Akey: Candid, unplugged and still flyin' high

COVERING A ROBB AKEY press conference is a challenge. The high flying, high octane defensive assistant that Cougar fans saw on the WSU sidelines the past eight seasons is only slightly more reserved sitting in front of a mic. Unflinchingly candid, Idaho's head man opined Tuesday on motivating his team against a heavily favored opponent, offseason dismissals and more.

Offseason moves have Akey confident about future
SINCE TAKING OVER FROM the well-traveled Dennis Erickson in December, Akey has overseen a massive roster shift. Some 19 of Erickson's players have been dismissed for poor grades or conduct, or left of their own volition. Asked to comment, Akey didn't sugarcoat things.

"There were two kids in that group that decided college football wasn't for them any longer. The rest ... was some form of a character flaw, basically. I was amazed at some of the things that we dealt with in regards to the drug involvement, cheating, stealing ...," said Akey.

Akey has been oft-quoted that trust is a critical ingredient for his team -- namely that he won't abruptly leave the program like Erickson and Nick Holt did the last two seasons. But trust, said Akey, is also a two-way street.

"The best way I know to build trust, you tell someone you're going to do something you better back it up and do it," said Akey. "At the same time, if you tell them there are going to ramifications for certain actions, you better back it up and do it.

"... Those individuals that were removed from the program were distractions, they were in the way."

Akey said the loss of so many players may have cost the Vandals some speed and athleticism, but believes it will be offset by the intregrity and trust factor.

"... if I can't trust a guy on Saturday night or in the classroom or wherever that might be in the community, I can't trust them on third down either."

The Vandals, 4-8 last season and 1-1 this year, have been widely predicted to finish last in the nine-member Western Athletic Conference. Most publications also pick them near the very bottom of the 119 teams in Division I-A.

Akey's response?

"We really have shut off the outside world, we're not paying a lot of heed to their opinions or the spread or anything like that. We're trying to pay attention to the way that we're going about things ...

Still, how do you motivate a team that opened as a 24-point underdog to the Cougs for this weekend's tilt?

Easy, said Akey.

"I think if (we) take pride in finding out how good (we) can become as a football team, I think that's motivating factor enough," he said.

This will be the final game between the schools for at least a couple years. They have played nine straight seasons and the Cougars have won the last six by an average score of 42-11. Last year's WSU victory was by a 56-10 margin.

AKEY, DOWNPLAYING THE returning-to-ol'-stomping-grounds aspect of this week's game, said the Vandals will spend today's practice session "cleaning up" some of the mistakes and errors from their 20-13 win over Cal Poly on Saturday. Then, they'll move right into into "how to attack the Washington State outfit."

On offense, the Vandals will aim to strike a good balance between the run and pass. One of his main concerns defensively will be how to contain Alex Brink and the Cougars' talented array of receivers.

"How do you not notice those receivers?" said Akey. "They've got three "retrievers" that just jump back there right now and they're all catching the ball, all over the place. They've got a fifth-year senior quarterback that's started 175,000 games and just threw for 7,000 yards in Seattle on Saturday."

THE VANDALS LOST a couple players Saturday to injury who will not play against WSU: Aaron Lavarias and Brian Flowers. Paul Senescall also remains out.

"Unfortunately we're going to be without Lavarias this week. And he played a dang good game, he had 12 tackles there on Saturday. He has a high ankle sprain," said Akey.

Who replaces Lavarias at defensive end will be decided this week. Akey said it could be Josh Shaw, Marcus Pedro or "any number of guys."

WSU and Idaho will kickoff at 7 pm Saturday in Martin Stadium. It will be regionally televised by Fox Sports Northwest.

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