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WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1, 2012, 2:19 P.M.

Vandals reel in 23 recruits

UPDATED: 2:20 p.m

Robb Akey and his staff at Idaho have finalized their 2012 recruiting class -- 20 high school and JC players and three JC players who are already on campus. The group includes Coeur d'Alene High's Chad Chalich and Deon Watson. Another Idaho product, Eagle High kicker Jace Johnson, has also signed.

Chalich is one of three prep QBs apart of the class, but only two will stay at the position.

See the full list below -- and we have an update on the Vandals' coaching staff openings after talking to Akey this afternoon.


Akey hopes to have at least two of the three openings on his staff filled by next week. The hirings have been held up by UI human resources, he said.

After his 30-minute meeting with reporters, Akey said Jason Gesser will move from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach and cornerbacks coach Torey Hunter has added recruiting coordinator to his responsibilities. Those changes were prompted by offensive coordinator/QBs coach Steve Axman's retirement and the departure of receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Luther Carr. Offensive line coach John McDonell also left within the last week for Tulane.

"I would expect at least two of three spots announced next week is my anticipation," Akey said. "One of them due to some contract situations it may take a little bit longer.

"I know who those guys I think for the most part are going to be. And it’s going to be good for us."

Akey said he'll hire a running backs coach, a receivers coach and an O-line coach. The responsibilities on the offensive staff will be split, though there will be one coach who oversees the offense.

Akey would not talk specifically about potential hires, but former Washington State receivers coach Mike Levenseller is still expected to join Akey's staff. Last month, after reported Levenseller would come to UI, a source told me that Levenseller would be Idaho's offensive coordinator. But since Akey said the roles of the offensive aides will be split up, Levenseller's specific duties could end up being different.

NOTES -- Akey said running back Troy Vital will not return next season. In Decemeber Akey said Preston Davis would not be back. ... Spencer Beale and another UI offensive lineman who Akey declined to specify had offseason surgery and most likely will not be ready for spring practice. Akey hopes the two JC offensive linemen he signed -- Semisi Tupou and Nicklaus Von Rotz -- will help in their absence. Von Rotz is already on campus and Tupou could join the Vandals for spring ball, though it's unlikely, Akey said. ... The Vandals lost out on Cranston Jones, a defensive back from Texas who signed with New Mexico. Akey said that Jones decided not to come to UI because of the uncertainty with the WAC and the fact that a teammate went to UNM as well. "He’s a great kid and I wanted him here. That’s probably why I was on the phone with him at 4:15 this morning (Pacific time)." ... Spring practice starts March 22 and concludes April 20.


Links to the bios of each signee are below, from

Chalich led Coeur d'Alene to back-to-back Class 5A state titles, while Austin DeCoud is a 6-foot-3 native of Redlands, Calif., that Akey labeled "a big, strong quarterback." Andrew Williams played quarterback in high school, but he's listed as a safety by UI and Akey said he has "great cover ability."

Watson played receiver and defensive end at CdA, but Akey said he'll play tight end or defensive end in college. Watson and Chalich have been teammates since the fourth grade.

Trae Armstrong, an 185-pound running back, is the fastest Vandal signee. Akey said he'll have the chance to play football and partcipate in track and field at Idaho.

Also of note: UI signed two very large offensive linemen -- 380-pound Semisi Tupou (some estimates have him at 400-plus) and 6-foot-8, 331-pound Mason Woods of British Columbia. Tupou and Woods are the latest in a string of large linemen during Akey's tenure at UI.


Trae Armstrong

Running back

5-9, 185

Deer Valley High School, Glendale, Ariz.

Said Coach Akey: We’re really excited about Trae. He brings great speed to our football team. He’s capable of hitting home runs. He’ll have a chance to play football and run track here at the University of Idaho. He’s a first-class kid.

As a high school senior, rushed for 1,794 yards and 23 touchdowns … had four games of more than 200 rushing yards – 252 vs. Millennium, 229 vs. Ironwood, 220 vs. Bradshaw Mountain and 216 vs. Horizon … scored four TDs vs. Bradshaw Mountain and four times had three-TD games … as a junior, carried the ball 1,521 yards and 18 touchdowns, and was the state champion in the 100, 200 and 400 meters … personal best of 10.3 in the 100 meters … was the NW Region Boys Athlete of the Year in track.

Chad Chalich


6-0, 180

Coeur d’Alene High School, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Said Coach Akey: Chad’s a winner. He’s a great competitor. He’s a two-time state champion quarterback. We’re very excited to have the best quarterback in the state of Idaho in our football program. We’re very excited about his future.

