Kramer: defense must improve
ISU linebacker Trevor Spence, #40, tracks down UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright during a game in Holt Arena last season. Spence will be a key part of the linebacking corps this season.
POCATELLO â€” There was an a theme to Idaho State head football coach Mike Kramer's pre-fall camp press conference Thursday afternoon and it was simple; the defense must get better.
Anyone who sat through an ISU football game last season knows that the Bengals defense was the poorest in the nation.
The team gave up 50 or more points eight different times, including three different games where opponents scored 70-plus.
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ISU's defense gave up over 570 yards and almost 54 points per game and as staggering 362 yards rushing on defense.
It is no secret why Kramer and his coaching staff spent much of their recruiting time bringing in players to help on defense.
"If you look back in Big Sky Conference history you will not find a more porous,poor or putrid defense than what we displayed last year the entire season," Kramer said. "To remedy the situation I have removed myself from commanding and controlling the defense, we turned over the entire (defensive) coaching staff, we have instituted a new set of expectations and we certainly gotten older, bigger and stronger and hopefully which a new group of coaches a little wiser."
Kramer removed himself from his role as defensive coordinator at the end of last season bringing in Roger Cooper and Blackfoot native and Snake River High grad Spencer Toone to be co-defensive coordinators.
Steve Fifita was brought in to coach the defensive line and former University of Idaho defensive back Stanley Franks will coach the secondary.
Kramer's goal with the coaching staff overhaul is to get his defense to get up off the mat and compete with the rest of the league.
"We are going to continue to play things I favor like a nose front and man-to-man outside a defense that can be aggressive. But we need to force turnovers and play better in the redone," Kramer said. "Our slogan for this season is "Can Do" and what that means is not only the defense but the offense has to realize when the ball crosses midfield we have to accomplish our mission on both sides of the ball."
What kind of turnaround Kramer expects at this point is even unknown by him and coaching staff. But what is known is that the the entire defense must get better and it starts with the front seven.
"I don't want to end the season with 200 pound linebackers," Kramer said. "All four of the guys we put on the field against Weber State last season were in the 200 pound region. The guys we brought in are in the 235-240 range. We have entered an age in the Big Sky Conference where the league has become a run heavy league. The days of throwing the ball all over the field are long gone I don't know why but that is they way it is. We are having to resurrect defenses that we ran in the 1980's."
It is not all doom and gloom for the Bengals as they being fall camp on Tuesday.
Kramer has quarterback Justin Arias taking over the offense after redshirting last season. Kramer is expecting Arias to talk over where the record setting Kevin Yost left off last season.
Arias will have returning targets Luke Austin and Cameron Richmond as well as a large group of underclassmen.
Kramer also said that he plans on trying to run the ball more as last season the team ran for just 511 yards the entire year.
For the first time in 11 years ISU will begin the season with two home games as Dixie State and Western State Colorado come to Pocatello.
The team has just two money games this season as the team travels to Washington on Sept. 21 and BYU on Nov. 16.
"I am happy with the schedule," Kramer said. "But we have lost our last 15 conference games and have not won a road game since 2006, it is hard for me to overlook UC Davis and the opening of the conference schedule."
The players report for camp on Monday and the first practice of the fall is Tuesday in Holt Arena. All practices are closed to the public.