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Success helps Vandals recruit

By Josh Wright The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – Robb Akey insists the University of Idaho honed in on the same high school standouts from the start. But when the Vandals started piling up victories in September and October, his staff could detect at least one difference.

“I think we stayed in it longer with some of (the recruits) because of the success we’re starting to have,” Akey said.

Apparently, the Vandals were also able close on most of their choice targets. Coming off a banner 8-5 season, Idaho on Wednesday announced the signing of 25 high school and junior college players, a handful of whom were pleasant (and late) surprises.

Perhaps the most notable out-of-blue letter of intent came from Maxx Forde, a 270-pound defensive end from Woodinville, Wash. He had originally given a verbal commitment to Washington State, where his family has deep roots.

Although Akey spoke to the media before Forde’s signing became official, he hinted that the Vandals’ awakening – punctuated by a dramatic Humanitarian Bowl victory – helped with recruits who were still mulling their decisions.

“The success of the season, as we were going through things, that certainly had a lot of folks excited,” Akey said. “I think that strengthened the interest level of the people we were going after.”

Forde is one of eight signees from Washington and Idaho. The local haul includes two players from Lewiston (quarterback Justin Podrabsky and offensive lineman Spencer Beale), defensive lineman Jesse Davis from nearby Asotin, Wash., and Moscow High speedster Jayson Washington.

Those four players played their high school football so close to the Kibbie Dome that “you throw a rock from campus and hit their homes,” Akey quipped. “I’ve got a good arm; I can hit Asotin and Lewiston from here.”

The gem of Idaho’s class might be tailback Ryan Bass, a transfer from Arizona State. The four-star recruit out of Centennial High in Corona, Calif., played as a true freshman and sophomore for former UI coach Dennis Erickson and will have two years of eligibility after redshirting this fall.

Bass and current Vandal receiver Marcel Posey are cousins, Akey said. The two played at Centennial – along with outgoing UI lineman Irvin Stevens III – so UI already had a valuable connection when going after the talented back.

Beyond a scattering of skill position players, the Vandals focused on shoring up the offensive line – where four starters must be replaced – as well as the secondary and defensive interior. They signed 13 linemen, seven on the offensive side, and four defensive backs.

One of most promising prospects in the offensive interior is Wenatchee’s Michael Marboe, who is already attending UI after graduating high school early. He was the 19th-rated center in the nation by

Ryan Bass

Running back • 5-9, 201 • Centennial High School, Corona, Calif. • Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.

“I’ve known the family for a while. He was one of the top recruited players on the West Coast two years ago. I’m very excited he’s elected to make the University of Idaho his new home. He’s going to be a fantastic player. He’ll bring some good speed to that position.” – coach Robb Akey

(will redshirt in 2010)

2008: Played in six games as a true freshmen … had 26 rushing attempts for 120 yards (4.6 avg.), leading all ASU running backs in yards per carry on the season…also had one pass reception.

High school: Parade All-American and earned Second-Team All-USA honors by USA Today…was also recognized as a PrepStar All-American as a senior…was named to the Tacoma News-Tribune’s “Western 100” list…earned Second-Team All-America honors by EA Sports as a multi-purpose athlete…earned honorable mention recognition among the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s “Best in the West” list…tied for second in the nation in rushing touchdowns (47) as a senior, 11th in carries (345) and 14th in rushing yards (2,608)…had more rushing touchdowns as a senior than any player on the West coast and ranked fourth in the state of California in both carries and rushing yards in 2007 … as a junior, finished 12th in the nation in rushing touchdowns (36), 30th in rushing yards (2,351) and 36th in total carries (294)…ranked fourth in the state of California in rushing touchdowns as a junior, 10th in rushing yards and 13th in total carries … appeared in 38 games at Centennial during the 2005-07 seasons, carrying 894 times for 7,096 yards (7.9 avg.) with 117 touchdowns … averaged 186.7 rushing yards-per-game for his career…added 28 career receptions for 324 yards (11.6 avg.) … averaged 23.5 carries-per-game … as a senior in 2007, he totaled 2,608 rushing yards on 345 carries (7.6 avg.) with 47 touchdowns…averaged 173.9 rushing yards-per-game…also caught 16 passes for 197 yards (12.3 avg.) with one score.

Etc.: two of his brothers also played Division I football, Mike at the University of Hawaii and Ray at San Diego State.

