After 2 consecutive years with a recruiting focus on refortifying the trenches, Cable and crew went out this winter in search of specialists. Last Wednesday Idaho received 22 Letters of Intent, and to those of us at VandalVenue.com, the class looks solid. Overall, 14 high school seniors were signed, while 8 junior college transfers committed to Idaho. All 8 JC transfers are currently enrolled in Moscow, and all 8 should be participating in spring drills. Of the 22 recruits, just 5 are slated to be trench warriors. Of the five, 3 are projected to be defensive ends. It was a class focused on defensive backs and wide receivers, on linebackers and runningbacks, and on restocking the quarterback depth chart for years to come.
Three high school seniors from the state of Idaho signed with the Vandals (2 All-State TEs and an All-State offensive lineman). Among the most decorated of the class is Washington's 1st Team Class 3A All-State RB (Class 3A MVP as a junior), Washington's 1st Team Class 1A All-State RB (and 100 meters champion), Southern Nevada's Class 4A Defensive MVP, and Kansas' 1st Team Class 6A All-State Inside Linebacker. The class was drawn from 9 different states, including:
California = 9
Washington = 4
Idaho = 3
Oregon = 1
Nevada = 1
Arizona = 1
Kansas = 1
Michigan = 1
Tennessee = 1
The complete list of recruits can be viewed by either clicking on the link to "Recruits ('98-Present)" in the left hand margin under the "Football" heading, or you can simply click on the link below:
2003 Vandal Football Recruits
Below are player biographies for the 10 recruits we learned about on LOI day (Dan Aizpitarte, Lee Jones, Chris Joseph, Cliff Mason, Eric McMillan, Chad Pool, Sam Tossie, and Kyle Williams, and JC transfers Cody Ballard and Justin Wall). To read more about Idaho's recruits who verballed to the Vandals earlier, please click on the following articles:
Recruiting 2003: Vandals Sign JC Runningback (3/9/03)
Recruiting 2003: Commit List Grows (1/26/03)
Recruiting 2003: Idaho's Early Commits (1/11/03)
After assembling these player biographies, we at VandalVenue.com are pretty excited about this class. Head Coach Tom Cable and his staff deserve a hearty pat on the back for their effort. Its a solid group of young men, both on the field and in the classroom. The emphasis was clearly on bringing in players with wheels, and also on bringing players to Moscow who are passionate about the game and are equipped with the intangible, but critical, will to win. Few players have as much drive as high school linebacker (projected in some publications as a safety at Idaho) Chad Pool. We'll go into more detail below in his bio, but simply stated, the kid plays twice his size. He's small at 5-10, 180 pounds, and in turn did not get much interest from D-1 programs. But he was also Southern Nevada's Class 4A (biggest classification in the state) Defensive MVP as an Inside Linebacker for two consecutive years. In this year's state playoffs, his Las Vegas team lost in the semi's to Palo Verde (Vegas won State his junior year). In a remarkable turn of events, Palo Verde Head Coach Darwin Rost actually asked Pool to deliver a motivational speech 4 days later to the Palo Verde Panthers...the team that beat Pool's Wildcats. Rarely, if ever, has a player been invited to give a motivational speech in an opponents lockerroom, but the respect he'd earned as one of Nevada's best defenders gave him that privelage.
Courtesy The Las Vegas Sun
There are several other stories below regarding players in this class. The staff extended offers to a couple smaller players (Chad and Tacoma's Akeem Anthony), both of whom spent their entire high school careers playing powerful, self-motivated, hard-nosed football. Both, incidentally, are among the most decorated players in their respective states.
The class is also loaded with players who entertained offers and interest from several D-1 schools, and have the physical talent and skills to exceed at the next level. Among the best in this group is linebacker Sam Tossie (shown in photo, #44) from Hutchinson, Kansas who turned down an offer from Kansas State to instead come to Moscow. His bio tells it all, but at 6-1, 237 pounds and 4.6-40 speed (and a 3.5 GPA to boot), this heavily decorated prospect should be seeing playing time soon. Along with fellow linebacking recruits Pool and Josh Bousman, the linebacking corp appears to have a solid foundation.
