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Idaho sets out to rebuild offense with coaching mixture

Thu., March 22, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

MOSCOW, Idaho – Jason Gesser has no problem acknowledging what others have pointed out often in the last month: As a college coach, and especially as a coordinator, he’s a newbie.

Gordy Shaw, on the other hand, has been overseeing offensive and defensive lines for the last 33 years at nine schools.

The coaches bring a blend of energy and new insight to Idaho’s offensive coaching staff. And although they’ve officially worked together less than a week, both say the arrangement is ideal.

“I’ve only been coaching college ball for a year,” Gesser said after the first practice of spring Thursday. “So to have a guy that’s been coaching for almost as long as I’ve been alive … is huge for me.”

Gesser, 32, was elevated to offensive coordinator by Vandals coach Robb Akey in late February. Shaw was announced as run game coordinator/offensive line coach on Monday, though he was in Moscow earlier this offseason as a consultant after being let go at Hawaii.

Both stood alongside each other Thursday as the Vandals worked out in shorts and no pads inside the Kibbie Dome.

The focus after the first of 15 sessions was on UI’s rebuilding offense, and that’s likely to be the case throughout spring. Idaho is searching for a starting quarterback, three new offensive line starters, a new lead running back and at least one starting receiver.

The task for Gesser, Shaw and the rest of the offensive staff is immense. And right now, they’re short-handed.

Akey also has yet to bring in a receivers coach and running backs coach. One hire is expected next week, and it could be Mike Levenseller.

Levenseller’s contract at Washington State, where he was receivers coach, expires on March 31. The Spokesman-Review and reported in January that he would join Akey’s staff.

“I think we’ve got a great room,” Shaw. “I mean, our staff is going to be awesome. … There will be a lot of years of experience on that staff when it’s all put together.”

Gesser, the former Washington State star quarterback, will be the team’s playcaller. He’ll consult with Shaw on short-yardage or goal-line situations during games, and Shaw will help him set up run formations as the staff prepares each week.

Gesser said only a small portion of the Vandals’ playbook has been soaked in by the players. Eventually, he expects Idaho to use a wide variety of formations, some of which will be new to fans used to Steve Axman’s offense the last five years.

Asked how UI fans will embrace the offense, Gesser said: “Hopefully, they like it. Hopefully, it produces points. At the end of the day, whether you take three plays to score or you take 10 plays to score, a score is a score.”

Last year the Vandals averaged just more than 20 points per game, which ranked 107th out of 120 FBS teams. A major issue was inconsistent quarterback play, and this fall they’ll have either transfer Dominique Blackman or junior Taylor Davis under center.

Blackman has two years of eligibility left but has redshirted the last two years – one season at Idaho and the other at Old Dominion.

“I saw some good and not so good in each of them today,” Akey said of Davis and Blackman after Thursday’s session. “We’re going to see who can run the show the best, who can lead the group the best.”

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