Spencer Beale

Offensive line • 6-4, 321 • Lewiston High School, Lewiston, Idaho

“Spencer Beale is a young man I’m very excited about for a number of reasons. I’m excited about 6-foot-4, 321 pounds. That’s a good thing. We’re getting some great size in that front. That will help us to continue to run and throw the football very well. I’m very excited he represents our local area as well. I’m really fired up we have two Bengals coming to join our family. Talented player, very good feet, great size and strength, and a great kid.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Started on the offensive and defensive lines for the Bengals … missed part of the season with a knee injury.

2008: First-team all-state offensive lineman … first-team all-North Idaho offensive lineman … Inland Empire League Lineman of the Year.

Etc.: 2010 Northwest Hot 50 … Rocky Mountain States post-season Top 10 … lauded for his size and aggressive style of play.

Mitchell Crockom

Receiver • 6-2, 177 • Alhambra High School, Alhambra, Calif.

“Very good speed, great leaping ability, great hands. He’s a play-making kind of a guy. I’m fired up about what his future is going to be. I’m very glad he’s elected to be with us.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: First-team Almont League as a defensive back and receiver … Los Angeles Wave all-Northwest Region receiver … had 43 receptions for 672 yards and nine TDs … 67 total tackles (17 solo, 50 assists) … three interceptions (39 yards in returns) … three kickoff returns for 49 yards.

2008: First-team Almont League as a receiver … has carries, 31 yards and one TD … 36 catches for 791 yards and six TDs … three games of 100 or more receiving yards … 32 tackles (seven solo, 25 assists) … four interceptions for nine yards … nine kick returns for 179 yards.

2007: Caught 17 passes for 375 yards and five TDs.

Jesse Davis

Defensive end • 6-6, 265 • Asotin High School, Asotin, Wash.

“I’m excited about his size. He’s got a 6-6, 265-pound frame. I swear every time I see the guy he gets bigger. He also represents our local area. He’s got a great future here. He’s going to continue to get bigger. He’s going to play for us in the defensive line. He’s a first-class kid and a hard-working guy.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: First team State 2B tight end … first-team District 9 2B … had 10 receptions for 169 yards and four TDs … had 35 tackles (14 solo and 21 assists), two sacks (-11 yards), one pass defensed, one fumble recovery (returned eight yards) and one blocked punt.

2008: First-team District 9 2B selection.

Maxx Forde

Defensive end • 6-4, 270 • Woodinville High School, Woodinville, Wash.

“I’m very excited about Maxx. I think he’s one of the best players in the Northwest. He’s a tremendous defensive end. He’s a tremendous athlete. He brings great size with agility and speed to our football team. The sky is the limit in regards to his future. He tops that with a high character, great kid. A great gift for us.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: KingCo 4A Crown Division first-team offensive and defensive selection … Associated Press 4A all-state team … Tacoma News Tribune first-team all-state … had 34 tackles (31 solo and five assists) as well as two sacks during senior season.

2008: KingCo 4A Crown Division offensive and defensive lineman.

Etc.: Three-sport standout (also basketball and track) … father Brian Forde played for New Orleans Saints.

Matthew Harvey

Cornerback • 5-10, 160 • Parkland High School/Ellsworth Junior College • Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

“He got his feet wet and he know what’s going on here … He’s going to compete for a job as a corner and special teams player. He’s very, very fast a great kid.” – coach Robb Akey

Harvey joined the Vandals in the fall of 2009 … had 14 kickoff returns for 276 yards during the Vandals’ Humanitarian Bowl season … spent one season at Elllsworth Community College at Iowa Falls, Iowa … ranked 13th nationally as a defensive back with 46 tackles and six interceptions … played football, basketball, baseball and ran track at Parkland (Fla.) High School … an all-county selection … born Sept. 28, 1989 … son of Gretel and John Harvey.

Armauni Johnson

Receiver • 6-4, 210 • West Los Angeles College • Jacksonville, Fla.

“He’s tall, has great hands and very, very good speed,” Akey said. “He’ll be able to come in and compete for a job. He’s a very skilled player and will be very competitive here and in the WAC.”

West LA: Caught 80 passes for 796 yards in two seasons … one of the top receiving prospects in Southern California.

Karel Kearney

Defensive tackle • 6-2, 273 • John B. Connelly High School, Austin, Texas

“These guys are helping us address some needs in the defensive front. Karel is 6-2, 275 pounds right now. He’s got a great motor. He has a really good get-off. The first time I watched him play on tape as a junior, I said that’s the kind of guy I want in our program. He has a great personality, great character and a very good player.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: First-team District 25-5A defensive lineman … preseason all-state selection … had 68 total tackles (48 solo, 20 assists) … had 18 tackles for loss, eight sacks, five quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles … District 25 Defensive Player of the Week twice (vs. Vista Ridge and Westlake).