The defensive backfield received a nice injection of speed and talent in 3 high school signees, the runningback depth chart grew by 2 strong freshmen, and the receiving corp got a bit taller (6-4 Chris Kehne at wideout, and 6-5 Colin Whitney at TE). We picked up one of Oregon's best QBs (a dual threat with an accurate arm and ability to run with the ball), and another QB who is one of Fresno, California's all-time leading passers. The trenches saw 2 Idahoans commit to the Vandals, and it looks like both should be able to redshirt this fall. And finally, an infusion of 8 JC transfers brought in for immediate help at wide receiver (3), in the defensive backfield (2), and on the defensive line (3) should bolster our overall team depth. All should see plenty of playing time this fall, and all 8 should be popping shoulder pads in the Spring Game on Friday, April 25th.
As always, now its up to these youngsters to live up to their potential as individual athletes, and to work with their new teammates to gel as a unit.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: We're working on pulling in a few more photos. As they become available, we'll add them to this article)
The Messenger Index
6-3, 240 Pounds
Previous School: Emmett High School
2nd Team, 4A All-State, TE
1st Team, All-Conference (4A-West), TE
Invited to East-West Korah Shrine Game
Unfortunately this season, Dan Aizpitarte did not have the privelege of playing on a very good High School football team. Emmett High struggled mightily as they broke in a group of youngsters on both sides of the ball. Consequently, although they were known as a team that "never gives up", they went through the season winless, falling in the last game of the season by 1 point to Caldwell High.
Rarely is a player on a team that struggles this much very well decorated. That's not the case with Dan. He was voted 2nd Team Class 4A All-State Tightend, right behind fellow Idaho recruit Colin Whitney who was named 1st Team Class 4A TE. Dan also was voted 1st Team All-Conference TE, and was invited to the East-West Shrine Game. As a junior tightend he caught 16 passes for 144 yards on a run-dominated team. Coach Luedtke told The Messenger Index that Dan was “the devastating blocker” who opened holes for over 2,000 yards of rushing offense, including 31 pancake blocks. On defense he helped shut down the strong side, recording 53 tackles and six sacks.
This year, on a team racked with injuries (including losing their starting QB), Dan lined up for part of the season at fullback. Teams stacked the Husky line to stop the run, but Dan had success, including an 82 yard rushing performance on 15 carries against Bishop Kelly. Defensively he was a force, with standout performances against Timberline (8 tackles, 3 sacks), Vallivue (13 tackles), and Bishop Kelly (17 tackles and a sack).
The Messenger Index
Dan is also a pretty decent hoops player as well. His career includes a 20 point performance against Eagle High this year and 12 points in a losing effort in the first round of the State Tournament last year.
At 6-3, 240 pounds, his agility will be an asset.
6-4, 240 Pounds
Previous School: Bakersfield College
1st Team, All-Western States Mountain Division, DL
1st Team, All-California Defense, DL
Bakersfield native Cody Ballard has been around the block. He originally signed with San Diego State University out of West High in Bakersfield, where he played fullback in addition to other positions. However, he passed on the offer for family reasons and stayed in Bakersfield. He instead attended Bakersfield College, and last year signed again with SDSU where he was listed in their recruiting class as a 6-3, 265 pound Defensive Tackle. However, although he was an honor roll student in High School and at BC, he was unable to complete his eligibility in time and was unable to attend SDSU last year.
While he accepted the offer from SDSU, he was also recruited by Idaho, Utah, Portland State, Arizona and Kentucky. Fortunately Idaho stayed in contact with Cody, and he will be a welcome addition to our interior defensive line. As a sophomore at BC he recorded 49 tackles and 3 quarterback sacks on a powerful Renegades football team (they've won an impressive 72% of their games over the past 76 years). The effort was good enough to earn him 1st Team All-Western States Mountain Division honors, and recognition on the 1st Team All-California Defense Team.
