The following is a transcript of first-year head coach Robb Akey's press-conference last week in Moscow announcing the 2007 University of Idaho football recruiting class. In this part, Coach Akey answers questions from the media.
PRESS: Korey Toomer, is that the brother of Amani Toomer (NFL wide receiver with the New York Giants)?
Robb Akey: "Yes it is."
PRESS: Where do the Texas, Vegas and Hawaii connections come?
RA: "Well, Texas was something that we had actually started recruiting when I was over at Washington State. Leon Burtnett, the linebacker coach over there, has been recruiting Texas. He's not one of the youngest coaches in the country; so he has been recruiting down there for a long time. The relationship that he started at Washington State with some of those Texas coaches, and there's a recruiting guru down there, and I have been able to get familiar with them. Coach Burtnett did a nice job of setting up, just making us aware of some guys that were down there. Coach Al Genatone [Idaho's new linebackers coach] did a great job of going down there and making those kids feel comfortable and treating them the right way. That tie of what we started doing a few years back at Washington State helped create this avenue to Texas, and the fact that we were able to get four kids in this class from Texas, I think that gives us the opportunity to have that continue to be a part of our future. If you get one guy, that doesn't necessarily do a lot for you, but if four guys are up here and four guys are having a good positive experience, that can help that to come along. I know it was important to those four guys, the fact that there were other Texas kids coming to our program at this point in time. They needed to know they weren't going to be the Lone Ranger.
The Las Vegas connection has been done - Coach Axman went down there. He's recruited there in the past. I've been recruiting down there in the past. We've had ties with these kids, each of us different, and also with these coaches. He and coach Criner did a great job of getting these kids brought to the table for us.
Then Johnny Nansen, who I kept here from the previous staff, has been recruiting Hawaii for us. He's done a great job of helping us. One of the things that we wanted to do was continue to get the Polynesian connection going here. I want that to be part of our family here. Johnny Nansen is one who kept that going for us; so I think that's a good thing."
PRESS: Do you see any freshmen playing immediately?
RA: "Yes I do. I hope that we see them making plays for us in the fall. And other than maybe those linemen – who need the opportunity to mature both physically as well as in the weight room because it's a little different being an 18-year-old or a `19-year-old coming from an eight-man team playing against a 22-year-old who's been playing division I football, that's a bit of an unfair advantage – some of the other guys can run. I'd like to think they can help us on special teams at the very least right away. And in a couple of spots, like I've said, we've got an immediate need maybe at those positions. We're going to give them every opportunity to try to compete right now, and if they can help us this season we're going to give them that opportunity to play."
PRESS: How important was it for you guys to hold off TCU, and get a guy from Arizona State)?
RA: "The biggest thing…is making sure those kids come here. That's what happens. That's why last week I was gritting. We went through last week, and we didn't take any hits on our class. Some of the guys down here that have been around [coaching] for a little while, we refer to that [last week] as ‘St. Valentine's' – you know, the massacre week. That's when the hits start working down the line a little bit. I saw the guys next door take some hits, and I saw some other people at different places have taken some hits; so generally when that happens then people start trying to attack your class a little bit. We made it through last week, and I thought ‘Holy cow.‘ Sure enough, I walked out of the office Monday evening, about 6 o'clock. I was going home. I thought ‘Maybe we'll have one more good night,' then I got attacked. Then we got another phone call a little bit later. That was the night that some of these things started to hit us a little bit; so I'd like to think that…actually, the deal with the TCU hit, I think we had the opportunity to maybe put that to bed a week ago when we were down there. At that point in time Quin was intending to go to TCU. We had the opportunity to visit with him, to visit with mom, and I think they felt like…mom said if he chose to come to Idaho she was going to be very comfortable with that, but she'd certainly like to have him closer to home, and she smiled when she said it. I think the relationship that coach Genatone was able to build with Quin and the way they felt comfortable here on our campus for their visit. We had professors give up their time and our president gave up his time. Different people in our community gave up their time to make these kids feel welcome. I think that helped us a great deal; so then when somebody maybe isn't treating you quite as well, that gives you the chance to maybe survive some hits like this. I guess that's what I'm trying to point out to you. Yeah, it's very important to us. And then certainly if we're getting the kind of kids that are being recruited by Pac-10 and Mountain West Conference schools, as opposed to lower-level schools, I think you're either talking about a better kind of athlete, or we're all making some evaluation mistakes. It's not a science. I know that."
