POCATELLO – Sometimes the last thing to change is the win-loss record when looking at measuring how a program has improved.
Idaho State ended its season with a loss to Weber State Saturday and finished the year with a 3-9 record. But ask anybody around the program, including head coach Mike Kramer, and you get the sense the difference between the 2013 team and the 2012 unit is like night and day.
“I think the fact that we went from allowing 71 touchdowns in 2012 to 47 in 2013 speaks for itself,” said Kramer. “And we return enough quality players at key positions to make me even more optimistic for next year.”
In 2012, ISU lost its Big Sky games by an average of over 30 points; this past year the Bengals were competitive in every game but the Eastern Washington and Weber State games, the latter of which had 50-mph winds that eliminated the Bengals greatest strength: their passing game.
“I think we showed some offensive consistency in Big Sky games,” Kramer said. “Remember, this program has never had a consistent offensive legacy, and we’re starting to build that. I also liked the fact that, for the first time in six years, we showed a semblance of a running game, rushing as a team for over 1,000 yards.”
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When looking at next year. Kramer singled out three players whom he called “superstar” freshmen as players to build around: receiver Chad Hansen (45 catches, 501 yards, 3 TDs), tight end Josh Cook (32 catches, 317 yards) and offensive lineman Skyler Phillips.
He’ll also have quarterback Justin Arias returning for his senior season. Arias was up and down at times this past year but Kramer doesn’t blame him.
“We dropped 113 balls this year, catch half of those and you win maybe three more games given that we were in a few close ones,” Kramer said. “That’s what I think we’ve got to correct heading into next year —dropped balls and missed tackles.”
As far as the offseason and recruiting, Kramer said between nine and 14 scholarships will be available and the top priority will be to get a “home-run-hitting” running back. Kramer also wants to improve the safety position with more “length” and to get another receiver and an offensive tackle.
Next year’s schedule opens with games at Utah and Utah State before heading into Big Sky play, 12 games in 13 weeks.
When asked to sum up how’s he’s feeling about the program at this point, Kramer said: “We’re not quite where we need to be yet, but we’re getting there.”