This fall, after six years at the University of Idaho, the college football career for senior Derek Wieting will come to a close. It will be a career in which he has seen his role with the team turn a full 180-degrees, moving from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive side along the way. He has also witnessed some of the most extensive growth in the program's history, from the lighted Sprinturf practice fields, RealTurf game day playing field in the Dome, team meeting rooms and training rooms, to the complete overhaul of the Kibbie Dome itself.
Wieting has seen it all.
He signed with the Vandals in 2006 out of Meridian (Ida.) High School following a stellar senior season in which he was named Defensive MVP of the Southern Idaho Conference and a First Team All-Idaho selection, helping lead the Meridian Warriors to their first State Championship since 1986.
He grayshirted the 2006 season and enrolled at Idaho in January 2007. He had an outstanding redshirt season that year, adding 15 pounds to his frame and hitting a lift of 600-pounds in the squat during the "Night of Champions." For his efforts that year on the field, he was honored as the Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year from his defensive end position.
In '08 and '09 Wieting played on several special teams units and in a backup defensive end capacity.
Now with the 2011 season on the horizon, Wieting has already earned an undergraduate degree in Public Relations and will be pursuing a master's degree in Public Administration as he completes his final season at the University of Idaho. He has a firm grip on his role in the Vandal offense this fall -- a role he will share with junior Henry Asuega, also a former defensive lineman -- and is relishing his senior season in Moscow.
GoVandals.net caught up with Wieting after the Spring Game to get his thoughts on this upcoming season and how the program has changed during his time as a member of the Vandal football program.
Last year as a junior you changed positions, moving from defensive end over to the offensive side of the ball. Can you talk to us a little bit about the H-Back position you're playing now and how that transition has been going for you.
"H-Back is a fullback/tightend position. We got our new coach, Coach Popunu, who came in last year and I transferred over last season. So it's been a work in progress a little bit. I played defense my whole life -- I played D-tackle at Meridian -- so now I'm on the offensive side of the ball, filling in a backup roll behind some key guys. Mike LaGrone had a great day today [Silver and Gold Spring Game last weekend]. Taylor Elmo's on the shelf but you know, he'll be back. So we're getting really deep at tightend. I'm going to try to work into the offense as best as I can, but really I'm trying to sit back and enjoy my senior year.
"Six years is a long time, but I want to enjoy it while it's here. I've had a blast playing for Idaho, it's been one of the best times of my life. I don't want it to end, but I do -- it's a love/hate thing. But I've always loved being here, and I'm really excited."
What do you expect your role to be in the Vandal offense this fall?
"It will be mostly blocking. Me and Henry [Asuega] did similar things last year. We both played the same position last year and went back-and-forth. We're doing a lot more two-back stuff -- we're running leads, we're booming back across and knocking out the defensive end. They wanted to bring over some tough-nosed guys from the defense to come out here and hit somebody. So that is our deal; to hit someone. And Henry is a great blocker, he's got a good future at blocker too -- it's exciting to see guys fill some new roles on the team."
You've seen a lot of change in the University of Idaho program in the six years you've been on campus. Can you describe how the culture has changed in the program, and how the program in general has changed, during your time in Moscow.
"This SprinTurf field was a dirt field when I was getting recruited. In the lockerroom it's a lot more of a team atmosphere. When I first got here, not to knock any of those guys -- guys like David Vobora and Joartis Ratti, those were great guys and great leaders. But there was just a fragmentation between the team. Then when coach [Robb] Akey came out we got rid of a lot of negatives. I felt like Akey's brought in a lot more positives, and we're moving in a positive way. Last year unfortunately we were one game short of a bowl game, but I definitely think we've grown so much more as a team. Guys are hanging out on the weekend, guys are running up to Spokane together, and it's fun to watch these guys come together like that.
"Fall camp, we used to be at each others neck all the time. Fighting, going after each other. Now, everybody's looking out for each other. Everybody understands the goal -- the big perspective.
"As far as the facilities here, that's probably one of the most exciting things to see. I'm excited to be an alumni so I can start coming to the games and enjoying them. But I think Rob Spear's done a great job, as well as our strength and conditioning coach Jake Scharnhorst to bring in some new equipment into the weightroom. Getting this Kibbie Dome fixed up is obviously -- it's great for the alumni as well as the players -- giving us an exciting venue to play in."
With summer coming up, what are summer workouts like now compared to past seasons.
"When I first got here it was the mad dash out of town -- everybody just split. But that has probably become our biggest emphasis now. Even as soon as the season ended that was when Akey said summer is when we're going to make it count. Summer, like I said, we're hanging out. One is building team atmosphere, and two is we're getting stronger. I think we had 40 guys powerclean 300 pounds in the fall. Well, we're going to add that this summer. We're going to get faster and we're going to get bigger. And I think that bodes well for being in the WAC to be build strong and fast athletes. We're not the biggest conference, but I think we're building a lot of speed and a lot of quickness, and Jake Scharnhorst has done a great job with that.
"So I think summer is a combination of getting bigger and stronger, but it's also a lot about team building and will be very indicitive of how the team goes. How well do we gel this summer? Are we getting out here for seven-on-seven? Is everybody making their workout?
I think we've got some good leaders who will definitely get that in place for us."