PRESS: Besides time restraints, what other challenges did this class present?
RA: "Time was the biggest thing of all. It seemed like every time, whether I brought a coach to this town to interview him for a job, or I brought a recruit to this town to show him the campus, we got weather. So that added to the degree of difficulty a little bit. I think the fact that the class was spread out all over the place…last week alone I started out down in Texas. I was in Dallas on Monday morning, Houston the following morning, then went to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and on Thursday night was doing a home visit eight miles this side of the Canadian border. These coaches were spread out all over the place. We went all the way from Houston to Hawaii to the Canadian border. That spread out a great deal. I think in a three week period of time that makes it kinda challenging to make the quality number of contacts you want to be able to make with each of those guys. I think the fact that only two coaches on this staff were maybe familiar with everything around this campus – that first weekend we had recruits in here and we did the campus tour, there were a lot of us on that campus tour, not just players. Maybe some things like that added a little bit to it."
PRESS: QB depth chart?
RA: "The five guys that are with us right now, and the only new name is Luke Tracy who joined us at mid year, the junior college player that had been recruited by the previous staff and elected to join us. We have two upper classmen, one of whom is a senior [Brian Nooy]. Nooy had an injury last year that had he been healthy we might have seen a little bit more of him, from what I understand. Then along with those two upperclassmen there are two freshmen who red-shirted last year, and both of those guys got a lot of attention in recruiting. They came highly recommended out of high school as well as what they did during the course of the year here; so that gives us five guys that are going to complete for the job this spring. That's what I expect it's going to be. I think with three weeks left in the recruiting class it would be awful hard to tie into a top-of-the-line quarterback that you might want to go after in regards to being your top quarterback, although I look at Quin Ashley, and if that was a necessity he would bring that possibility to the table, though I think he's more of an athlete honestly for us than he is going to be a quarterback. But I think in those five guys we should be able to find a strong starter and at least a backup out of that mix. In next year's class, finding a guy that we believe in as a quarterback that will have a big future will be an important thing to us."
PRESS: Do you feel like any of the linemen are going to be ready right off the bat or are they all going to need some time?
RA: "I would expect the linemen are probably going to need some time. I would expect we'd have a lot of patience with those linemen. I think we're building for the future there. A couple of them are big enough that if it's necessary I think we can put ‘em in there and if not I think you recruit high school linemen to play for you in a couple of years – and play for you for a long period of time. I do think with these linemen they can be three and four-year players for us. I wouldn't anticipate it would be right off the bat, unless we maybe had some injuries."
PRESS: Only one runningback. Obviously you feel pretty good about the runningbacks you have here now.
RA: "I think we've got some guys that will compete for the job here, yes. I look at the top two guys from a year ago, I think that combination wasn't bad. I think it could be pretty productive. There is some youth here that red shirted last year at running back that I think look like they could be pretty good, and I just think we had some more immediate needs at other places. It felt like Corey was maybe a difference maker. If we do need a guy right now, he might be able to be that guy. I didn't feel like with the number of runningbacks that are here we could really afford to put too many scholarships into bringing more of them."
PRESS: Rob, you mentioned not having an Idaho kid. Does that hurt you in your eyes or was it too late to get in on some of those guys?
RA: "It disappoints me in my eyes to be very honest with you. I mean, we are The University of Idaho, and I'd like to think that we would have some Idaho guys in the mix. There are seven kids in this state that are going to go play Division I football. Three of them are going Pac-10, one of them is going to go to Colorado, and the other three are going to go to Boise. We did make contact with each of those kids and gave them an opportunity. They each already had their minds made up really well before any of us came into the picture here. It was something that we were handcuffed in that respect. We looked at a number of other Idaho kids also that I think are very good players, and we've extended some invitations [to walkon] to a number of them…hopefully we can gain them as walk-ons and they can become strong parts of our future here. But with the timing that we got in here, those decisions had already been made. I'd like to hope that the fact that we started last week and the last couple of weeks on next year's class, getting to know where some of these kids are in the state and working through their coaches, that maybe we can get them up here for our camp this summer, get to know them a little bit, and maybe get a future started with them. Maybe some of those kids wouldn't feel like they had to cross state lines to go play division I football, or maybe they'd choose to come up here rather than going to Boise to play division I football. I would hope with a full year to do it that you'll see a better impact of that in our class next year."
