Remarkably, it’s already that time of year — yes, college football is here. Well, almost anyway. The Idaho Vandals open fall camp Saturday afternoon. Check out below for our preview with some interesting comments from Robb Akey and Jonah Sataraka.
By JOSH WRIGHT
MOSCOW, Idaho — There might not be a more die-hard follower of University of Idaho men’s basketball than Robb Akey. At just about every home game last winter, the Vandals football coach and his two sons watched gleefully from the stands as Don Verlin reshaped the moribund program into a postseason participant.
Just don’t bother drawing conclusions from what Verlin was able to achieve in his first year as coach and what Akey has yet to muster going into his third season on the gridiron.
Akey insists there are no parallels.
“You can’t flip football overnight,” he said. “It’s much harder to do than basketball. Just the numbers that come into play, the physicality of the football game.”
Patience has become a buzzword around UI football, and for good reason. Akey holds a 3-21 mark as Idaho coach and looks to have the bulk of a massive overhaul still in front of him as the Vandals begin preparations for the 2009 season.
Players must report to campus today, and the first practice of fall camp is Saturday afternoon at 3:30. Idaho opens the season on Sept. 5 at New Mexico State.
If anything, Verlin’s sudden transformation of UI basketball has made Vandal funs hungrier for similar success from the beleaguered football program. Akey said last week at the Western Athletic Conference football preview that the groundwork has been laid in his first two years — it’s the results that have yet to follow.
“I feel great about the progress,” the former Washington State defensive coordinator said. “Yeah, I want to see it happen quicker, and I know our fans do because it’s been a decade since they’ve (seen) a bowl game, a winning season. And I know that grates on our fans.”
One potential boost for the Vandals is that they enter fall camp with the most continuity in years. After becoming the third UI coach in three years when he was hired in 2007, Akey has kept his staff mostly intact and can rely on a stable of upperclassmen who know his system.
Fourth-year junior safety Shiloh Keo is healthy after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, and redshirt junior Nathan Enderle is the clear favorite to enter his third year as starting quarterback. The Vandals also have the most depth in Akey’s tenure. Enderle was legitimately pushed by junior college transfer Brian Reader in spring camp, while running back and wide receiver are two positions with a glut of available bodies.
“Expectation levels are high,” defensive tackle Jonah Sataraka said. “We set the bar high. This upcoming season, we’re going to shock some people — that’s all I can say.”
Akey must smile hearing such comments. He wants his team to carry a bit of swagger and openly discuss a bowl berth, even if UI has captured only one WAC victory in the last two seasons.
“We had meals (in the off-season) where they were eating out of bowls,” the coach said. “I want them thinking bowls, I want them talking bowls. Why not?”