Two-year starter … 5A Idaho Player of the Year as a junior and as a senior and as a junior … was the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year … his other accomplishments include first-team all-conference quarterback as a junior and senior; Offensive Player of the Year for the Inland Empire League as a junior and senior;  IEL Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior; ranked 13th nationally as a high school quarterback as a senior; led Coeur d’Alene to No. 29 national ranking as a senior; third-team ESPN RISE Junior All-American as a junior; threw for 6,485 yards and 74 touchdowns, and broke 13 school records … as a senior, completed 242 of 331 passes (73 percent) of his passes, while as a junior hit 61 percent (209 of 342) of his throws … threw just two interceptions as a senior.

Austin DeCoud (pronounced D-coo)


6-3, 220

Redlands East Valley High School, Redlands, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: Austin is a big, strong quarterback. He’s another in a line of great players from Redlands East Valley to become a Vandal. We have great plans for his future.

As a senior, directed Redlands East Valley to an 11-1 record after throwing for 1,378 yards and rushing for another 403 … completed 112 of 218 passes with 14 going for touchdowns … team captain ... as a junior (when he was 15), completed 85 of 157 passes for 887 yards and five touchdowns in addition to rushing for 271 yards … team was 8-3 during his junior season … Citrus League first-team quarterback … played in Inland Empire all-Star Classic ... was invited to the Elite 11 all three years in high school ... basketball MVP as a freshman and sophomore ... scholar-athlete.

Jace Johnson


6-0, 190

Eagle High School, Eagle, Idaho

Said Coach Akey: Jace is a strong-legged kicker. He has great distance on both his kickoffs and his field goals. He’s very accurate. He’s a great kid and we’re very excited to have another in-state player come play for the Vandals.

All-Idaho first team 5A kicker ... 2011 Coaches' Award for football ... kicker and receiver in 2011 Idaho All-Star Shrine game ... 2011 5A Southern Idaho Conference first team kicker ... Academic Award (2011) ... all-game receiver at Nevada camp ... as a junior, 5A all-state kicker and all-SIC first team kicker ... four-year varsity letterwinner ... played for 5A runner-up (2011) and 5A state champion (2009) ... as a senior, 88 percent of kickoffs were touchbacks ... successful on 57 of 58 PATs and nine of 11 field goals with a long of 42 ... as a junior, 41 of 49 kickoffs were touchbacks and was successful on three of five field goals with a long of 47 ... made 35 of 38 PATs ...  Said his coach, Paul Peterson, “We all know Jace has been blessed with a terrific leg, great determination and a high level of confidence. I think he has the characteristics that bode well for having a successful kicking career.”

Jayshawn Jordan


5-9, 170

O’Dea High School, Seattle, Wash.

Said Coach Akey: He’s a great cover guy. He’s a tremendous player with tremendous speed and great cover skills.”

Three-year starter at O’Dea … Defensive Most Valuable Player at Northwest Elite Football Camp … Metro League Mountain Division Player of the Year … first team all-state by the Associated Press and the Tacoma News Tribune … O’Dea was 13-1 during his senior season ... team captain … as a senior, had 64 tackles, three interceptions and seven knockdowns on defense and had covered 1,036 yards and scored eight touchdowns on offense ... as a junior, had 43 tackles, four interceptions ... as a sophomore, had 64 tackles (23 solo) ... uncle Jeff Jordan played for the Vandals and is tied for sixth all-time on Idaho’s career pass deflections list.

Eric Lemke (pronounced LEM-key)

Tight end

6-4, 225

Issaquah High School, Issaquah, Wash.

Said Coach Akey: “Eric is one of the top tight ends in the Northwest. He’s what you look for in a tight end – he can run, he can block and he can catch. He has a great future. He’s going to continue to make the tight end a strong part of our offense.”

Played tight end and defensive end … team captain … first-team all-KingCo tight end and defensive end … ESPNHS first-team defense … as a sophomore, earned Student Achievement Award for English … volunteers in Athletes for Kids program … earned RISING STAR award at Washington State summer camp in 2009 … also started for Issaquah basketball team at center … said Lemke, “I really liked the Played tight end and defensive end … team captain … first-team all-KingCo tight end and defensive end … had 30 receptions for 350 yards and three touchdowns ... had 110 tackles and 13 sacks during his high school career ... ESPNHS first-team defense … as a sophomore, earned Student Achievement Award for English … volunteers in Athletes for Kids program … earned RISING STAR award at Washington State summer camp in 2009 … also started for Issaquah basketball team at center … said Lemke, “I really liked the campus and everything. I liked the players I got to know and the coaches. I feel like I can go there and make an impact. … One thing I like about Idaho is the fact that their tight end coach (Al Pupunu) played in the NFL. That’s cool.”

Ma`ne Manaea (pronounced MA-nay MA-nay-ah)


5-11, 175

Lakes High School, Lakewood, Wash.

