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Vandals football

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UI tabbed sixth in WAC; Akey speaks

UPDATED: 2:00 p.m.

If the Idaho Vandals challenge for the conference title like they expect to, it will be a surprise to both the WAC coaches and reporters that cover the conference. UI was picked sixth in the media and coaches' preason polls, released this morning. Hawaii is No. 1 in both polls, followed by Fresno State and Nevada. Lousiana Tech and Utah State are fourth and fifth.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz was named preseason offensive player of the year, and Utah State's Bobby Wagner garnered the same award on the defensive side.

See the full polls and more here. We've got a rundown of Robb Akey's comments on scheduling, the Vandals' potential on defense, and a few jabs at Boise State and BYU.

UT-Arlington joins WAC

UPDATED

The WAC today announced the addition of the University of Texas-Arlington, a move that you can read all about after the link with our story.

Gesser joins Idaho’s coaching staff

COUGARS, VANDALS • UPDATED: 8 P.M.

Former Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser has been hired at Idaho, where he'll be reunited with former Cougar defensive coordinator Robb Akey.

Just last month Gesser, after resigning as head coach at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish, Wash., told us he was joining WSU in an off-the-field non-coaching position. But after UI running backs coach Jeremy Thielbahr left to take Gesser's old position at Eastside Catholic, a role on Akey's staff opened up and Gesser pursued it.

“It really is a dream come true working for a guy like that,” Gesser said of Akey in Idaho's media release. “I’ve been trying for the last handful of years to see if he’d let me join his staff and I finally got him to bite. I’ve seen his kids grow in front of my eyes and I’m very close with his family. I’ve spent a lot of time with him not only as a player but since he’s been coaching at Idaho.”

Gesser will coach Idaho's running backs and recruit the Norhwest and Hawaii.

You can read Idaho's full release on the hiring here.

UPDATE: Our story on Gesser's change of heart includes his explanation of why he decided to move to Moscow instead of Pullman.

Idaho running backs coach leaves

Jeremy Thielbahr, Idaho's running backs and co-special teams coach, has left to take the head coach and assistant athletic director position at Eastside Catholic High in Sammamish, Wash. Thiehlbahr is the second UI coach to leave during the offseason, following offensive line coach Dan Finn. Thielbahr was a full-fledged member of the Vandals' coaching staff for three years.

Read on for more.

UI loses one scholarship; Siavii to redshirt

UPDATED: 5:43 p.m.

The newest four-year Academic Progress Rates have been unveiled by the NCAA, and the Idaho football team has lost one scholarship because of its multi-year APR of 923, just below the penalty threshold of 925.

That might sound like bad news — but to Robb Akey, it's not. That's because the Vandals knew this was coming and have already taken the scholarship hit. Read on for his reaction.

Also, Akey confirmed starting linebacker Robert Siavii, last year's leading tackler, will redshirt this fall after tearing his ACL during Idaho's spring game. Siavii will have one year of eligibility left after sitting out.

UI’s Enderle, Keo, Hardy drafted

After two days of waiting, Idaho quarterback Nate Enderle was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft — just 16 picks after fellow Vandal Shiloh Keo. Tight end Daniel Hardy was the third Vandal drafted when Tampa Bay took him in the seventh round.

  • Enderle, a four-year starter for the Vandals, went in the fifth round (the 160th pick overall) to the Chicago Bears. Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz traveled to Moscow to watch Enderle's pro day in March.
  • Keo was taken by Houston earlier in the fifth round (144th overall). He excelled at UI as a run-stuffing safety. He was also a valuable special teams player, where he'll no doubt get an opportunity to play as well with the Texans.
  • Hardy went as the 238th pick in the last round to Tampa. He was a dynamite down-the-field receiver for the Vandals when healthy.

The three players drafted is a school record since the NFL adopted a shortened version of the draft. The official record came in 1958, when Jerry Kramer and Wayne Walker were two of five Vandals drafted.

Akey fears worst with Siavii’s injury

The MRI results have yet to come back on the knee injury sustained Saturday by Idaho standout linebacker Robert Siavii, but coach Robb Akey isn't hopeful. “I would expect there’s a good chance it’s torn,” Akey said this morning of Siavii's right ACL.

Siavii led the Vandals in 2010 in tackles with 91 and was expected to be a cornerstone of UI's deep, skilled linebacking corps this fall as a senior. During Idaho's spring game he collided full speed with defensive end Benson Mayowa and running back Ryan Bass trying to bring Bass down in the open field. Siavii said Saturday he would use his available redshirt year if his ACL was indeed torn.

The official results of the MRI should be back within 24-48 hours, Akey said.

The Vandals already lost potential starting safety Thaad Thompson to a torn ACL this spring. Defensive tackle Ryan Edwards also went down with a knee injury, though he's expected back in time for the season. The offense also suffered multiple injuries, but none is expected to be an issue this fall.

Vandals end spring on (mostly) high note

It was sunny with a nice breeze. Attendance was solid. Idaho's offense started to click. Everything was rolling for the Vandals this morning, as receiver Justin Veltung put it afterward. But there was one downer in the Silver and Gold game.

