After enjoying a year off to recuperate from the licks he suffered in San Francisco, Erickson returns to the state of Idaho to coerce a Vandals outfit so desperate in need of wins, and a slice of respectability.
Wichman plays a key part in the beginning steps to this rebuilding process, and Erickson's track record with quarterbacks will undoubtedly aide the young man as he seeks to propel the program towards future success.
Wichman was unable to stop the bleeding for Idaho last season, despite efforts that included five 300-yard games, including a 489-yard performance against New Mexico State. While ranking third in the WAC in passing yards per game (249.6), Wichman carved out of nice niche for himself despite his teams' 2-9 record.
The manner in which Erickson's offense materializes should allow Wichman to avoid being sacked the 32 times he was in 2005. An inability for the offensive line to protect not only hurts the quarterback, but the running game as well. Maintaining consistency up front will go a long way towards determining whether the senior can run Erickson's spread offense effectively.
With four and five receiver sets becoming regularity, the opportunity to get the football off in reasonable time frames should work wonders for the fluency of the passing game.
Wichman struggles with his accuracy at times (56.4% in 2005), and his 18 interceptions of a year ago outnumber the fifteen touchdowns he produced for the Vandals. Making better decisions with the football becomes a little bit easier because of the expansive nature of the offense.
The safety net that was receiver D.J. Smith last season won't be there to bail Wichman out in 2006. Declaring himself eligible for the draft after his junior season, Smith led the Vandals with 67 catches and 1,001 yards receiving. Smith went undrafted, but had been training with the Carolina Panthers for the past month. He was waived last Saturday.
Senior receiver Wendell Octave has the talent to step into the role that Smith vacated, and his style is well suited to the quick read releases by the quarterback.
Whether or not someone steps up to #1 receiver spot may be an irrelevant discussion. The passing game is set up to elevate the most talented wideout, much like Northwestern's offense has done for Shaun Herbert.
The changing winds on the Idaho campus are in direct result of the excitement generated by Erickson's return. As head coach from 1982-1985, he changed the culture at the school by winning 32 games during his short tenure.
With a strong-armed quarterback like Steve Wichman at his side, Erickson has the athlete needed to run a system that has brought him so much success.