MOSCOW, Idaho – It won’t fully materialize until signing day in February, but one offshoot of the University of Idaho football program’s upswing is more open doors in recruiting.
The Vandals have eight known verbal commitments, and five have come within a 220-mile radius of Moscow. Although the list doesn’t include any Spokane or Coeur d’Alene recruits, the increased visibility from a 7-4 record and three nationally televised games seems to be rubbing off on more Northwest high school standouts.
“(Our) name is very recognizable right now,” wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Luther Carr said, “so the winning has really helped us from that standpoint. You know, we’re just in the public eye more.”
Middle linebacker Paul Senescall, a redshirt junior from Mead High, has felt the positive shift firsthand. In years past, as the Vandals were wallowing at the latter end of nine consecutive losing seasons, Senescall sensed little interest from former high school coaches and friends.
“But now that we’re starting to win, (it’s) getting their attention,” he said. “They’re starting to come down to the games. They always go to the Cougars games and now they’re really interested in coming to Vandals games and figuring out what’s new with us.”
Senescall, one of four Greater Spokane League products at UI, was wooed to the Moscow school by an early scholarship offer and the opportunity to play in the FBS ranks. Similar circumstances led to the arrival of Lake City’s Jared Heston this season.
The two Inland Northwest natives are joined by tight ends Patrick Mealey (Central Valley) and Kellen Beam (Gonzaga Prep) and freshman defensive end Pat Enders (Gonzaga Prep).
Spokane and Coeur d’Alene have always been a focal point for the UI staff, Carr said. But the Vandals have been in a difficult spot with top-shelf local recruits: They’re unable to offer the same Pac-10 experience as Washington and Washington State and haven’t been competitive enough to vie with Boise State.
Many of the recruiting battles still favor WSU, UW and the Broncos, whose stranglehold on the series with Idaho continued last weekend, but the gap is perhaps narrowing.
“Traditionally, (local players) want to go to Washington and Washington State first,” Carr said. “So we have to do a great job. We want to get the top players in our state first. And then I’d say Eastern Washington – we want to get them, too, but you first want to start with local kids, meaning Idaho kids first.”
Carr seems well suited to carry the Vandals’ banner in the Northwest. He was an assistant at Lewis and Clark High in 1994 before moving to Pasco, and then the west side, where he was the head coach at Garfield High from 1998-2001.
The third-year UI aide considers himself “a Washington guy in general,” and clearly his relationships with high school coaches have helped. Yet winning is proving to be a much more powerful marketing tool.
Recruits who have already made verbal pledges to UI include center Mike Marboe of Wenatchee, rated a three-star recruit by Scout.com, and two-star quarterback Justin Podrabsky of Lewiston.
“I think we raised eyebrows in the local areas,” Senescall said, “which is very nice.”