6-1, 180 Pounds
Previous School: O'Dea High School
1st Team, All-Metro League, Mountain Division, DB
Very quietly senior Lee Jones made a name for himself among Seattle-area coaches this fall as a solid cornerback for the always powerful O'Dea High School Fighting Irish. A big defensive back (6-1, 180) with good size and agility (he's a steady contributor on O'Dea's basketball team which is currently 16-4 and ranked in the Top 10 in Washington), Lee was a cog in an O'Dea football team that ended the season ranked third in Washington's 3A Classification. The Irish finished with a 10-1 record, their lone loss coming in the State Quarterfinals to eventual State Champion Bellevue.
From the Idaho Official Recruiting Release, Lee recorded 4 interceptions (returned 112 yards, with one going for a TD), 4 deflections, 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. The effort earned him 1st Team All-Metro League honors this fall.
Lee is one of at least 3 high school defensive back recruits brought in by Coach Cable and his staff this year. With time we believe this group should see significant playing time for Idaho, and that Lee's combination of size and quickness will make him a major contributor in the years ahead.
6-3, 190 Pounds
School: San Joaquin Memorial High School
1st Team, All-Central Sequoia League, QB
CSL Offensive Player of the Year (2002)
2nd Team All-CSL, QB (2001)
CSL Sophomore of the Year (2000)
San Joaquin Memorial High quarterback Chris Joseph etched his name deep in the Panther's all-time record books. He played this year as the top rated QB in the Valley. His Memorial team ended the regular season 9-1 (Sequoia Division - Small schools), and lost in the championship game to Garces High 45-42.
In 2002 he threw for over 2000 yards, completing 112 of 214 passes in 13 games. In 2001 as a junior he threw for 1,877 yards and 20 TDs. He would walk away from SJ Memorial having thrown for over 5,500 yards and a stunning 66 touchdowns in his career. A tall prospect (6-3, 190 pounds), he fits the mold of Idaho's most prolific passers.
Word on the street is that Chris will gray shirt this season, then redshirt next fall. Whether or not that is indeed true, he is one of 2 quarterbacks signed in this class, and looks like a youngster who will be a major contributor in the years ahead.
5-10, 205 Pounds
Santa Ana, CA
Previous School: Santa Ana High School
1st Team, All-CIF Division IX, RB
1st Team, All-Orange League, RB
Unheralded but effective, Santa Ana Valley High School runningback Cliff Mason was a work horse last year. His average of 8 yards per rush (181 carries) was tops among Division IX backs with 150 carries or more. His 144 yards rushing per game was third in the Division IX, and 13th among all highschools in the region (a region of California that includes powerful Mater Dei High). Not bad considering his Falcon's struggles (4-7, 3-2 Orange League) this season.
Cliff logged several outstanding games this season, including a 25 carry 251 yard performance against rival Saddleback (long of 69 yards), and a 28 carry 235 yard performance against Anaheim High School (including a 71 yard burst). The going was not easy for Cliff, as he was the Falcon's primary source of offense.
"Mason is a great back," Falcons coach Mike Maceranka told the Orange County Register last fall. "As he goes, it makes life easier for us."
Already in the mold of graduating senior Blair Lewis, Cliff (5-10, 205 pounds) offers a nice combination of size, agility, and quickness. He's not afraid to run it between the tackles (averaged 18 carries per game), and he's got some speed to make noise running off tackle.
Cliff is one of 2 runningbacks recruited to Idaho this year (joining RB/ATH Akeem Anthony), and both should be significant contributors before they are done.
5-10, 180 Pounds
Previous School: Murrieta High School
1st Team, All-CIF Southern Section, DB
1st Team, All-CIF SS, Division V, DB
As a junior at Murrieta High, defensive back Eric McMillan was a starter on a defensive unit that allowed 14 points or fewer in 6 of 12 games, and never allowed the CIF-Southern Section Division V semifinalist Nighthawks to lose by more than seven. Although their offense was generally considered the power of the team (Eric was a receiver offensively as well), it was the defense that kept things humming.
