Mike Marboe expected to anchor 2012 line
A SEASON THAT STARTED WITH LOFTY EXPECTATIONS has mercifully come to an end. Saturday afternoon, on the road in Reno, the Vandals exemplified everything endured this season with in a 56-3 thrashing at the hands of the Wolf Pack. The focus now turns to recruiting to fill holes for 2012, building a line around redshirt freshman center MIKE MARBOE, and a shakeup in the coaching staff is likely.
The 2011 football season for the Idaho Vandals was a nightmare.
Coach Robb Akey's team began the season with legitimate hopes of returning to postseason play, but instead wound up with its first double-digit loss season since 2008 as it finished 2-10, 1-6 in the WAC.
"This is not how we wanted to go out," senior running back Kama Bailey said after a season-ending 56-3 loss at Nevada on Dec. 3.
The disappointing finish for a senior-laden team brings up questions about the future. Idaho has many holes to fill on offense and defense, and some of those battles will be waged in spring drills. Among them is the quarterback position. Sophomore Taylor Davis, who started a pair of games in 2011, will likely compete with redshirt Dominique Blackman for the starting position.
Once again, rebuilding the offensive line will be the priority. Idaho loses three starters, including both tackles.
As for 2012, it's tough to gauge where the Vandals will be projected. The WAC is undergoing a makeover, so Idaho won't have to play Fresno State and Nevada. Those were two teams that the Vandals never bested in WAC play. Also gone is Hawaii, who is joining Fresno State and Nevada in the Mountain West. The WAC is adding Texas State and UT San Antonio and will compete as a seven-team conference next season.
Back-to-back losing seasons also have put a little more heat on Akey, who just finished the second year of a five-year contract he signed after winning the Humanitarian Bowl in 2009. Expect there to be some shakeup on his coaching staff as there has been only one season in his five-year tenure that the entire coaching staff remained intact.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Idaho 32, San Jose State 29 -- The Nov. 5 game was the highlight in a season of lowlights for Idaho. The Vandals fell behind 20-0 to the Spartans and appeared headed for their seventh loss in a row. But sophomore quarterback Taylor Davis, making his second career start, helped the Vandals rally for their first and only win against an FBS opponent this season. It was one of five games Idaho played that was decided by seven points or less and the only one that the Vandals came out victorious.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: MLB Treshawn Robinson -- The senior captain ranked fourth in the WAC in tackles (9.75 per game) and 25th nationally. Robinson also registered .63 tackles-for-loss per game and, perhaps most importantly, set a good example for his teammates on preparation and staying positive when things weren't going well, which was often in 2011 for the Vandals.
FAST FORWARD: The Vandals will be a new-look team competing in a new-look WAC next season. Idaho will lose 20 seniors from the 2011 squad, most of whom played significant roles. Idaho will lose its leading passer (QB Brian Reader), two leading rushers (Princeton McCarty and Kama Bailey) and three starters on the offensive line (LT Matt Cleveland, RT Tyrone Novikoff, LG Sam Tupua). Defensively, eight regulars were seniors, including MLB Tre'Shawn Robinson, LB Korey Toomer, DT Mike Cosgrove and S Quin Ashley. Idaho's schedule will have a different look as Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada will bolt the WAC for the Mountain West, while Texas State and UT San Antonio join the conference.
RECRUITING TRAIL: Idaho did get some good news in late November when Coeur d'Alene (ID) High quarterback Chad Chalich gave coach Robb Akey an oral commitment. Chalich led his team to back-to-back state championships at the big-school level in Idaho. The Vandals need to add numbers at just about every position, and this recruiting class is a crucial one for Akey and his staff.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm very disappointed how we ended the season. I don't like the won-loss record. This is embarrassing to me." -- Idaho coach Robb Akey after his team closed the 2011 season with a 56-3 loss at Nevada to finish with a 2-10 record.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2012:
P Bobby Cowan -- The senior-to-be still has a chance to win the NCAA statistical punting championship. He currently ranks second with an average of 46.41 yards per attempts, trailing the national leader by less than one yard. The leader -- Shawn Powell of Florida State -- still has a bowl game to punt in. Cowan helped Idaho all season in terms of changing field position with his high, booming kicks. He's only expected to get better next season.
RB Ryan Bass -- The Arizona State transfer battled injuries and spent most of his time in a reserve role behind a pair of dependable seniors. Bass likely will be the main man in the backfield next season, and Idaho will need him to shine to have a better record.
S Gary Walker -- Idaho's second-leading tackler has been a playmaker since he's arrived on campus, and coaches are expecting a monster senior season from him. He averaged 9.08 tackles per game as a junior.
LB Korey Toomer -- The physical, speedy linebacker is an intriguing prospect. Idaho used him at running back in short-yardage situations late in the season, and his versatility (he also played nickel and defensive end at times) makes him attractive at the next level. Has the potential to hear his named called in the NFL Draft.
LB Tre'Shawn Robinson -- This physical, strong and hard-worker should get an opportunity in a training camp as a free-agent signing.
LT Matt Cleveland -- His size and his experience -- he was a three-year starter -- should get him into an NFL training camp next summer.
--S Thaad Thompson missed all of 2011 with a knee injury. The senior is expected to return in time for spring drills in 2012.
--Senior LB Robert Siavii, who missed all of 2011 with a knee injury, is expected to return in time for spring drills. Siavii was the team's leading tackler in 2010 and among the national leaders in forced fumbles.
--Senior WR Preston Davis, who injured his foot in fall camp and didn't play in 2011, is expected to return to action in spring ball. His return gives Idaho's receiving corps a nice boost.