We'll be honest. As a staff at VandalVenue, we were stunned when we learned that former starting strong safety, junior D.J. Dykes, had left the team last summer. A preseason All-WAC selection and 2-year starter for the Vandals, Dykes was expected to be the team's defensive leader last fall. Defensive coordinator Jeff Mills stated in an interview on this site that it was extremely rare to have a strong safety coming back with 23 starts under his belt...and just a junior to boot. He seemed destined for greatness in the Vandal defensive backfield.
Over the summer we had heard that this young kid was going to be the heir apparent to Dykes, and that he too was ready to step in as a true freshman and compete, just like Dykes had done in 2004. We were hesitant to believe that a freshman could step in and pick up where D.J. had left off at Idaho.
Then we watched true freshman Shiloh Keo climb to the top of the strong safety depth chart throughout fall camp, and make his first collegiate start on the road at Michigan State. It didn't take long to realize Keo could actually be as good, if not better, than Dykes.
Keo is the second Vandal to be named to the TSN Freshman All-American Team (former UI DE Brandon Kania made the list in '01).
He came to Idaho with a stellar high school football resume. A Class 2A AP All-State selection at defensive back, Keo transferred to powerhouse Archbishop Murphy from Woodinville High before his junior year and quickly became a difference maker on both sides of the ball. In two seasons at Murphy Keo rushed for 2,946 yards and an eye-popping 37 touchdowns. Not satisfied with just running the ball, Keo also completed 7-for-13 pass attempts for 184 yards and four TDs. And, just to be complete, he caught eight passes for 162 yards and one score. As a senior he rushed for 1,675 yards (13.4 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns in 15 games. He was named an All Conference running back, an Associated Press 2A All-State defensive back, and the Cascade Conference's Defensive Back of the Year.
With Dykes gone, Keo's shot at a starting job presented itself, and he pounced on it.
This season as a true freshman he started every game for Idaho. Statistically, Keo finished the season as the team's second leading tackler with 72 tackles in 2006, including 59 solo stops. He broke up 6 passes on the year, picked off one pass that he returned for 33 yards, and registered 6 tackles for loss.
This is the third season in a row that Idaho's strong safety has been the team's second leading tackler.
He acclimated to the speed of the Division 1A game quickly, and became a leader for the Vandal defense in his first season in Moscow. And with 8 of Idaho's top 10 tacklers returning next fall, the stage is set for a solid 2007 campaign for Keo and the rest of the Idaho defense.
In total, seven Western Athletic Conference athletes were named to The Sporting News All-American Teams.
Ian Johnson, RB, BSU
Korey Hall, LB, BSU
FRESHMAN ALL AMERICANS
Antonio Baker, S, LT
Justin Cole, DE, SJSU
Paul Igboeli, LB, USU
Shiloh Keo, S, Idaho
Kyle Wilson, CB, BSU