CFB: Idaho quarterback Enderle focuses on the little things
The Idaho Statesman
BOISE, Idaho — Quarterback Nathan Enderle was the Idaho football team's most valuable player last season, and if the Vandals had a most improved player award, he would have been a lock for that honor, too.
"I thought he had an unbelievable year last year in how much he improved," offensive coordinator Steve Axman said. "From his freshman and sophomore year to his junior year was just a phenomenal breakthrough — he went forward by leaps and bounds."
For an encore, Enderle will try to replicate the growth that helped him pass for 2,906 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games last season. The 6-foot-5, fifth-year senior completed 61.5 percent of his passes and only threw nine interceptions.
Those stats were far better than his first two seasons when he combined for 35 interceptions, 30 touchdowns and less than a 50 percent completion rate.
"Now the question is how much more can he go this year," Axman said. "If he can make another significant jump, it's going to mean a lot to our offense and a lot to his future. There are some things that he can really work on to help him go to another level."
To do that, Axman is working on a number of "little things" in spring practices to make the senior from North Platte, Neb., more technically sound.
"We're doing much more finite things than you would teach a first-year quarterback, that's for sure," Axman said.
Most of the work focuses on Enderle's footwork.
"I have a big, strong arm and sometimes I can kind of compensate for poor footwork and mechanics," Enderle said. "Even if my body is not in a throwing profile I've always been able to kind of muscle through it. You can't always do that and a lot of times you're going to be less accurate when you try to do that. It's been a big thing for me to get into a good throwing profile when I'm running around or moving around in the pocket."
Axman is in his first season as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Idaho. He was the tight ends coach the past three seasons but still worked with Enderle, as did former QBs coach Jonathan Smith. Smith left Idaho to become the offensive coordinator at Montana.
Enderle said he liked getting advice from both coaches but said having just one coach will simplify things.
"It was a double-trouble thing sometimes because one would come up and say something and the other would come up and say something else," he said. "But it was a blessing to have both at the same time, too."
Axman described himself as more of a "technical coach," which explains why Enderle is spending time on those kind of things this spring.
"I want a quarterback to have the stance of a boxer, but instead of holding his gloves up in front of him, he's holding a football by the back of his shoulder," Axman said. "But I want him acting like a boxer with short steps, quick steps and always working to keep his base so that when he has to deliver the football he can do it accurately with accurate body movements and quickness of release. I think that will help him a lot."
The boxer analogy could be a scary one, too. Idaho lost four senior starters on the offensive line and is rebuilding its front, meaning the quarterback might have to take some hits.
Enderle said the new line is jelling, and the Vandals are focusing a lot on the short, quick passing game this spring to help out the line and expand the offense.
"We were pretty effective throwing down the field," Enderle said. "To be able to attack a defense better, we want to be able to throw some shorter passes and some shorter routes. On third-and-five or six, you don't necessarily want a 40-yard streak. We've been working on precision."
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com