Said Coach Akey: “He’s a hard-hitting safety – and I emphasize hard hitting. He’s a fly-around guy. He brings great ability and a great hitting ability to our secondary. He’s a tremendous player – one of the top players in the Northwest.”

South Puget Sound League Player of the Year as well as SPSL first-team defense, first-team offense and first-team kick returner … Seattle Times Red Chip player … Oregon/Washington Dream Team … played in Polynesian all-star game (Tanoa Bowl) as a junior … Tacoma News Tribune Player of the Year … as a senior, had 42 tackles and four interceptions as well as 34 receptions for 555 yards and seven touchdowns, eight carries for 192 rushing yards and two touchdowns, 26 punt returns for 283 yards, two kickoff returns for 35 yards and punted nine times … as a junior, only played in four games because of injury but had 19 tackles, six carries for 116 yards and 14 receptions for 154 yards … said coach Dave Miller, “He’s probably one of the most complete players we’ve had.” … said rival coach Chad Barrett of Bonney Lake, “He even gets out there and blocks downfield like a lineman. He could play any position on the field and he’s succeed because that’s how hard he works.”

Matthew Neal

Defensive tackle

6-3, 275

Merrillville High School, Merrillville, Ind.

Said Coach Akey: Matt is a good-sized kid. He’s a very good defensive lineman – he changes direction very well, can play the run and get after the quarterback. He’s a great kid and a very good player.”

Captain of the North-South all-star team … recipient of the Ralph Everman Award, which goes to the player who shows the greatest leadership and citizenship throughout all-star week … as a senior, had 70 tackles, three tackles for loss and three pass breakups … earned all-area and all-conference honors as well as honorable mention all-state recognition … team captain ... helped team to 8-3 record and state playoff berth … as a junior he was all-area and honorable mention all-conference after Merrillville went 12-2 and advanced to the state semifinals … had 149 career tackles and 13 career tackles for loss … brother Michael Neal Jr., plays for Green Bay … father Michael Neal Sr., played at Weber State.

Kyree Oliver (pronounced KI ree)

Offensive line

6-5, 292

Heritage High School, Brentwood, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: Kyree is a young offensive lineman with good size. He’s a very good player and will be a great part of the future of our offensive line.

Played in California all-star game as a senior … started one season at defensive tackle … described as having an “impressive frame” and “has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition.” … said Oliver, “I felt like I fit in really well (at Idaho).”

Addison Palomino


6-3, 205

Pinnacle High School, Phoenix, Ariz.

Said Coach Akey: “Addison is a linebacker who can run. He makes a lot of plays. He’s a tremendous player and a great kid. We’re glad to have him with us.”

As a senior, had 86 tackles (20 of which were for losses) and 12 sacks … East Valley Tribune first-team defense … Coaches’ all-state selection … Section III North Player of the Year … Arizona Football Coaches Association first-team Division I defense … as a junior, had 41 tackles and seven sacks … said Palomino, “(Idaho) was one of the first teams that showed interest in me. That led to a great relationship with the coaches. I really like it (at Idaho). It is something different than what I’m used to here in Arizona.”

Antonio Perez

Defensive end

6-2, 225

Sheldon High School, Elk Grove, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: Antonio has a good burst and a good ability to bring down quarterbacks. I expect him to help our pass rush in the coming years.

As a senior, had 50 tackles and seven tackles, which totaled -51 yards … as a junior, had 12 tackles and one sack … also runs track … second-team all-Delta River and East Bay Holiday Classic all-star team … two-time scholar-athlete ... graduating with honors ... said Perez, “I really liked the college town feel of Moscow and Idaho has an amazing business school. And being from California, I love that it snows out there. I chose Idaho because it just felt like a great fit.”

Elijah Sala (pronounced SAW-la)


6-3, 220

LA Harbor College, Banning High School, Wilmington, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: Elijah is an outside linebacker, who can run and hit. When he gets on campus, he should be able to compete for a position.”

At LA Harbor, set a school record with an 89-yard interception return … as a sophomore at LA Harbor, had 42 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, five interceptions, seven passes defensed, four quarterback hurries and a 35-yard fumble recovery return as well as one forced fumble … as a freshman at LA Harbor, had 54 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions … was first-team all-California defense in 2011 and first team Central West in 2010 … as a high school safety, was first-team all-Marine League … had 60 tackles and two interceptions ... also played volleyball.

Russell Siavii (pronounced SEE-ah-vee-e)


6-2, 170

Leilehua High School, Wahiawa, Hawai`i

Said Coach Akey: We know he has great bloodlines (Russell is the younger brother of Vandal senior linebacker Robert Siavii). He plays outside linebacker  but he can play safety as well. He can run andhe can hit. He’s going to be a great outside linebacker.