PRESS: Out of scholarships now or do you have any left give?
RA: "We're kinda beyond full a little bit. There's always something that's going to keep me awake. First it was getting coaches, then it was finding players, now it's making sure I don't have too many players. Next it'll be making sure everybody stays eligible. We might be able to add one more based on how a couple of things happen."
PRESS: Are there some redshirt possibilities in this class?
RA: "Yes there are. While we are over a little bit, yes, we do have a long-term plan put together for a couple of these guys."
PRESS: New turf?
RA: "I was told it was going to be here this spring. What we're getting here in the dome is what we've got out there on our practice field. It's awesome. We took them out there and let them see what it was all about. It'll be in there before they get here. We're supposed to have it in here before we start spring practice; I showed the recruits coming in here I think there's a lot to be excited about here. Things are getting built here for them that other people haven't had here before. That's one of the new things that they're going to get. We've got the new practice facility out front which I think is awesome. The new weight room. The hydrotherapy room upstairs. We're getting the new team room put in – it'll be done before the season begins. The new field in the dome will be done before the season begins, and it should be done in time for spring practice. All these things coming together, that gives it an air of excitement and gives us a better ability to take care of their needs to be the best. These things take care of their ability to be the best player they can. We've also got some things that have been done here in regards to a couple of computer labs up here in this facility that we can help them academically as well. There are some things getting better in regards to our facilities…those are some of the things we really tried to point out to them, and the long-term plan for what intend to get accomplished with the dome here."
PRESS: How did you coming in so late have an effect on recruits…did that affect anybody deciding to go elsewhere or coming here?
RA: "I hope we didn't scare any of ‘em off. Honestly, for it to be a late deal like it was it turned out as well as possible. Because I did get the job in the middle of the dead period, it enabled me the opportunity to get coaches hired. At that point in time you can only make a phone call once a week; so in that respect, did that kill us? No, I don't think so. Having a pool of guys that you already had something established with, that's where it affected us a little bit. Now as I look at being able to over sign here a little bit and I think filling our needs, I think we did pretty well; so in that respect maybe it didn't kill us. If we're sitting here and we couldn't find enough guys to recruit, or if I felt…I actually went into this thinking maybe we ought to just try to keep some scholarships available. We weren't going to settle for anything was our desire, and I don't feel like we did. But again this is the day we signed them and we're all happy. The proof will be in time. We've all been there where you go to the next guy on the list. We just made sure we were very adamant about the guy on the list needing to be a guy that we really wanted. If the next guy on the list wasn't that, then that list needed to be cut off at that point in time. Did it kill us? I don't think so. Maybe it helped us."
PRESS: Did any of the guys on the list have contact with the previous staff or did you just kinda start from scratch with some of them?
RA: "The majority of it was scratch. Obviously the kids, the Hawaii kids, the ones for example that coach Nansen was able to sign here, he had had some rapport established with them already. Some of them, probably maybe a quarter of them, had been in contact with Idaho and the other three-quarters were probably pretty new."
PRESS: Was there any position you didn't fill you thought you had a need for? Was there anything you would like to have gotten that you didn't?
RA: "No, not off the top of my head. You always would love to have another big ol' defensive tackle. Those guys are hard to find, and if we could have done that, yeah, I'd feel good about that. Those guys are darn near impossible to find. That would have been a nice thing. Other than that I think we spread the scholarship allotment out pretty well. We tried to keep it balanced, offense and defense, but then also taking guys that maybe could help us right away. Maybe if there was more talent or ability to help us a little bit quicker at one spot we might have taken that guy instead of a guy at another spot, but probably defensive lineman is the only one I would say, if it was a big ol' 300-pound guy that I could look up to."
LOI Press Conference Transcript (PART II)
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