2008: Second-team District 25-4A defensive lineman.

2007: Second-team District 25-4A defensive lineman.

Etc.: Three-time Connelly High School Defensive Lineman of the Year … started 32 successive games for Connelly High School.

Tyler Kuder

Defensive tackle • 6-4, 289 • Payette High School, Payette, Idaho

“Another Northwest guy. Another representative of the state of Idaho. He’s a throwback. He’s a big, tough guy. He’s going to play defensive line for us. What got me excited about him watching him as a young guy is – at 285 pounds, and he’s playing middle linebacker. He’s running the field. He’s making tackles on guys out in space. He’s a great kid; great family; represents our state.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: All-Idaho 3A first-team choice as an offensive and defensive lineman … helped Payette to state semifinal berth … had 54 solo tackles, 15 assists for a total 69 … had 15 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, five quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery … was 3A Snake River Valley Defensive Player of the Year … also punts as was the second-team all-state 3A punter.

2008: All-Idaho 3A first-team offensive lineman and second-team linebacker … averaged eight tackles per game and had six tackles for loss in addition to four forced fumbles, three sacks and one interception … also was first-team Snake River Valley Conference selection offensively and defensively.

Mike Marboe

Offensive lineman • 6-2, 297 • Wenatchee High School, Wenatchee, Wash.

Joined the Vandals in January as a mid-year high school graduate

“There’s a great family history with dad and granddaddy having played for the Vandals. His cousin is a teammate. He’s a tremendous player. He’s a guy who off of his junior film was a guy we wanted to recruit – a lot of other people wanted to recruit, too. This place felt like home for him. He set himself a goal – he wanted to be able to graduate early. He wanted to be here for spring practice. He did what he needed to do to accomplish that. He can be a center, a guard. He has a great future.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: First-team all-League … helped Wenatchee to undefeated regular season and within one game of 4A state tournament.

2008: Class 4A First Team All-State selection … Big Nine Conference First Team selection.

2007: All Conference Center selection.

2006: Freshman Lineman of the year.

Etc.: Cousin Brad Marboe is a linebacker at Idaho … father and uncle both played at Idaho.

Homer Mauga

Linebacker • 6-0, 224 • Helix High School, La Mesa, Calif. • Grossmont College,El Cajon, Calif.

“Has a very good burst. He changes direction very well. He has very good strength and is a player I think is going to do a tremendous job here. He gives us more play-making ability at the linebacker position. He flies around the field. You’re going to like the way he plays.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Region III all-California first team linebacker … JC Athletic Bureau all-Southern California first-team selection … team won U.S. Bank Beach Bowl … Southern California Football Association National Division Southern Conference first-team selection … chosen to play in Triumphant Sports Junior College All-American Game … team’s Defensive MVP … earned Athlete of the Week recognition after seven tackles and one sack – his 15th of the season, in Beach Bowl … had 72 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss (minus 105 yards), seven quarterback hurries, and two interceptions.

High school: Played for South team in Alex Spanos All-Star Football Classic in summer of 2008 … as a senior at Helix High School earned Grossmont South League Defensive Player of the Year honors … had 34 tackles and two sacks as a sophomore at H-Town High School, which closed after his sophomore year … played junior varsity at Helix as a junior because of transfer rules … has eight brothers – all of whom played football.

Justin Podrabsky

Quarterback • 6-6, 240 • Lewiston High School, Lewiston, Idaho

“Another the Valley to the University of Idaho. I’m excited as can be about this kid’s future. He’s 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. He has a rocket of an arm. Tremendous competitor. Tremendous leader. He led his team deep in the playoffs as a junior. Led his basketball team to a state championship as a junior. Took his baseball team as a pitcher deep into the state playoffs last year. He’s successful in everything he does. He’s a first-class kid. He’s a great student. He’s a big presence back there in the pocket. He’s a great leader.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: First-team Inland Empire League 5A quarterback … Rocky Mountain States Postseason top 100 … top-ranked recruit in Idaho and No. 3 quarterback in the region … against Pullman High School, completed a 60-yard scoring play with one second left to win the game.

