LAS VEGAS – If University of Idaho coach Robb Akey plans to pick up any souvenirs during his jaunt to Sin City this week, finding football’s version of alchemy – if such a thing existed – would be like hitting the jackpot.
Joined by cornerback Aaron Grymes and receiver Mike Scott at the annual Western Athletic Conference media day on Thursday, Akey emphasized the Vandals’ need to “finish” this season – meaning they need to turn the close calls of last year into victories during the upcoming season if they hope to achieve their goal of a conference title.
A WAC title is a lofty goal, considering the Vandals finished 2-10 last season with just one conference victory. But four of those losses were by one touchdown or less, hence the idea that if the Vandals “finish,” those losses would become wins in 2012.
“‘Finish’ has become a strong motto of this team,” said Akey. “It all starts with fall camp next week.”
The Vandals are picked to finish fifth by WAC coaches and fourth by WAC media members in preseason polls. Louisiana Tech is the top pick in both polls, Utah State second, and San Jose State third.
Heading into camp, Akey has several huge decisions to make in terms of his offense – such as who his starting quarterback will be, and which players will protect him. Idaho has proven receivers, tight ends and running backs returning this season, but starters and rotations are not nailed down.
The Vandals are more experienced on defense, with starters and players with significant game time back at almost every position.
“Our defense did some really good things over the course of spring ball,” said Akey. “If we stay healthy, we have a chance to be pretty good there. Offensively, there are some pretty good weapons. We have the best punter and one of the best place-kickers in the country.”
“Pride and family are going to be among our strengths,” he added. “That has grown. It matters a lot with your football team.”
Players report Wednesday and the Vandals’ first practice is Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
The Vandals will host Eastern Washington University in their season-opener on Aug. 30 at the Kibbie Dome. Kickoff is 6 p.m.