COACHES CORNER: OC Steve Axman

Idaho Offensive Coordinator STEVE AXMAN sets his sites on a more productive Vandal attack heading into 2008. His experience includes coaching Troy Aikman at UCLA, Marques Tuiasosopo at UW, and Neil O'Donnell at Maryland. When he was at NAU, he produced the first college football team with a 2000 yard rusher and 3000 yard passer in the same year. Inside, he describes Idaho's improvement for '08.

On where the Vandals are from a year ago: "Well, I think there's no comparison as to where we are right now compared to where we were a year ago. A year ago we still were learning about our personnel, learning our strengths and weaknesses, and trying very hard to shape an offense that could fit the personnel that we had. Fit our strengths, and help with strengths we feel we didn't have."

"Unfortunately we went into a season where we had to make a lot of different changes because our first quarterback goes down, what is it – the fourth game I guess – and then we didn't feel that we got quite the same quality of play at the quarterback position. We had to make a change, put a safety in at quarterback. So, from a standpoint of "start to the finish", it was a very difficult season for us to find ways to be consistently effective. I think that this past spring we were in a much different situation, a much better situation. We understood what strengths we did have. We were able to build upon that, and then we were able to work on some things to help us in the areas where we weren't as strong, and when I say not as strong I'm saying not having enough depth. Perhaps the biggest thing - the lack of speed outside at the wide receiver position - to stretch people, and keep people from crowding up at the line of scrimmage for our run game."

"Going into the fall here I can see right away that we have an offense now that the kids know is "ours." It's what we do well, and we all feel confident that we are much better. We've done some things to stretch defenses that have helped us. And, then I think looking at certain positions where you can see that we tried to load up and give ourselves some more help, so that perhaps one or two of those freshmen kids can step in and give us at least more depth so that we're not running out of gas at certain positions like we did last year, coming to the end of the third quarter or the beginning of the fourth quarter."


On where the offense should go next in development: "Well, basically we have put a premium on being able to throw the ball better. I mean, we were last in the conference in passing efficiency, and that just can't happen. We can't be throwing 44% and expect to win many football games."

"So, that is probably the biggest need for us. We ran the ball well last year I thought. We were fourth in the conference in rushing in a conference that had some good rushing teams, and I think we could have been higher had we not faced so many teams that kind of sat down with their safeties on us and gave us eight and even nine-man fronts at times."

"I think that by doing a better job with our passing game - by keeping defenses a little more honest - we'll have an ability to be more balanced, and I think that's certainly a key going into this season."


On Nathan Enderle and how he grips the ball from the snap: "Well, it's very different. He's a kid that doesn't use the laces. He actually grabs the opposite part of the ball and he explains to me that in his transition from baseball to football in high school that that was the only way he could effectively throw the football. He is so used to that, and I think that I really don't have problems with it as far as his throwing ability. Where it does bother me is that a few times the ball seemed to slip out of his hands, and I think it's because he's not gripping the laces. From a standpoint of passing, it doesn't seem to affect him, but from the ball security point is where I have concerns, and we've addressed that concern."


On the new recruits who can play wide receiver this fall: "Well, basically, we think we have four new receivers that we feel good about. Robert Hatchett is a speed demon that we have at the split end position, and it really - for any of these kids - is a matter of how quickly they can pick it up and if they're feeling comfortable. Some freshmen come in and they've kind of got that glassy-eyed look, and they get a little homesick and things just don't seem to click for them. It's almost like they have to be here for about a semester and then all of a sudden they come back for the spring and we've redshirted them and they seem like a new person. Some kids walk on campus and it's like, Hey, it's no big deal. I can do this. And, we almost have to find out which of the four really, whether it's Robert Hatchett or if it's Marcel Posey at the slot position, or Preston Davis at the Z."

"We also really feel good about the Marshall kid [Victor Marshall]. He's got a lot of speed, and he's a little older. He actually has three to play three; so he's really like a redshirt sophomore, but he has to learn our offense. I'm really hopeful that at least one and maybe two of those kids can be a factor right off the bat, and then maybe we can redshirt the other two. The more we could possibly get out of them I think the better we will be, even if it's only from a standpoint of getting some depth and not just playing the same three kids the entire game."


On quarterback development right now: "Well, I feel that we're ready to take a big step forward. I think that any time you're playing with a freshman quarterback and he's in a brand new offense, that's hard. Especially since we didn't pass protect all that well and we really had difficulty getting open. Our speed just hurt our ability to get receivers open at times, and I think there was a lot of heat on the quarterback. Then of course our first quarterback injures his hand, and he just wasn't the same when he came back towards the end of the season. There's a lot of things that we need to overcome. But, the way I look at it, when I talk to our offense I say, Hey, the first thing we do is we look at what we are doing the least best. That is the way I like to say it, because that's where usually you can get your biggest advancement. You can fix things that can help you to be significantly better in that area. The pass game is where we really need to make significant gains if we're going to be competitive certainly in the WAC, because the WAC conference will put a ton of points on the board at any time and you have to be balanced enough to be able to deal with that."


Regarding the upcoming season and the opponent's defenses: "Well, I think really, if anything, I think that we're in a better position because we've seen everybody once now except for maybe non-league offences. We've played against everybody in the league and have a good feel for what they're doing. We are able to go back and study and see what certain things that we did hurt them and be able to plan better. I think if anything, being in the league a second year will be a little more of an advantage for us because even though people kind of got a feel for what we're doing… we a got a feel for what eight of the teams in the league are doing, and I think that can be to our advantage."



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