2008: Inland Empire League first-team choice and Offensive Player of the Year … also all-North Idaho … led Lewiston to 10-1 records with record-setting season, which included marks for passing yards and touchdowns in a season … completed 160-of 252 passes (63.4 percent) for 2,733 yards and 34 TDs … also rushed for 169 yards and nine TDs … doubles as team’s punter … first-team all-state basketball player on state championship team.

2007: Lettered in football, basketball and baseball … was Inland Empire League Newcomer of the Year in baseball.

James Randall

Safety • 6-0, 205 • Compton High School, Compton, Calif.

“What we liked about him is he’s a guy who can be a safety, can be a linebacker. We were paying attention to him a year ago. He can fly around the field. He can run, he can hit. He’s getting stronger every day. He’s the kind of guy I want to see in our defense. You like safeties that run well enough to play defensive back but they also hit well enough you say, hey, he could play linebacker.” – coach Robb Akey

2008: As a senior at Compton, had 68 total tackles (44 solo), four fumble recoveries (90 yards), one pass defensed and an interception … played outside linebacker and safety … was considered one of his team’s top defenders … all-area selection.

2007: 59 total tackles along with five sacks (-25 yards) and one forced fumble.

Kyle Salm

Offensive line • 6-6, 290 • San Dimas High School • San Dimas, Calif.

“He’s on campus now. He adds size to the offensive line. He’s tall and he’s 295 pounds. He’s a big son of a gun. He moves his feet well; he has the ability to be physical. That’s something we want in this line.” – coach Robb Ake

All-California Interscholastic Federation Mid-Valley Division first team … all-Inland Valley first team … all-Valle Vista League first team … Gabriel Valley Tribune all-area first team … blocked in an offense that averaged 341 rushing yards per game … 4.2 gradepoint average … said coach Bill Zernickow, “He’s been healthy and dominant.”

Dallas Sandberg

Offensive lineman • 6-4, 300 • Bradshaw Mountain High School • Prescott Valley, Ariz.

“Another guy who brings size. We’re trying to build the Wall of China to put in front of our running backs and quarterbacks. He’s a first class kid; great family. I’m excited about what he brings to this class.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Arizona Football Coaches Association 4A all-state team … Arizona Republic Class 4A all-state team … recorded 62 total tackles (34 solo and 28 assists) … also kicked off and was successful on four PAT attempts … also a shot putter on the track team.

Aaron Strumski

Defensive tackle • 6-2, 303 • South Broward High School, Hollywood, Fla. • Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Falls, Iowa

“He can help us right away as a defensive tackle. He’s another guy that when I watched just a little bit of his film last spring, I said there’s guy I want to come play here. Great get-off, great change of direction. He’s got a really good motor. There’s a guy we expect to come in and compete and make some plays for us in the fall.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Second-team all-America … member of back-to-back Midwest Football Conference-West Championship teams … had 79 total tackles (37 solo, 42 assists), 15 tackles for loss (totaling 37.5 yards lost), 8.5 sacks (-45.5 lost yards), two forced fumbles, one pass defensed.

2008: First-team all-Midwest Conference … 75 total tackles (36 solo, 39 assists), 17 tackles for loss and five sacks in 10 games.

Etc.: “He’s the kind of defensive player that can change the face of a game in one snap,” Ellsworth coach Mike Virden.

Calvin Thompson

Running back • 6-2, 203 • Vista Ridge High School, Cedar Park, Texas

“He brings some size to that position. He also brings good speed with it. He did well in track in high school. The back of his letter jacket says, ‘Don’t blink,’ because if you do you might miss him. I like his future.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: 605 yards and six TDs on 115 carries … also caught 14 passes for 167 yards and returned four kickoffs for 63 yards … second-team all-District 16 5A … two-time Hill Country News Player of the Week (vs. Georgetown and McNeil) … voted one of the Dazzling Dozen best players in the district by Hill Country News.

2008: As a junior, had 459 yards and two TDs on 96 carries … District track champion in 4x200, 4x400, 200 and 4x100 … regional champion in 4x200 and state qualifier in 200 and 4x200.

2007: As a sophomore, had 398 yards and four TDs on 69 carries … voted to Hill Country News Dazzling Dozen and Hill Country News Rookie of the Year … second-team all-district.

Etc.: Considered one of the top pure athletes in Central Texas … brother Paul was quarterback/wide receiver for Oklahoma in 2005 and 2006.

Thaad Thompson

Defensive back • 6-3, 215 • Ellsworth CC • Margate, Fla.

