3 REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
A new quarterback: Dominique Blackman, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound junior, won the starting job with a solid fall camp. In three scrimmages, he went 39-of-56 for 462 yards while throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
A new offensive mind at the helm: Offensive coordinator Steve Axman retired in the offseason. Coach Robb Akey (19-43 in five seasons) replaced him with running backs coach Jason Gesser. The former Washington State standout QB is charged with turning the Vandals offense around.
Special players on special teams: Punter Bobby Cowan and kicker Trey Farquhar make a formidable one-two combination. Cowan was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America in 2011. Farquhar, who booted a 55-yard field goal at San Jose State last season, has the top field-goal percentage (75.9 percent) in school history.
3 AREAS OF CONCERN
A new quarterback, part II: While Dominique Blackman has looked sharp in winning the starting quarterback position, hes a highly unproven commodity. He sat out last season after transferring from Old Dominion, and hasnt played a game at the Division I level. His last playing time was with Los Angeles Harbor junior college in 2009.
Tigers, oh my: A trip to LSU is tough enough for an SEC foe. For the Vandals, its all about leaving Baton Rouge with as few injuries as possible and a little bit of dignity intact. Idaho plays at the SEC power Sept. 15.
Scoring points: Idahos offense ranked 107th out of 120 teams in the country in scoring last season. Four of the five most productive scorers on last seasons team (excluding kicker Trey Farquhar) are no longer with the squad. That group included running back Princeton McCarty, who led the Vandals with four touchdowns.
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Justin Veltung, WR: The senior is on the Hornung Award watch list, which recognizes versatility. Veltung has scored a touchdown in four different ways during his career rushing, receiving, punt return and kick return and is Idahos active career leader in all-purpose yardage at 2,636.
2. Mike Scott, WR: The 5-foot-11, 198-pound senior led Idaho with 55 receptions and 691 yards last season. He comes into this season as a team captain on an offense that needs playmakers. Scott showed his explosiveness with catches of 51, 49 and 44 yards last season.
3. Mike Marboe, C: The 6-foot-2, 296-pound sophomore started all 12 games at center as a freshman last season, and quickly became the anchor of the offensive line. He has been named to the Rimington watch list. The award honors the nations top center.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Aaron Grymes, CB: The 5-foot-11, 183-pound senior takes on a larger leadership role as a team captain. Grymes led the Vandals defense with seven pass breakups last season. He also recovered two fumbles and tallied an interception while starting all 12 games.
2. Gary Walker, S: The 6-foot, 199-pound senior ranked 20th in the nation last season with 67 solo tackles. Walker is the Vandals leading returning tackler (109 last year). Walker, a two-year starter, had 15 tackles (12 solo, three assists) against Bowling Green last season.
3. Robert Siavii, LB: The 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior returns to the field after sitting out 2011 with a knee injury. The Hawaii native started all 13 games in 2010 and led Idaho with 91 tackles (55 solo, 36 assists). He started all 13 games in 2009 and played in every game as a freshman in 08.