MOSCOW, Idaho – It was a message from one former freshman to a soon-to-be college newcomer, and it still resonates with Jared Heston.
Before he started his football career at Idaho, Heston turned to an old Lake City High teammate, Byron Hout of Boise State, for guidance.
“He just said if you get in on special teams, just make sure you’re the special teams player of year,” Heston recalled this week.
Those words clearly stuck. The linebacker earned a weekly team award for special teams after tearing a ball away from a Washington kick returner to open the second half in last week’s 42-23 loss.
Momentum from the forced fumble didn’t last long – UI quarterback Nathan Endlerle threw an immediate interception – but coach Robb Akey was still impressed.
“He’s one of the guys I made notes of what we’re doing,” Akey said of Heston. “I want to see more of him. That was a huge play when we needed a big play.”
Heston’s position coach, Rob Christoff, has witnessed the early development of both Lake City alumni. He was around Hout last year as a grad assistant at BSU before joining the Vandals.
It’s obvious, Christoff said, that the two defenders share similar football DNA.
“They’re both physical players that do everything that you ask and are going to be in the right spot,” Christoff said. “I know part of that is coming from a good high school program.”
Hout has already grown into a playmaking defensive end for BSU with a fiery streak, as evidenced by his role in a postgame skirmish with Oregon’s LaGarrette Blount during the season’s opening week.
Heston, on the other hand, has yet to crack the two-deep rotation at linebacker for the Vandals as a true freshman. But his role on special teams has made him part of a surprisingly productive rookie class.
“Some of those guys don’t act like true freshmen,” Akey said. “Jared Heston is one of those guys. (It’s) just kind of the way they carry themselves.”
Heston and fellow freshmen Conrad Scheidt figure to be central members of the linebacking corps for the next several years. Both are blessed with beyond-their-years physical skills, Christoff said.
“I don’t think we’d play a lot of those guys as much as we are if they aren’t physically capable of doing it,” he said. “I think we’ve got a really good freshman class, and they’re just going to get better with the opportunities they get.”
Although a year apart academically and at rival schools, Heston and Hout still converse regularly, even during the frantic days for Hout following the Oregon game. “I talked to him about it,” Heston said with a slight grin.
Grymes makes a mark
Another freshman who’s made an early imprint is Aaron Grymes, a cornerback from Seattle who originally committed to Washington. Grymes started the season with stellar special-teams play, and last week replaced starting corner Isaac Butts in the second half.
When Akey told him he would be starting after halftime, Grymes grew wide-eyed. “But after the first play, all the nervousness went away and it was just natural,” he said.
Coaches have said they have no qualms using inexperienced players in the secondary – whether it be Grymes, fellow true freshmen Gary Walker or newcomer Matthew Harvey.
Around the WAC
This weekend should be a good barometer of how the midtier of WAC stacks up to Mountain West Conference. Idaho hosts San Diego State, Nevada goes to Colorado State and Hawaii is at UNLV. … Boise State and Fresno State square off tonight in a juicy WAC opener. The conference’s premier showdown is coming a bit early in the schedule, but FSU coach Pat Hill sees one positive in that. “I like playing them when we’re healthy,” he told the Fresno Bee.