COVERING A ROBB AKEY press conference is a challenge. The high flying, high octane Idaho head man Vandals' fans have seen on sidelines is only slightly more reserved sitting in front of a mic. Unabashedly candid, Akey opined Tuesday on all things silver and gold -- from motivating his troops to face a heavily favored opponent, injuries, those offseason dismissals and attrition, plus much more.
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THE VANDALS LOST a couple players on Saturday to the injury bug who will not play against Washington State.
Brian Flowers (2-3 weeks) is out with a hamstring pull. Paul Senescall also remains out, says Akey.
"And unfortunately we're going to be without (DE Aaron) Aaron Lavarias this week. And he played a dang good game, he had 12 tackles there on Saturday. He has a high ankle sprain," said Akey.
Replacing Lavarias, estimated out 2-3 weeks, will be decided this week. Akey said it could be Josh Shaw, Marcus Pedro or "any number of guys."
AKEY, DOWNPLAYING THE returning-to-face Washington State angle this week, said the Vandals will spend today's practice session "cleaning up" some of the mistakes and errors from the win over Cal Poly.
Then they'll move right into "how to attack the Washington State outfit we get to play against."
Akey said his goal would be to strike a good balance between the run and pass against Washington State, but that the staff will also adjust on the fly. He noted he is unfamiliar with three new starters in the Cougar secondary, despite having been with the Cougs last season.
One of his main concerns defensively will be how to contain QB Alex Brink and the Washington Cougar receivers.
"How do you not notice those receivers?" said Akey. "They've got three "retrievers" that just jump back there right now and they're all catching the ball, all over the place. They've got a fifth year senior quarterback that's started 175,000 games and just threw for 7,000 yards in Seattle on Saturday."
| Offseason moves have Akey confident about future, both now and long-term|
REGULAR READERS OF GOVANDALS.NET will recall the offseason moves this summer that resulted in 19 Vandals' players being either dismissed for grades or conduct, or leaving of their own volition. Asked to comment Tuesday, Akey didn't sugarcoat things.|
"There were two kids in that group that decided college football wasn't for them any longer.
The rest of them was some form of a character flaw, basically. I was amazed at some of the things that we dealt with in regards to the drug involvement, cheating, stealing -- things like that," said Akey.
Akey has been oft-quoted since assuming the Idaho job in December that trust is a critical ingredient for this Vandals' team at this point in time -- trust that he won't abruptly leave the program as the players have seen coaches do in recent years. But trust, said Akey, is also a two way street.
"The best way I know to build trust, you tell someone you're going to do something you better back it up and do it," said Akey. "At the same time, if you tell them there are going to ramifications for certain actions, you better back it up and do it.
In my opinion, (matters) kind of took care of themselves -- I wouldn't say that we came in and weeded them out. That was the last thing I wanted to do...Those individuals that were removed from the program were distractions, they were in the way."
Interestingly, Akey said the hit the Vandals would take this season wouldn't necessarily come on the field. The Academic Progress Rate, because of how the NCAA calculates it -- schools get marked down by the NCAA formula for example if a student-athlete with a solid GPA chooses to transfer, leave or is dismissed, for example -- is another story.
"I think where the cost probably hits us is in regards to dealing with the APR," said Akey. "Now is that going to cost us wins this year? No, I really don't believe that. Did it cost us some guys who might be a little bit faster, couple guys who might be a little bit bigger? Yeah, it did.
"But if I can't trust a guy on Saturday night or in the classroom or wherever that might be in the community, I can't trust them on third down either."
AKEY SAID A better than expected showing against USC and the win over Cal Poly were beneficial and also got the players that "reward" for the Cal-Poly win.
He also said the team is not playing as well as they need to, nor up to it's potential and that there is plenty of room for improvement -- and those are all good things that have him excited about the future.
"And I'm hoping maybe that will lead to a few more tails being in the Dome in two weeks when we get here so we can get that place full," said Akey. "We had some great, positive building blocks that we took out of that first ballgame. But that's all those were, building blocks.
A lot of people were telling us, "Congratulations." There's nothing to be congratulated for, we did not win that football game. We had some things we can build off of and that was a good thing."
THE VANDALS WERE selected to finish last in the nine-member WAC conference this year. Most publications also picked them near the very bottom of the 119 teams in D-IA, (the newly named Bowl Championship Subdivision)
In sum, anyone and everyone told them they were not a good football team.
Akey's response was to tell his team to tune out, and tune in.
"We really have shut off the outside world, we're not paying a lot of heed to their opinions or the spread or anything like that. We're trying to pay attention to the way that we're going about things and making sure that we're doing things better.
We had some great, positive building blocks that we took out of that first ballgame. But that's all those were, building blocks. A lot of people were telling us, "Congratulations." There's nothing to be congratulated for, we did not win that football game. We had some things we can build off of and that was a good thing."
Still, how do you motivate a team who opened as a 24-point underdog to the Cougs for this weekend's tilt? Easy, said Akey.
"I think if (we) take pride in finding out how good (we) can become as a football team, I think that's motivating factor enough," he said.
Idaho takes on Washington State on Saturday in Martin Stadium at 7 p.m. The Battle of the Palouse will be regionally televised by Fox Sports Northwest.