“He has great speed and is very physical. He’s physical enough he could be a linebacker but he should compete for a starting job at safety.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Had 27 total tackles and three tackles for loss in Ellsworth’s 8-3 season.

Shawn Tucker

Cornerback • 5-9, 164 • Laguna Hills High School • Laguna Hills, Calif.

“We saw in his highlights films that he had a lot of speed – he was returning punts and kickoffs for touchdowns … He didn’t have a home, so he decided to come up here and walk on and when he got here, we decided to put him on scholarship … he brings speed and playmaking ability to the position.” – coach Robb Akey

Joined the Vandals in the fall of 2009 … was a three-sport (football, track and basketball) at Laguna Hills High School … first-team all-league in football as well as special teams award winner and Ironman award winner … as a senior, had four interceptions and six touchdowns in a dual role … Hawk Pride academic award recipient … son of Thea and Shawn Tucker … born July 22, 1991 … majoring in Business Information Technology.

Sam Tupua

Offensive line • 6-3, 374 • Palomar Junior College • Wilmington, Calif.

“Sam is a big, strong kid with very good feet. He has the ability to win a starting position - or make it harder for someone else to win one. I’m excited to have him.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Played guard and center at Palomar … part of an offensive unit that averaged 429 yards total offense per game and yielded just 12 sacks during the season.

Jayson Washington

5-7, 165 • Running back • Moscow High School, Moscow, Idaho

“We got Moscow’s finest. Being able to keep Jayson here in town, I’m really fired up about that. He adds speed to our football team. He had a great career playing for the Bears. I’m excited he can stay here. He’s a first-class kid, a great family. He has a fan base already. He’s another guy who gets to represent his own state playing for the University of Idaho and he doesn’t even have to leave town to do it. He’s going to be able to do some good things. He’s an exciting player to watch.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Inland Empire League 4A co-Offensive Most Valuable Player … had 75 carries for 1,004 yards and 13 TDs … also had 11 receptions for 125 yards and three TDs … defensively, had 19 total tackles (11 solo, eight assists) and two interceptions, one of which was returned 52 yards.

2008: Inland Empire League 4A co-Offensive Most Valuable Player … IEL 4A first-team running back and defensive back … carried the ball 79 times for 1,085 yards and 17 TDs … also caught five passes for 187 yards and one TD … returned seven kickoffs for 410 yards and two TDs … returned eight punts for 200 yards … also had five interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD.

Ben Westrum

Offensive lineman • 6-7, 308 • Black Hills High School, Tumwater, Wash.

“Again, a big, big, big guy in the offensive line. He’s going to continue to get bigger. That’s a pretty good wall we’re getting built there. He’s a tremendous player; comes from a good program. We’ve been excited about him from the get-go.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: First-team Associated Press 2A all-state lineman … first-team all-Evergreen Conference … all-Olympia Area offensive lineman … honors student.

2008: First-team all-Evergreen Conference offensive lineman … all-Olympia Area offensive lineman … state 2A selection.

Etc.: Four-year letterwinner in football and track … three-year letterwinner in basketball … won discus competition at league meet … nominated to play in 2010 East-West Shrine All-State Football Game.

Charles Wiley

Offensive line • 6-5, 302 • Fu Hun High School, Knoxville, Tenn. • Grossmont College, El Cajon, Calif.

“We have a chance to be a pretty good football team next year. We need to add some competition to our offensive line with four guys to replace. He’s a guy who can compete and challenge him to win a job and challenge the guys who are here to not let him win a job. He brings great size, great athleticism. He comes from an athletic family. We’ll challenge him to come in here and win a starting job in the offensive line.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: Started all 10 games for Grossmont last fall … key figure in Grossmont’s offensive line … Grossmont won the U.S. Bank Beach Bowl … chosen to play in Triumphant Sports Junior College All-American Game.

2008: Grossmont’s Most Improved Lineman.

Demetrius Williams

Receiver • 5-11, 183 • Inderkum High School, Sacramento, Calif.

“Really good speed. Really good change of direction. He uses his speed. He trusts his speed. I like what he brings. I look at his hands and the way he runs with the football – he’s going to be an exciting part of our future.” – coach Robb Akey

2009: TCC League Most Valuable Player … all-Metro … all-City first-team quarterback … Inderkum Most Valuable Player … team advanced to the CIF-San Joaquin Section final … completed 60-of-95 passes for 1,321 yards and 17 TDs … also ran for 307 yards on 49 carries and rushed for three TDs … was a standout at San Francisco Combine.

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