006 Vandal defensive line, from end-to-end, is not the tallest unit in the NCAA. But this group is by no stretch small when the entire depth chart is considered...certainly not by WAC standards anyhow, and especially compared to recent Vandal defensive lines. If anything this group will be toting a wealth of experience this fall after seeing plenty of playing time the last two years as true freshmen and JC transfers.
Some of the 2006 Vandal defensive linemen, including recruit JONAH SATARAKA (61), JON DOMINGUEZ (47), CHARLES CAMPBELL (93), and TAYLOR RUST (57, jersey rolled).
Who's out... The Vandals lost three seniors to graduation last year when defensive end Mike Bonelli (6-2, 240), defensive tackle Jeff Edwards (6-3, 267) and DT Eric Davis (6-3, 255) fulfilled their eligibility. All three were listed as starters at various times last season and played significant downs for Idaho. Also gone from this year's roster is Bryan Braman (6-5, 230), a defensive end in last year's recruiting class.
Who's in... The new blood joining the depth chart this fall is includes two junior college transfers in George Fa'avae and Jon Dominguez (both joined the team for spring camp), plus redshirt freshman defensive tackles Marvin Jones and Tyrel Fenwick (last year's Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year). The list of new recruits includes Jonah Sataraka and Aaron Lavarias, plus invited walkons Chris Ingebritson, Gary Rogers, and Jeff Ottele.
Idaho's interior defensive line is without a doubt as loaded with athletes as this platoon has been since the 2000 season. Easily. The group is led by a couple of noseguards in senior Ryan Davis (6-0, 261) (undersized but with a motor that never quits) and true-junior Siua Musika (6-1, 293), likely one of the fastest interior lineman (played runningback and linebacker in high school) and an athlete who has seen significant starting duties since his true freshman season. Musika missed spring camp to continue to nurse an injury sustained at the end of last season, and has been practicing with the team so far this fall in preparation for the opener in East Lansing.
At defensive tackle are a number of options, including defensive end Josh Shaw (more on him below). The group also includes redshirt sophomore Alex Toailoa (6-1, 299), who originally verballed to BYU before changing his mind to sign with Idaho in '04, and big redshirt freshman Marvin Jones (6-2, 301), who made it to the California state wrestling championships as a senior in high school.
Also expected to work the interior DL is transfer Jon Dominguez (6-3, 252) who has been with the team since the start of spring drills, and redshirt freshman Tyrel Fenwick (6-7, 262), who is getting a solid look on the Vandal offensive line at strong guard this fall also. Junior Dan Aizpitarte (6-3, 280) moves over from TE, and is joined by walkon Chris Ingebritson (6-3, 269) competing for playing time.
At defensive end the Vandals are lacking a 6-4, 6-5, or 6-6 monster rushing off the edge. So are a lot of teams. What Idaho may lack in height they make up for in speed, and that starts with true junior Ben Alexander (6-1, 235) off the weakside of the line. Scout.com's Chris Fetters reported that when Ben signed with Idaho he had offers from USC (Holt had been recruiting him to USC before taking over the Idaho program in '04), Oregon, and Fresno (among others), and picked Idaho because of the Engineering program and an opportunity to play immediately. That goal worked out as he worked into the LB rotation as a true, then last fall moved up to weakside DE and recorded 43 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and an interception. Not a bad season at a new position.
Also expected to see significant playing time this fall and be a major contributor at either end is senior Charles Campbell (6-3, 230). Campbell often rotated in with Alexander last season off the weakside, but has worked extensively this spring and fall on the strongside. Last season he recorded 33 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery after playing in all 11 games and starting two.
For a little more bulk, one athlete to keep an eye on is true sophomore Josh Shaw (6-2, 254). Josh rotated in extensively last fall as a true freshman, working the strongside with then-senior Bonelli. Shaw is a versatile defensive lineman who can slide inside to DT, or if the Vandals want to run a bigger line can move outside to DE. He has seen significant time in the spring and fall at DT and could see the bulk of his playing time this season on the interior D-line. Regardless, he's an option and a variable the Vandals have been lacking for several years.
Joining this group of ends is transfer George Fa'avae (6-2, 258) who has 3 years to play 2 and recorded 79 tackles last season at LA Harbor. He saw significant reps during fall camps and will be expected to get a chunk of playing time this fall. Redshirt sophomore Taylor Rust (6-2, 232) worked on the kickoff and kick return teams last season as a redshirt frosh, and worked in reps at defensive end as well.
Unlike in the recent past, any true freshman getting playing time this fall is going to have to beat out some talented athletes up the depth chart. That being said, new recruits Jonah Sataraka (6-2, 243) already looks big enough to compete for sometime (if not possibly move inside), and Aaron Lavarias (6-3, 244) helped lead his team to a Class 4A state championship last fall. The invited walkons in this unit include Gary Rogers (6-1, 225) and Jeff Ottele (6-3, 237) out of Poulsbo (Wash.).
So, the defensive line probably isn't loaded with physical freaks from end-to-end, but considering that in 2004 a 6-2, 235 defensive end was forced to line up as Idaho's starting defensive tackle due to injuries and a serious lack of depth, it's difficult to look at the 2006 edition of the Vandal DL and see a serious size problem. Not considering what this team has battled through in recent years, and what they've built the last 2 seasons.
DT Alex Toailoa