MOSCOW, Idaho – In his first two recruiting classes, Idaho coach Robb Akey knew protecting home turf would be tricky. He was taking the reins of a long-suffering program, and he was hamstrung by the number of scholarships he could offer.
But slowly, the tide seems to be turning even if the Vandals are still searching for consistency on the field.
“I would like to think our name’s getting stronger,” Akey said Wednesday, while touting the addition of 22 high school and junior college recruits, six of whom are from Idaho and Washington.
The Vandals’ haul is highlighted locally by Lake City High’s Jared Heston, a 220-pound linebacker who gave an oral commitment to UI early in the recruiting process. Akey raved about the “tough, hard-nosed” player during an afternoon press conference.
LC has produced plenty of top-shelf talent in recent years, including Boise State’s Byron Hout and Billy Sanders, a senior who committed to Miami on Wednesday. Yet Akey said Heston compares favorably to any recent LC product.
“I think you can put him up there and say he’s the best of that crew. I’ll say it,” the coach said.
The Vandals also signed Jeffrey Bediako, a linebacker who played just one year at Boise High School after coming from The Netherlands. There are five linebackers in the class and four defensive backs to help bring stability to what was a shaky defense last fall.
Across the board, Idaho seems to have enhanced its speed. The Vandals brought in track standout Tracy Carter, a 5-foot-11 DB from Mesquite, Texas, and cornerback Aaron Grymes from West Seattle High, who had originally given an oral commitment to the University of Washington.
Akey also made a concerted effort to bulk up the program’s supply of quarterbacks. Brian Reader, who redshirted at Arkansas before transferring to a California junior college, and Arizona prep product Taylor Davis will join incumbent Nathan Enderle and redshirt freshman Justin Morales.
Davis will be a redshirt candidate, but the three others could wage an intriguing battle for the starting spot in fall camp. While Enderle has been the starter the last two years, Akey said competition will be a healthy thing in fall camp.
The same goes for other positions. At running back, the Vandals could be six-deep next year. That sort of depth has been practically nonexistent in recent years.
“I feel like we’re getting a lot closer to where we need to be,” Akey said. “Next year is going to be a smaller class. That’s a great sign we’re getting healthier.”
UI was hampered last year after getting docked scholarships because of a low Academic Progress Rate, which took a hit by the dismissal of nearly 20 players before they graduated. The Vandals had 76 scholarships a year ago and will have 80 this season. Next year the program should be at the maximum of 85, Akey said.
Two contributing linebackers from 2008, Justin Allen and Jonathan Faraimo, have left the program for family reasons, Akey said.