MOSCOW, Idaho – A family feel inside the program and heightened expectations – those are the two themes Robb Akey heard over and over again from recruits after they took official visits to Idaho.
The high school and junior college targets could sense things have changed in Moscow, and clearly the Vandals’ continuity and recent success helped Wednesday.
Idaho announced the signing of 22 players in Akey’s fifth recruiting class since taking over the program. Twelve of the commits hail from California and several have ties to former or current Vandal players and coaches.
The list includes Dion Bass, a 5-foot-9 cornerback from Corona, Calif. and brother of UI running back Ryan Bass. He visited Nebraska last week but decided to stick with the Vandals.
“If Ryan Bass didn’t feel this was a good situation,” Akey said, “there’s no way he’s letting his little brother come here.”
Another California product in Akey’s recruiting haul is Dominique Blackman, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback who originally signed with the University of Washington. He left UW after Tyrone Willingham was fired – “he showed strong enough character not to go there,” Akey joked – and then bounced from a Los Angeles JC to Old Dominion.
After leaving ODU, Blackman said he received offers from Hawaii and UTEP while other schools wanted him to sign as an athlete. But he opted for Idaho and is enrolled in classes. He’ll have to sit out this fall after transferring.
“I just had to trust the coaching staff here and how they recruited me,” Blackman said. “And it just felt like a good fit.”
Akey mentioned seven signees who have a chance to be impact players this fall, led by defensive tackles Ryan Edwards and Dontae Scott and offensive linemen Brady Lisoski and A.J. Jones.
Edwards, the cousin of a Vandal academic advisor, was highly recruited coming out of Long Beach Poly High in 2010 before attending prep school in North Carolina. He had offers from two Pac-10 schools and an ACC school, Akey said, before joining UI in January.
The Vandals focused on strengthening need areas and adding depth, particularly up front and in the secondary. They signed five defensive linemen, three offensive linemen and four defensive backs.
In addition to Bass, the top cornerback in the class appears to be A.J. Annelus, a 5-11 transfer from Santa Monica College who joined UI in January. He’s one of the seven commits that Akey expects to make a quick impression.
“We’ve got to perform better at corner and I think we’ve got the kids that can,” Akey said. “But I think we needed to add to the competition a little bit.”
The Vandals also added two high school defensive ends, Ryan Ena and Quinton Bradley, who were UI’s top targets at the position at the start of the recruiting process. The same held true for safety Bradley Njoku of Leander High in Texas.
Although no Idaho players were part of the class, Akey felt good about bringing in three Washington prep standouts – Bellevue linebacker Elan Richard, Kentridge tailback Cameron McKernan and Cedarcrest tight end Jared Klingenberg.
“You’ll notice there’s no Florida in this (class),” the coach said. “There’s no Mississippi. That means we haven’t had to stretch quite as far (as in the past).”
This class will put Idaho close to or at 85 scholarships for the first time in Akey’s tenure … Ron Mallory and Brian Wilson, backup linemen, have left the program, Akey announced.