MOSCOW, Idaho – The first practice of the week was over, and Idaho quarterback Nate Enderle and tight end Taylor Elmo – the proven senior and budding redshirt freshman – stood a few feet apart during separate sessions with the media.
While his teammate’s interview dragged on, Enderle was asked if he could imagine the sculpted 6-foot-4, 244-pound Elmo playing quarterback in high school.
The Vandals’ offensive captain smiled, motioning in Elmo’s direction. “Just look at him,” Enderle said with a laugh.
Hard as it might be for other Vandals to believe, Elmo did indeed start at quarterback for two years at Eisenhower High in Yakima. And since joining Idaho as a gifted prospect without a true position, he’s emerged as one of the gems of Robb Akey’s 2009 recruiting class.
In his first year on the active depth cart, Elmo has settled in nicely at tight end. He led the Vandals (4-4) with five receptions last week in a loss at Hawaii and caught the second touchdown of his career with Daniel Hardy, the team’s primary tight end, sidelined with a leg bruise.
“I’m very excited about Taylor Elmo’s future,” Akey said. “I like him now also, but as he continues to grow up, I think he’s got a chance to be a special player here and in this conference.”
Said offensive coordinator Steve Axman, “We really feel he has the potential to be a big-time college receiver, and we saw that last year during his redshirt (year).”
Redshirt players typically spend the bulk of their time with the scout team. But UI coaches were so tantalized by Elmo’s talent as a true freshman that they kept him in the main rotation in case of an injury to seniors Kevin Small or Peter Bjorvik.
The need to remove his redshirt never materialized, and Elmo has since put on between 10 to 15 pounds to his already well-built frame.
“Oh, it’s helped me a lot more,” he said of the extra weight. “Last year I was a little hesitant when I went to block. That also (comes) with experience, getting an extra year of knowledge.”
Last year during Elmo’s first fall camp with the Vandals, the coaching staff debated whether to stick him at defensive end or tight end. Akey said at the time that his defensive and offensive assistants, who experimented with Elmo at both positions, were fighting over the rookie.
After a day at defensive end, Elmo was asked by coaches which position he preferred. To him, the answer was obvious.
“I was like, ‘Well, I kind of like of having the ball in my hands,’” he recalled.
Elmo threw for nearly 2,400 yards and 23 touchdowns in two years as a QB at Eisenhower while also starting at safety. Yet he drew only minimal interest from other FBS schools, perhaps because he didn’t fit into a clear-cut position at the collegiate level.
Since joining the Vandals, he’s gained enough trust from Enderle and the coaching staff that he’s lined up on the outside as a receiver and been on the field – and come up big – during key passing situations near the end zone.
“You’re seeing he’s a very, very good athlete and he’s making some great catches and doing some great things athletically,” Akey said.
Akey is optimistic that Hardy, Idaho’s senior standout tight end, will play Saturday against Nevada. Tailback Princeton McCarty and guard Tevita Halaholo, both of whom missed the Hawaii game due to injuries, practiced Tuesday. … The first 1,000 fans at Saturday at the Kibbie Dome get an Akey bobblehead doll. The game starts at 2 p.m.
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