MOSCOW -- The University of Idaho football team welcomed 23 players for the upcoming season on National Letter of Intent Signing Day on Wednesday.
“We were able to meet a number of our needs in this class,” said head coach Robb Akey, whose staff signed 10 defensive players, 11 offensive players, one kicker and one athlete who could be a bonus on either side of the ball. “They are a big part of our future – for a number of those guys that future could be right now.”
When Akey announced the class Wednesday morning he was able to talk with pride about landing Coeur d’Alene’s Chad Chalich and Deon Watson, and Eagle’s Jace Johnson – a trio of in-state players who have performed at championship levels on championship teams. Watson’s ties are deeper – his dad, Deon, etched his name in history as one of the top basketball players to take the court for the Vandals.
For Jayshawn Jordan and Matthew Neal, the ties to Idaho are a little looser but ties nevertheless. Jordan’s uncle Jeff is one of the top defensive backs in school history and Neal’s dad was a college teammate of Akey’s when both were at Weber State.
The strongest familial tie goes to Hawai`i’s Russell Siavii, whose older brother Robert is a senior linebacker for the Vandals with one of the sort-of ties going to quarterback Austin DeCoud, who is another in a long line of Vandals who hails from Redlands East Valley High School.
Three of the class of 2012 – running back James Baker, offensive lineman Nik Von Rotz and receiver Najee Lovett, already are on campus along with 2011 grayshirt Cam Harris. Joining those with post-high school experience are junior college transfers Elijah Sala (linebacker), Pasi Toki (defensive tackle), Semisi Tupou (offensive line), Kyren Watts (receiver) and Matthew Willis (linebacker).
Akey’s crew found size – 6-4, 380-plus Tupou, 6-5, 292 Kyree Oliver from Heritage High School (Brentwood, Calif.), and 6-8, 320 Mason Woods, an offensive lineman who will have a bit of a learning curve as he makes the transition from Canadian secondary school football to American football.
They also found some of the fastest and most versatile players available with the do-all Ma`ne Manaea from Lakes (Wash.) High School and speedster Trae Armstrong, who ran a 10.3 100 meters as a junior at Arizona’s Deer Valley High School.
Idaho’s staff was intent on keeping a strong presence at tight end and landed Eric Lemke of Issaquah to fill the bill in 2012. Adding vital depth defensively are linebacker Addison Palomino (Pinnacle High School, Phoenix), defensive end Antonio Perez (Sheldon High School, Elk Grove, Calif.) and safety Andrew Williams (Cosumnes Oaks High School, Elk Grove, Calif.).