It’s been eight weeks since Idaho offensive coordinator Steve Axman announced his retirement. Days later, news filtered out – via a player’s Twitter feed – that wide receivers coach Luther Carr was no longer with the Vandals. And just over a week ago, offensive line coach John McDonell left for the same position at Tulane.
As of Monday night, though, there was no official word on replacements for any of the Vandals’ assistants – only a lot of speculation and assurance from Robb Akey that at least two of the spots will be filled by this week.For more on Akey’s staff, check out my update after the jump.
Update: See below for comments from Robb Akey on Jason Gesser being named the WAC Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com.
Here’s what we know: The Vandals have three vacancies to fill. Akey told me after his Signing Day press conference that Jason Gesser – named the WAC Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com on Monday – will move from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach. The former Washington State quarterback joined the staff last June; his new role will be a much more natural fit. Meanwhile, cornerbacks coach Torey Hunter will become recruiting coordinator, a job that Carr formerly held.
That leaves open spots for receivers coach, running backs coach, and O-line coach. Of course, Idaho also needs an offensive coordinator, but Akey hinted that at least one of the new hires could handle part of the OC role.
“I would expect at least two of three spots announced next week is my anticipation,” Akey said on Wednesday. “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.”
Who’s the potential hire with contract issues? Akey wouldn’t divulge names – nor was he asked to do so by reporters last week – but it seems clear that it’s Mike Levenseller, the former Washington State receivers coach who was not retained by Mike Leach. FootballScoop.com and The Spokesman-Review reported that Levenseller will join the staff a few weeks ago, and a WSU spokesman confirmed Monday that Levenseller’s contract with the Cougars does not expire until March 31.
If he moves across the Washington-Idaho border to Moscow, Levenseller would nicely fill the vacant receivers coach spot. He spent 19 years on the Wazzu staff developing wideouts (and was also the OC from 2001 to 2006). Levenseller could also end up handling part of the offensive coordinator duties, though it’s yet to be seen what his title would be.
As far as the running backs and O-line openings, no names have yet surfaced on who has interviewed or is in the running. Many of Akey’s hires at Idaho have had WSU ties, so it would make sense that former Cougar coaches or players have been considered. But it should also be stressed that several of the coaches he’s brought in – from Gesser to Hunter and McDonell last year – were coaches or players at WSU while Akey was there. He could also go the route of hiring a former colleague from Northern Arizona or Weber State, his stops before coming to Pullman, like he did by bringing in Axman.
The only thing that’s for sure: Akey know he who wants to hire. He said as much last week.
UI sent out this about Gesser being recognized. Idaho's class was ranked 88th by Scout.com -- tops for teams that will still be in the WAC next year, as well as the teams that are departing (Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State). Thanks to Twitter follower @mschauble for the clarification on that last point.
Jason Gesser hasn’t even been a Vandal for one year and he’s already been recognized as the Scout/FOXSportsNext Recruiter of the Year for the Western Athletic Conference. His efforts – and those of newly appointed recruiting coordinator Torey Hunter, helped the Vandals lead the WAC with their class of 2012.
“His passion and his competitive drive make him a great recruiter,” coach Robb Akey said of Gesser. “The ability of our entire staff to build strong relationships with our prospects enabled us to recruit the class ranked No. 1 in the WAC. I’m very proud of them for their commitment to this class and to the Vandals.”
Akey also commended Hunter for his ability to step in and not only recruit student-athletes who are a great fit for the Vandals but to coordinate the entire recruiting effort.
“He really took over and handled the recruiting coordinator duties admirably,” Akey said.
Scout.com gave Idaho’s class the nod for the No. 1 group in the league followed by San Jose State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, newcomer Texas State, Utah State and another newcomer, UT-San Antonio.
Idaho signed 23 players to National Letters of Intent last week. Included among those 23 are three players – running back James Baker, receiver Najee Lovett and offensive lineman Niklaus Von Rotz, who already are on campus.
The Vandals open spring drills March 22 and conclude with the annual Silver and Gold Game April 20.