This year the defense allowed just 38 points in their first 8 games, and never yielded more than 13. Eric was the leader of the defensive backfield, and is considered as strong in run support as he is in coverage.
In a report in the NCTimes, McMillan had this to say about his recruiting trip, "I went for my visit up there, and I liked the place, the people and the coaches. I liked the organization, too. They play a lot of cover 2 and man-to-man defense." He was joined on his trip by receiver Chris Kehne of rival Chaparral High. Both players are reportedly looking forward to working together in Moscow after years of competing against each other on gridiron in Southern California.
Courtesy The Las Vegas Sun
5-10, 180 Pounds
Las Vegas, NV
School: Las Vegas High School
Southern Nevada Def. Player of the Year ('02, '01)
Class 4A All-Southern Nevada Def. MVP ('02,'01)
1st Team, All-Southern Nevada, ILB
All Sunrise Region Defensive MVP ('02, '01)
1st Team All-Sunrise Region, ILB ('02, '01)
Determination and the will-to-win. Those 2 things can carry a football player a long way, and they did for linebacker/safety recruit Chad Pool. The young man may be one of the smallest inside linebackers in the nation (reported in the Las Vegas Sun as a 5-9 senior), but he asserted himself as a leader. Two years ago as a sophomore he dove into the starting inside linebacker duties, starting the last 8 games of the season in Nevada's 4A (big school) classification. As a junior he won just about every award offered, including Class 4A Defensive MVP, then turned around and did it again this year as senior.
Las Vegas High head football coach Kris Cinkovich told told the Review Journal that he was hesitant to bring Pool up to the varsity as a sophomore because of his size. But Pool quickly established himself as the team's defensive leader. "He proves that the game isn't played with scales and yardsticks," Cinkovich said. "There's some instinct and intuition involved."
As a senior he recorded 81 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and seven sacks. His junior year he had a whopping 132 tackles, 74 solo takedowns and 16 tackles for loss. To compensate for his size, he benches 250, power cleans 260, and he became a student of the game, devoting significant time to finding his opponents weaknesses. Anticipation through preparation. He understands it and believes in it.
There is also a very good chance Chad will earn playing time at some point next season. From a Las Vegas Sun report:
Pool solidified Cable's faith on his recruiting visit to Moscow, Idaho, in an appropriate manner for the selfless player. Unprompted, Pool sought out special teams coach Gary Coston and told him that he wanted to lead the unit in tackles -- next season.
We look forward to it, and to watching an athlete with this much drive and determination develop in Moscow.
"I do not think there's any way he won't play next year as a true freshman," Cable said.
6-1, 237 Pounds
School: Hutchinson High School
1st Team, Class 6A All-State, LB ('02)
Named to Hutchnews "Elite 11" ('02)
Defensive MVP, Arkansas Valley League ('02)
1st Team, All-Arkansas League, LB (2002)
Invited to East-West Shrine Bowl (2002)
Class 2A Defensive MVP (2001)
1st Team All League, LB (2001 & 2000)
Hutchnews All Southwest Kansas (2000)
Diamonds in the rough don't come with much more brilliance than what Sam Tossie will be bringing with him to Moscow. Sam was the hammer on a Hutchinson High defense that allowed just 12.9 points per game this year, and a mere 58 yards rushing per game. At 6-1, 237 he runs a 4.6 - 40. He benches 260, squats 380, cleans 320 and has a 30 inch vertical leap. He logged 76 tackles on the season (including 45 unassisted tackles), 21 tackles for loss, and 6 quarterback sacks. He's also a versatile athlete, lining up as a slotback on offense and rushing for 422 yards and 6 touchdowns.
