Erickson back to begin Idaho's rebuilding project
EIGHTH IN A SERIES » Dennis Erickson hasn't worked with or coached everyone in football.
But it certainly seems that way sometimes.
Idaho's new-old head coach has had his time with The Rock, Terrell Owens and his opposing number in Saturday's season-opening game, Michigan State's John L. Smith.
"John L. just wants to kick my (behind). I think it's that time I yelled at him when he was my defensive coordinator," said Erickson, who had him on his staffs at Wyoming and Washington State in addition to the first go-round at Idaho.
Given the difference in the stature of their current programs -- and the fact that the game is at East Lansing -- it would be a good bet that Smith's squad might just smack around his mentor's team pretty good.
But give Erickson some time, and maybe he can turn the Vandals back into the winners they were when he coached in Moscow in the 1980s. The players are already confident in him. They know that since he left he's coached the Seahawks and the 49ers, and they know he led the Miami Hurricanes to two national championships.
"When you've done it, it's not bragging, it gives you some credibility," Erickson said. "They listen when we talk to them and teach, we're teaching them the right thing."
Perfect technique and high morale will only take a team with limited talent so far, and Erickson will need at least another year of recruiting for Idaho to become a force in the WAC.
Facilities are another issue, and Erickson is a key to raising the funds necessary to build up the Vandals' venues.
For now, it's still the 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome for Idaho's five home games.
Quarterback Steve Wichman is one reason Erickson feels the Vandals will improve significantly on last fall's total of two wins. He figures to improve on his 15 touchdowns to 18 interceptions.
Tight end Luke Smith-Anderson got an NCAA career extension after rupturing his spleen in the first game of the 2005 season. He will provide leadership.
Senior left guard Jay Tadvick is the stalwart of an otherwise young interior line.
Sophomore Jayson Bird was part of running back by committee last fall and showed breakaway ability in scrimmages this month.
Erickson is concerned about the lack of a deep passing threat, but said sophomore Lee Smith is a solid split end and several pass-catchers played well in last week's scrimmage, including Wendell Octave, who caught 33 passes last year.
The defense lost two leaders in linebacker Cole Snyder and safety D.J. Dykes. They combined for 208 tackles.
Linebacker David Vobora will try to pick up the slack, as will Ryan Davis, Siua Musika, Ben Alexander and Josh Shaw up front. Erickson said the front seven is small and will have to rely on quickness.
Free safety Tone Taupule is the top returnee in the secondary.
The loss of kicker Mike Barrow for the season with a torn ACL is a huge blow. He made 16 of 19 field goals last year, including seven of 10 from 40 yards and beyond. He also punted.
Matt Gregg and Tino Amancio battled late into the preseason for the kicking job. T.J. Conley is the punter.
Dennis Erickson (returns to Idaho after going 32-15 in four years with the Vandals from 1982 to '85)
Last meeting with UH:
Hawaii 24, Idaho 0, Sept. 24, 2005, at the Kibbie Dome
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