As a senior, he was a first-team all-state safety as well as first-team Oahu Red West defense and a HiFive Athlete of the Week … in one game, he had four interceptions … also plays basketball … as a junior, was an Oahu Red honorable mention selection … when older brother Robert signed with the Vandals he said, “I’d like to follow his footsteps.”

Toapasi Toki (pronounced TOE-ah-pass-e [Pasi] TOE-key)

Defensive tackle

6-1, 306

Chabot Junior College, Kaelekehe High School, Kaelekehe, Hawai`i

Said Coach Akey: “Pasi is a defensive tackle who should come in and fight for a spot right away. He has a great get-off and good size. He should be able to help take care of the interior of our line.”

Helped Chabot to the conference championship … in high school, Kaelekehe won the divisional championship … All BIIF team as a senior offensive lineman at Kaelekehe. Helped Chabot to the conference championship … in high school, Kaelekehe won the divisional championship … All BIIF team as a senior offensive lineman at Kaelekehe ... all-conference selection.

Semisi Tupou (pronounced SEM-e-see TWO-poe)

Offensive line

6-4, 380 pounds

East Central Community College, Cerritos Junior College, Orange High School, Long Beach, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: “With his size, I expect him to come in and compete right away. He has shown he can help run the ball and protect the quarterback.”

Was an all-conference lineman as a freshman at Cerritos … moved to nose tackle at East Central (Decatur, Miss.) and had 29 tackles and two sacks … played offensive and defensive line at Orange High School … also played basketball, wrestled and competed in track and field ... first team all-conference selection ... team captain.

Deon Watson

6-3, 210


Coeur d’Alene High School, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Said Coach Akey: “Deon is a tremendous athlete. We recruited him as an athlete – he can play tight end or defensive end. We’re going to see what spot fits him best. He’s going to be able to play basketball, too. His daddy (Deon) was a tremendous basketball player here.”

First-team all-state receiver and second-team all-state as a defensive end as  senior … first-team Inland Empire receiver as a senior … during senior season, caught 54 passes for 931 yards and 13 touchdowns … averaged 17.2 yards per catch … set Coeur d’Alene records for career receptions (93), receiving yards (1,513) and touchdowns (19) … defensively in two seasons, had 23 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks … father, Deon, is Idaho’s career rebounding record holder and still ranks second in career blocked shots.

Kyren Watts (pronounced KI-ren)

Wide receiver

6-2, 174

College of the Siskiyous, New Waverly High School, New Waverly, Texas

Said Coach Akey: “We expect him to come in here and be fighting for a job. We’re excited about him. We’re going to challenge him to make plays this fall.”

As a sophomore at College of the Siskiyous, had 40 receptions for 700 yards and nine touchdowns … also played one season at Kilgore College … in high school, was the wide receiver MVP a the National Showcase … was a first-team Mid Empire Conference choice and an EA Sports Elite Camp attendee … as a freshman, already was considered one of the top receivers in Texas … also played basketball and baseball in high school and played in the HABCA All-Star game in 2010.

Matthew Willis


LA Harbor, Palos Verdes High School, Palos Verdes, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: Matt is a very physical player who makes tons of plays. He’s very highly regarded. He should help our depth there immediately.

Attended the Air Force Academy before transferring to LA Harbor … Defensive Player of the Year for the Central West Conference … had 122 tackles, seven sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, one interception and three forced fumbles ... doubled on offense with 137 rusing yards and 20 receiving yards … as a senior at Palos Verdes, had 142 tackles, 23.5 for tackles for loss, seven sacks, one fumble recovery and 11 forced fumbles … played in the Lions Senior All-Star game ... All-American.


Andrew Williams


6-0, 175

Cosumnes Oaks High School, Elk Grove, Calif.

Said Coach Akey: “Andrew was the first commit to this class. I’m very excited to have him with us. He can run – he has great cover ability.”

Two-year starter at Cosumnes Oaks … also played quarterback in high school … team captain ... 174 carries for 1,042 yards and 12 touchdowns ... set a school single-game rushing record with 230 yards against Vista del Lago … also scored three touchdowns in that game … all-Sierra Valley selection … Conference Player of the Week after throwing for 51 yards and rushing for 104 in season-opening victory over Yuba City … said his high school coach Ryan Gomes, “He can play three or four different positions on both sides of the ball.”

Mason Woods

Offensive line

6-8, 320

Terry Fox Secondary, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Said Coach Akey: “Mason has a great future. We can’t wait to get him in our weight room and into American football.”

Played football at Terry Fox Secondary in British Columbia ... team captain and all-state selection ... had 30 tackles and eight sacks ... also played lacrosse and basketball as well as three years for the Langley Minor Football club team.

Check in with Coach Akey when he goes live today at 12:15 p.m. PT. Click here to watch his news conference.

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