His efforts this year earned 1st Team All-State honors, named to The Hutchnews Elite 11, and League Defensive MVP honors. He played just one year at Hutchinson, but certainly made his mark at the 6A school. Prior to last year, Sam dominated in similar fashion at the Class 2A level where he also earned League MVP and All-Southwest Kansas honors. He's been a leader everywhere he's played.
Sam didn't make his final decision until late in the recruiting process, turning down an offer to gray shirt at Kansas State to join the Vandal program. A good student (3.5 GPA) as well, one of the reasons Sam chose the U was the caliber of its engineering program. He won't be the first linebacker at Idaho to major in engineering while battling on the field...middle linebacker Roger Cecil ('87-'90), who ranks 13th All-Time in career tackles for the Vandals (264), was a Civil Engineering student while he was banging heads on the Kibbie Dome floor. Sam will be in good company.
Its been awhile since a linebacking recruit has come to Moscow with Sam's combination of size, athleticism and speed. A rock solid foundation for the future, Sam is the type of recruit on paper that a linebacking corp can be built around. Indeed.
5-9, 170 Pounds
Previous School: Skyline High School
2nd Team, All-Oakland Athletic League, DB
Speedy cornerback Kyle Williams is the third high school defensive back to sign with Idaho this year out of highschool (along with Lee Jones, Eric McMillan, and possibly Chad Pool). He comes to Moscow from a Skyline High football team that was loaded with talent this year. How much? Five Titans signed LOIs with Division 1 schools, including 3 defensive backs in Liddon Levine (Colorado State), Brandon Sanders (Cal) and Kyle Williams (Idaho), along with linebacker William Snead (UCLA). From the Oakland Tribune:
"Williams was on very few recruiting lists going into the season after being the target for a number of teams as a junior. As a senior, Williams saw plenty of action opposite standout Brandon Sanders and thrived, earning second-team All-OAL accolades.
Idaho had critical needs in the defensive backfield, and Kyle (who is also a solid student and plans to major in sports therapy) looks like a perfect fit. The defensive backfield is fairly well stocked for now with a couple JC transfers in this class and 3 returning seniors who were first year starters last year. But in the years to come Kyle and the rest in this class will get their opportunity to make some noise.
The 5-9, 155-pound Williams is one of the fastest players in the league and his upside excited Idaho's coaches. He also heard from Oregon State, Colgate, Boise State and Utah.
Kyle is also a high school sprinter (100 and 200 meters are his specialties). He was clocked in one meet running a 6.5s 60 meter dash, and an 11.14s 100 as a junior. Neither were personal bests, but both show the speed he brings to the table.
Speed that our defensive backfield has been needing throughout the depth chart, rather than just at the top of it, for quite some time.
Courtesy Moorpark College
5-11, 195 Pounds
Previous School: Moorpark Junior College
Honorable Mention, All-WSC, Mtn Division, WR
Seven Moorpark College Raiders signed binding commitments to Division I programs Wednesday (with perhaps six more to come), among them is wide receiver Justin Wall who signed with Idaho. This Tennessee native has a solid football background, both at the high school and junior college levels.
A halfback in highschool, Justin originally signed with 1-AA Tennessee-Martin after a solid highschool career (including rushing for over 900 yards as a highschool junior). He was named to the All-County Team 3 consecutive times, and to the Mid-State team twice.
At Tennessee Martin Wall started all 11 games as a freshman runningback for the Skyhawks. At Moorpark College he moved to wide receiver, and ended this season as the second leading receiver on the team behind Barry Tolli who signed last week with Utah State. The 2 combined for over 1000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns on a powerful, run-oriented offense (Moorpark finished this season 10-1 and ranked 6th in the nation by JC Gridwire). He also returned 7 kicks for 195 yards with a long of 56 yards. His effort was good enough for an honorable mention vote on the All Western State Conference / Mountain Division Team in just his first year with the Raiders.
Justin will be joining 2 other junior college wide receivers in Moscow this spring (Bobby Bernal-Wood of Butte College and Matt Miller from Scottsdale College). All 3 JC transfers are on campus and training for the Spring Game.