IDAHO INSIGHT: 2010 Season Wrap

THE VANDALS (6-7, 3-5 WAC) FINISHED STRONG IN 2010, WINNING TWO OF THEIR FINAL THREE GAMES, but fell one victory short of qualifying for their second consecutive bowl game. Now, the team sets its sights on the 2011 season, preparing for a schedule that includes games against Virginia, Texas A&M, and BYU, and building on the progress of the last two years.

INSIDE SLANT

The 2010 season won't go down in history as a success for the Idaho football team, but the campaign wasn't a failure, either.

Idaho finished the season with a 6-7 record, 3-5 in the Western Athletic Conference. The biggest downer was that the Vandals failed to become bowl eligible for a second consectutive year [Idaho won the Humanitarian Bowl last year], falling short by just one game. Two of Idaho's losses -- 36-34 at Colorado State and 23-20 at Fresno State -- came in the closing seconds of the game.

But Idaho did snap a couple of futility streaks along the way. The program won a game in November for the first time since 2004, and Idaho won its Senior Day game for the first time since 2003 by beating San Jose State 26-23 in overtime on Dec. 4 at the Kibbie Dome.

Idaho struggled all season on the offensive line. Trying to replace four starters from the previous season proved to be a struggle as the Vandals couldn't consistently run the ball or protect the quarterback. But Idaho did lead the nation in fumbles recovered, posted its first shutout since 1997 and allowed only one offensive touchdown in four three other games this season.

With rival Boise State moving to the Mountain West Conference, Idaho enters a new era as a football program. The Vandals must replace 15 seniors, 12 of whom were starters.

Idaho coach Robb Akey, who signed a five-year contract before the season, hopes to keep his coaching staff intact and get back to work trying to get back on the winning side of the ledger.


NOTES, QUOTES

GAME OF THE YEAR: Fresno State 23, Idaho 20 -- The last-second loss prevented the Vandals from being bowl eligible, but there were plenty of positives. Idaho's defense held the Bulldogs under their average in points and yards. The offense engineered a go-ahead drive late in the game and the special teams contributed a kickoff return for a touchdown. All three phases also contributed to the loss, however. The defense surrendered the game-winning score in the final seconds, thanks in part to poor tackling. The offense twice settled for field goals inside the Fresno State red zone and the special teams botched a field goal and kicked off out of bounds to give the Bulldogs a short field for their last drive.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Defensive end Aaron Lavarias was a major reason why the Vandals improved so much on defense. The senior finished with 52 tackles, including 16.5 for losses. He had 9.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. He also had an interception, forced a fumble and had two fumble recoveries, including one in the end zone for his first career touchdown.

FAST FORWARD: Idaho will have a different look in 2011. Four-year starters Nathan Enderle (quarterback) and Shiloh Keo (safety) have exhausted their eligibility, and they are two of the 15 seniors who won't return. Twelve of those seniors were starters, meaning the Vandals will have some holes to plug. The good news for coach Robb Akey is he'll have three starters back on the offensive line and significant experience at the other positions. On defense, the Vandals will miss defensive linemen Aaron Lavarias, Fono Sekona and Jonah Sataraka, but the rest of the unit returns. All of Idaho's specialists except for long snapper Christopher Ramos and holder Brandon Artz are back.

RECRUITING TRAIL: The Vandals have holes to plug -- They need added depth on the defensive line and could use some numbers in the secondary. Expect the coaching staff to target mostly high school players, but they could go the junior college route to fill some immediate needs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm sick to my stomach that these seniors aren't going to play in a bowl game." -- Idaho coach Robb Akey said after his Vandals lost at Fresno State, the game that prevented his team from becoming bowl eligible.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2011:

QB Brian Reader -- After two seasons of backing up starter Nathan Enderle, Reader will get his chance to lead the offense. He played well in relief the past two seasons and had a QB rating of 146.8 this season.

LB Tre'Shawn Robinson -- He became the starter at middle linebacker after JoJo Dickson went down with an injury. He finished the season with 80 tackles.

RB Ryan Bass -- The Arizona State transfer sat out this season under NCAA transfer rules and is expected to make a big impact in the backfield next season.


PRO PROSPECTS:

--QB Nathan Enderle has been given high marks from scouts and his 6-foot-5 frame and rocket arm make him a candidate to be taken in the early rounds of the NFL draft. The four-year starter passed for 3,314 yards with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this year.

--WR Maurice Shaw has track speed and good hands. He had 32 catches for 410 yards this season.

--S Shiloh Keo is versatile, having the ability to return punts and kicks as well as play defense. He made 61 tackles on defense and picked off three passes.

--TE Daniel Hardy is an intriguing prospect because he runs like a wide receiver and is physical enough to block the run game. He missed the final five games of the season with a broken hand. He made 32 catches for 545 yards.

--WR Eric Greenwood is a 6-foot-7 receiver who caught 46 passes for 741 yards and six touchdowns this season. His size will get him a look from the NFL.


ROSTER REPORT:

--LB Korey Toomer, a senior, used a redshirt season and will return next season.

--RB Ryan Bass, an Arizona State transfer, will be eligible next season after sitting out this season under transfer regulations.



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