2012 Idaho Preview
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Idaho Vandals
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- Idaho Previews 2011 |
Idaho is truly a program that has to work with a glass is half empty, glass is half full approach with several things it has to deal with.
Head coach: Robb Akey
6th year: 19-43
Off. 19, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Idaho Players
1. P Bobby Cowan, Sr.
2. LB Robert Siavii, Sr.
3. FS Gary Walker, Sr.
4. WR Mike Scott, Sr.
5. TE Mike LaGrone, Jr.
6. WR/KR Justin Veltung, Sr.
7. LB Conrad Scheidt, Jr.
8. TE Taylor Elmo, Jr.
9. RB Ryan Bass, Sr.
10. QB Dominique Blackman, Jr.
Aug. 30 Eastern Washington
Sept. 8 at Bowling Green
Sept. 15 at LSU
Sept. 22 Wyoming
Sept. 29 at North Carolina
Oct. 6 New Mexico State
Oct. 13 at Texas State
Oct. 20 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 27 OPEN DATE
Nov. 3 San Jose State
Nov. 10 at BYU
Nov. 17 UTSA
Nov. 24 at Utah State
First and foremost, what is it going to do next? The WAC is going bye-bye with everyone but New Mexico State going elsewhere, so the Vandals either have to beg and plead to get into the Mountain West, make the strange geographic leap to try to be a part of the Sun Belt, or be an independent. In any event, the future will be the Idaho storyline throughout the year, but at the same time, head coach Robb Akey has to try to come up with a decent year after a rocky 2-10 campaign put his career record at 19-43.
The Vandals were close last year to coming up with a few key wins, but the horrendous defense and inconsistent offense were too much to overcome in four losses by a touchdown or less. However, while there might have been several close calls that could have gone the other way, Idaho was also a nail-biter of a win over San Jose State away from going winless against FBS competition.
Akey has always been able to get the team to play hard and the fight is never a problem, but he has never been able to generate productive defenses, so if his offenses aren't blowing up, the production won't be there.
There isn't a ton of returning talent on either side of the ball, but the potential is there for the offense to be stronger with running back Ryan Bass a big, tough back from Arizona State with the talent to give the Vandals a steady ground attack – at least compared to past Idaho teams. The quarterback situation is interesting with good options in Dominique Blackman and Taylor Davis, and the receiving corps should be a strength with four of the top six targets returning.
The defense that wasn't even close against the pass is deep at safety and has a nice corner in Aaron Grymes to count on. There will still be problems, but at least there are options. The linebackers are going to be the team's biggest positive with Conrad Scheidt sure to be among the WAC's best tacklers, while the tackles have the potential to be far better with good size and athleticism inside.
Kicker Trey Farquhar and punter Bobby Cowan give the Vandals a loaded kicking pair and the return game should be a plus.
So can Idaho put up a good enough season to get an invite from a new conference? The players can't worry about the future. With so many issues last year, simply trying to come up with wins will be good enough.
What to watch for on offense: Will there be more pop and production? The 2010 Vandals might have had problems, but they were able to come up with six wins helped by a passing game that ripped up close to 300 yards per game. Even though those Vandals all but ignored the running game, the offense was able to crank up points early. Last year's offense couldn't seem to do anything right finishing 111th in the nation and averaging close to 300 yards per game total. Worst of all, the passing attack was among the most inefficient in the nation, finishing 116th in passing efficiency, and the points weren't there. With Bass a good-looking back and the receiving corps strong, the yards should start to come.
What to watch for on defense: Is it possible the Vandals will finally have a run defense? It wasn't bad last season, but that was only because it was so easy to bomb away on the pass defense. Now the potential is there for the run D to actually be a major plus with a good-looking tackle pair in Quayshawne Buckley and Dontae Scott as good as any Akey has had, while Scheidt and Robert Siavii form one of the WAC's better outside linebacking tandems. There might not be any hope against the LSU running game, but the front seven should be able to hold up well against just about everyone else.
The team will be far better if … there's some semblance of offense. The attack stalled dead way too often failing to come up with 300 yards in eight of the 12 games and struggling to hit 21 points in seven games. It's not like the WAC has a who's who of top-shelf defenses, and with the Idaho D looking potentially stronger and better with plenty of promising parts and more depth than usual, if the O can get back to the 2010 form the results should be outstanding.
The schedule: he Vandals have their forget-about-it non-conference paydays at LSU and North Carolina, but the slate isn't that bad. Wyoming is beatable in Moscow, as is Eastern Washington. However, a trip to BYU comes up in November during the heat of the WAC season. Going on the road to face Louisiana Tech and Utah State means there's no margin for error at home in conference action. Back-to-back road games at Texas State and Louisiana Tech in mid-September could make-or-break the season.
Best offensive player: Senior WR Mike Scott. The Vandals need more from the receiving corps, but Scott should be a good one to work around after coming up with a team-leading 55 catches for 691 yards and two scores, averaging 12.6 yards per grab. The team's leader and captain, he's rock-steady catching four passes or more in every game but two last season – missing one game against BYU – and this year he should play a larger role. If nothing else, he'll be the go-to guy for the new starting quarterback.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Robert Siavii. From all indications, the heat-seeking missile of a hitter is all back full after missing the entire 2011 season with a knee injury. With almost a full year to heal, he has most of his range back along with his excellent speed and closing skills. He might not come up with the 91 tackles he generated two years ago, but he should be one of the team's best playmakers in the backfield and he suddenly makes a decent-looking linebacking corps potentially excellent.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Dominque Blackman and/or Junior QB Taylor Davis. Blackmon is a Washington and Old Dominion transfer with phenomenal size – almost too much size at around 270 pounds – and a huge arm, but Davis has the experience getting in a little bit of work last season. The problem is that Davis stunk when he got his chances and Blackman still has to show he can produce. Considering how awful last year's quarterback play was, the Vandals have to get steady production out of one of them to finally get the offense moving.
The season will be a success if … the Vandals win six games. This might seem like a bit of a stretch for a team with so many problems and concerns, but this is the new, lighter WAC that lost all its top teams to the Mountain West. There's enough depth and talent on both side of the ball to beat the new guys – UTSA and Texas State – and there's no reason to not hope for wins against New Mexico State and San Jose State at home. It might take a few upsets, but considering the team won six games two years ago, it's an attainable goal.
Key game: Sept. 8 at Bowling Green. The opener against Eastern Washington is anything but a layup, but the Vandals have to win that to have any realistic prayer of going bowling. If they do, then they have the 50/50 game against a good Bowling Green team that has the potential to be one of the bigger MAC surprises, but isn't a conference favorite. It's on the road and it's a long trip, but Idaho can prove right away that this will be a different team and a different season with a confidence-making win. The week after at LSU isn't going to do much of anything to provide a boost to the team's ego.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Scoring after the first halves of games: Opponents 252 – Idaho 85
- 3rd down conversion % - Opponents 66-of-175 (38%) – Idaho 54-of-185 (29%)
- Total offense: Opponents 5,242 yards – Opponents 3,618 yards
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