We've got details below.

Iupati visits Vandals as spring winds down

It was a much livelier practice than expected for the Vandals this afternoon, and most of the credit goes to former Idaho star Mike Iupati. We've got a full recap and details of a season-ending injury to one of Idaho's defensive backs before the Silver and Gold game on Saturday.

Read on.

Former Vandal Johnson in the news

On Sunday CBS' “60 Minutes” aired a report on a sexual assault case at University of the Pacific in 2008. Standout basketball player Steffan Johnson was expelled from Pacific for his role in the incident, and three months later Johnson ended up at the University of Idaho. The decision by coach Don Verlin to pursue and sign Johnson was the subject of criticism during the CBS report.

Verlin didn't return a phone call to comment. But we filed this story about the scrutiny facing UI.

Also, Idaho announced today that Mark Schlereth bobblehead dolls — in honor of the former Vandal offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst — will be made available for each season ticket account through July 22. The Schlereth bobblehead is the first in line of Vandal Legend bobbleheads that will be unveiled in subsequent years and given with season ticket accounts.

D-line an area of strength for Idaho

We've got a report from the Vandals' third scrimmage of spring practice below. Idaho has been ravaged by injuries, the latest coming to left tackle Matt Cleveland. You can read more on the injury situation, and about the Vandals' defensive line, which is deeper than it's been since Robb Akey arrived.

RB Bass headlines first Idaho scrimmage

From the nasty wind and brief rain to the sloppy play on offense, it wasn't a memorable first scrimmage of the spring for the Idaho Vandals. But, like Robb Akey said afterward, it was just the beginning. Idaho will scrimmage three more times — the next two Saturdays before the Silver and Gold game on April 23.

Click here for our report from the scrimmage, which centers on Arizona State transfer Ryan Bass, and click below for lots of notes.

UI football team opens spring

After the first of 15 practices, I talked to UI coach Robb Akey about new starting quarterback Brian Reader and other topics. Click below for my story from Moscow.

Akey talks spring football

The Vandals will be outside tomorrow for the first of 15 spring practices. Robb Akey spoke about the team and what he wants to get out of spring. We've got details below.

You can get more updates on my Twitter account (@SR_JoshWright).

Vandals’ football schedule announced

Idaho's 2011 football schedule features trips to Texas A&M, Virginia and BYU and home dates with Bowling Green and North Dakota. The Vandals released their full schedule this afternoon, and you can see it below. The season starts with a rematch of the Humanitarian Bowl with Bowling Green on Sept. 1 at the Kibbie Dome. Game times have yet to be announced.

Idaho AD addresses WAC expansion, more

University of Idaho athletic director Rob Spear spoke with reporters this morning, touching on football scheduling, WAC expansion, the Kibbie Dome renovation and trying to bolster attendance at basketball games.

Click below for all the details.

Akey hires veteran assistant McDonell

Last week Idaho coach Robb Akey hinted he had a target in mind to replace departing offensive line coach Dan Finn, and it turned out to be well-traveled offensive coach John McDonell. The Spokane native coached at Washington State from 1989-2000 (part of that time with Akey) before moving to Stanford, Notre Dame, Purdue and most recently Memphis and Bowling Green.

Read on.

Vandals-Aggies about to tip; UI coaching update

Less than 10 minutes before the Idaho men face their biggest test of the season against No. 21 Utah State at Cowan Spectrum (so far there's a very small crowd on hand). You can follow along throughout the game on Twitter @SR_JoshWright. It will be on ESPN2.

Also, here's an update on UI's search for a new offensive line coach after Dan Finn left San Diego State. Robb Akey said he'll interview at least three candidates — perhaps four — and hopes to announce his choice by Monday. Akey said he didn't want the process to drag out as long as last year when tight ends coach Al Pupunu was hired after Jonathan Smith left for Montana. It seems clear he has a top choice for the job.

Idaho O-line coach leaves for SDSU

Several reports indicate Dan Finn, Idaho's offensive line coach, is set to take the same position on Rocky Long's staff at San Diego State. The move was first reported by footballscoop.com. It was also included in this San Diego Union Tribune article. Finn served as Idaho's O-line coach in each of Robb Akey's first four years. Finn played at Northern Arizona while Akey was defensive coordinator and current UI offensive coordinator Steve Axman was head coach.

Finn is the second key offensive assistant to depart Moscow in the last two years. Quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith left after the 2009 season for Montana. Akey has previously said he has no problem with assistants leaving if they get promotions or head coaching positions, but Finn is making a lateral move, albeit to a bigger school in a more prestigious conference.

Recap of Vandals’ signing day

UPDATED: 10:50 p.m.

Robb Akey walked into the media room at the Kibbie Dome on Wednesday and greeted reporters by blurting out a “Merry Christmas” and a few yelps. Akey was clearly thrilled with his 22-player recruiting class. You can read about it here in our story and capsules of each player.

Read on for more quotes and a conversation with the high school coach of cornerback commit Dion Bass.