MOSCOW, Idaho – Nearing the one-year anniversary of his season-ending knee injury, Robert Siavii swears he doesn’t think about what happened that sunny Saturday last spring. Not as he’s going full speed on the field for Idaho, at least.
But the details still haunt him. His mind often drifts to last year’s Silver and Gold game, when he sprinted to the edge to tackle Ryan Bass – only to get tangled up with Bass and defensive end Benson Mayowa.
Sometime during the collision and awkward fall, Siavii tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. His 2011 season was over.
“Every night,” said Siavii, a redshirt senior linebacker, when asked how often he thinks of the play. “Every night right before I fall asleep. Every morning when I wake up. That’s the last thing on my mind at the end of the day and the first thing on my mind (at the) beginning of the day.”
Coping with a major injury and sitting out last fall, as Idaho stumbled through a 2-10 season, was challenging. But Saivii – the Vandals’ leading tackler in 2010 – now considers his injury a blessing.
The Hawaiian had a redshirt year available, and he’s come back 20 pounds heavier and considerably stronger. Not to mention faster.
In lifting tests after surgery, Siavii has added 15 to 20 pounds to personal bests in almost every category. He weighs 225 pounds (he started spring at 229) after playing two years ago at around 205.
Even with the added weight, his top 40-yard dash has improved – from 4.9 seconds pre-injury to 4.7 seconds.
“I just got to get back into it and hopefully get a 4.6,” Siavii said.
In his absence last season, the Vandals’ defense was the strength of the team. This fall Siavii and defensive coordinator Mark Criner figure the defense will be even stronger.
Idaho returns all but a few key defensive starters and is starting to see talented underclassmen vie for time with the first and second units through three weeks of spring camp.
“It’s the most depth we’ve had,” Criner said. “We definitely have more kids who have played a lot of football … That builds confidence within the group, and it shows out there.”
The defense’s forte should be at linebacker, with a group headlined by Siavii and Conrad Scheidt, and safety, with the return of Thaad Thompson. He went down with a torn ACL the week before Siavii last April, and so the two players followed similar timelines in their rehabs.
During that time, Thompson was struck by Siavii’s devotion to getting stronger.
“There were times when he was in the weight room for hours and hours and hours,” Thompson said. “He was the weight room for a long time.”
Criner called Siavii’s rehab routine and recovery freakish. At the start of spring, the linebacker said he was a month ahead of where doctors thought he’d be. Since then, coach Robb Akey has noticed how quickly Siavii settled into playing shape.
“I think after the first couple days he got it going,” Akey said. “He’s playing fast and he’s fitting things well, so I think it’s been a good thing.”
The Vandals were scheduled for a scrimmage Saturday, but Akey decided they needed for more practice reps. UI will scrimmage Saturday before the Silver and Gold game on April 20 at 6 p.m. … Guard/center Guy Reynolds sustained a knee injury in Saturday’s practice. He spent the rest of the day in crutches. … Defensive tackle Aaron Lazaro has moved to the offensive line because of the lack of depth along the line. … Washington special teams coach Johnny Nansen, a former Idaho assistant, visited the Vandals’ practice Saturday.