Ben committed to Nick, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As a junior Ben lined up for the Olympians at TE/WB on offense, and linebacker on defense. He was solid at both, but linebacker was the position where he excelled. Excellent size, agility and speed (a reported 4.32 40 time, with an 11.25 second 100 m time recorded as a junior), he was on the radar screens of several PAC-10 and WAC teams following his junior season...a season in which he earned All League honors in the tough Bay League.
Primed for a break-out senior season, Ben's year was cut short after an injury suffered in October. His stats and senior honors fell, but his stock as a solid 1-A prospect did not.
Ben played in 8 games at MLB in '04.
As a true freshman Ben was named the Vandals' #2 middle linebacker for the season opener against Boise State, and he never looked back. He played in 8 games that season, recording 16 tackles and a quarterback sack. Not earth shattering stats, but efficient. It was also obvious watching him that he would be a major contributor at Idaho for several years.
Last spring, as a true sophomore, it was announced that Ben would be moving up to defensive end. Listed as 215 pounds, he certainly seemed undersized for the new position; a position he had never played in his life. Turns out the fact that he may have been a little undersized to battle 6-6 behemoths apparently didn't matter.
Ben started at DE against Washington State in the '05 opener.
A year later, Ben is poised to build on last falls' success. Idaho coaches were asked repeatedly if Ben would move back to linebacker, and the answer was a emphatic "no". He's "too good" at defensive end was the response, and the stage was set for 2006.
Ben has bulked up his 6-1 frame this offseason and he's now playing at a solid 236 pounds. He's easily one of the faster defensive ends in the country, and he will look to capitalize on that speed in the weeks and years ahead.
He will be one Vandal athlete to watch closely this fall, for sure.
This week Gaylen Wood caught up with Ben and the two talked briefly about what Ben expects from himself, and the 2006 Vandal defense, this fall.
Ben is now playing at a rock solid 6-1, 236 pounds.
BA: Well, I know this year we expect to win. We expect more effort out of everybody, especially the D-line. It starts up front.
VV: What have been some of the biggest adjustments you've had to make in your game moving from linebacker to defensive end? What's it like for you?
BA: Oh, I had to gain some more weight. Last year I was at 210; now I'm at 236, so the weight was a big difference.
VV: How do you rate the defense this year compared to last year in terms of speed, toughness, and experience…things like that?
BA: I definitely think we have more speed and toughness...intensity. We run to the ball more. We do miss players, though, like Cole Snyder and Dan Dykes, but we have good players, good replacements like Jaron Williams. He's been a big replacement for Cole, and Tone [Taupule] stepped up, and Shiloh [Keo].
Ben had a stellar '05 season, his first ever at defensive end.
BA: Oh, yeah. Way better hitters. We kinda let up in practice, though. When this first game comes we're gonna do some damage.
VV: You were recruited by several programs out of high school, and we'd like to know what some of the reasons were behind your choice to come to the University of Idaho.
BA: Coach Holt recruited me here; coaches Holt and [Johnny] Nansen. I came here because I like the environment; so you had to get away from home...things like that. I liked the guys out here when I came on the trip.
VV: Who was your host when you were here?
BA: I was with Curtis Bibolet. He used to play D-line.
VV: One last question. We want to know what's your favorite band or your favorite musician and why? We've been asking everybody this….
BA: My favorite rapper is Snoop Dog just ‘cuz he's from my area, and I've been listening to him since I was little.
VV: Great! Thanks a lot and good luck this week.