Finish. Finish. Finish. Finish. Say that word about 755 more times and you will arrive at how many times coach Robb Akey said that he used the word, or that theme, last week at WAC Media days in Las Vegas.
So come time when the Idaho football team hits the practice field for the first time in the fall, guess what the theme will be?
“I used the finish 759 times just in the media day alone, for an hour and a half. That was talking to cameras. So you can imagine what it’s going to be like talking to these players,” Akey said. “I’m gonna blow a horn they’re gonna know when the last quarter of practice begins for the next 29 practices. They’re gonna finish their dinner plates. We’re gonna finish everything.”
As he did during media days last week, Akey once again compared last years team to the 2009 version that won the Humanitarian Bowl. Last season the Vandals lost four games by one possession or less, four games that if swung the other way could have made Idaho bowl eligible. In contrast, in 2009 the Vandals won four regular season games by a touchdown or less. Five including the bowl victory.
“We made the play in the bowl season, we didn’t find a way to make the play last year. That is the bottom line. There is that fine a line between winning and not winning. That is a lot of what we’re paying attention to,” he said.
Idaho will hit the practice field on Thursday, Aug. 2 with their first scrimmage slated to happen on Tuesday, Aug. 7 and there should be story lines galore to follow, including the hotly contested quarterback battle and the health of the offensive line.
On top of that, Thursday will be something of a refreshment for the program. Since the Vandals last hit the practice field in the spring the atmosphere around the program has changed immensely with the waves of conference re-alignment crashing down around it. But there is still, at the very least, one more year of WAC football to be played and Idaho intends to make the most of it.
“The focus can be on teaching these guys, seeing how they respond to being out there, watching film and letting everybody else in the world continue to have those debates on all that other stuff,” Akey said. “This is what we live for, coaches, players, we live for this, so yeah I’m very, very excited about that. It’ll be a nice change up.”
Last week at WAC media days, which might as well had been a funeral reception for football in the conference, interim commissioner Jeff Hurd admitted as much that this upcoming season would be the last the conference plays in football for the foreseeable future. Idaho is one of two football playing members that is without a home for 2013, and that this point finding one at all for that season is unlikely. The Mountain West and Sun Belt have shut their doors to Idaho, for now. Competitiveness, or lack there of, on the field has probably played a minor part in that lack of interest.
“I got a football team, I got a coaching staff, I got a guy I look at in the mirror everyday that’s sitting here and I’m kind of tired of people saying that we’re not good enough, we’re not wanted, we’re not gonna do this, we’re not gonna do that,” Akey said. “So we got one thing we can do, we can go prove it or we can live with it. So I’d rather prove that we’re better than that, that’s what’s what this team is gonna do and that’s the way we’re gonna go about things.”
As for 2012 specifically, the Vandals were picked to finish fourth by the media and fifth by the coaches.
“I think it just adds to the chip. I think we have a lot of reasons to have a little attitude right now and that just helps it. I’ve said it before, it’s the one at the end of the season that matters,” Akey said.
On the injury front there isn’t much to report. WR Justin Veltung will be worked in slowly due to a foot injury and will be non-contact in practices for a while.
Here is the rest of what Akey had to say to us in the media this morning:
On the quarterback battle between Taylor Davis and Dominique Blackman
- Reps will be split evenly until separation occurs over the course of practices. Akey wants to see how both players react in certain situations and give them both an opportunity to run with the 1s and 2s.
- Akey insinuated that reps in practice would tilt towards one of the quarterback if and when that separation starts to occur. “Equal opportunity until more opportunity is earned,” he said.
- A starter is likely to be named some time around or before the third scrimmage takes place on Aug. 16
“I’d love to have had that determined a long time ago. But it hasn’t been, and I think that that’s a good thing too, in that they’re both doing good things which is why it hasn’t separated itself yet. But it will separate, I’m anxious to see how much has taken place over the summer when they were doing it on their own,” Akey said. “The sooner the better, but it’s gotta separate itself and I firmly believe it will…it’s not gonna happen immediately, it’ll happen before we start that first game. I promise ya somebody will start that first game.”
On Jason Gesser and the offense
“When we go to fall camp, we start all over again. We start with stance, we start with square one,” he said. “We got the base of our offense, not necessarily Jason’s, but the Vandal offense. We’re gonna re-visit those things and start from there.”
On the offensive line
- Offensive linemen that were held out or weren’t full speed in the spring should all be ready to go in the fall, with the exception of Guy Reynolds
“I thought that was what everybody was the most interested in in regards to our offense, who the fat five is gonna be. We had to protect some guys in spring practice. Had some off season surgey, didn’t get to do quite as much. We’ll be more full force in regards to numbers. And we need to find out who the fat five is gonna be and how many of them are there gonna be. What kind of a core group are we workin with. Is the next center to come in to come in the game, is that the next center, the next guard or the next tackle based on who can get jobs done for us, and that’s what we’ll be looking to identify.”
On the secondary, and if freshman Jayshawn Jordan or Ma’Ne Manaea will get opportunities to play
- CB Aaron Grymes and S Gary Walker are slated to start. Open competition down the depth chart at corner, nickel back and the safety position next to Walker.
“They all got opportunity. We got open arms. If you can come in and help you’re gonna get to play. Now Ma’ Ne comes in, the way he can run and hit he might be able to play. What kind of shape did (the freshman) report in, how prepared are they to do it (will determine if they play).”
On how the season is being dedicated to Ken McRoyal
“He’s gonna be a part of what this team is. He’s gonna be with us, he’s gonna help and everybody is gonna handle that to a little different extent. But there is no if, and or but about it, Kenny Mac is a part of this team and a part of this season. He will help fuel that fire, there is no question about it.”
Here are a few, crude, videos from the press conference. The first on the team’s refreshment from getting away from conference re-alignment chatter, and the second on the quarterback battle.