POCATELLO — Shortly after he put his name in the transfer portal in mid-December, then-Wyoming quarterback Tyler Vander Waal got a call from Idaho State offensive coordinator Mike Ferriter.
“Idaho State was the first school to reach out to me,” Vander Waal said Saturday in an interview with the Idaho State Journal. “Within five minutes, coach Ferriter called me, and (head coach Rob) Phenicie offered me a scholarship within, you know, 10 minutes of me being in the portal, essentially.”
That’s just how desperate the Bengals were to add an experienced transfer quarterback after Matt Struck’s interception struggles last season. Vander Waal is expected to compete with Struck and redshirt freshman Sagan Gronauer for the starting job, although he’ll likely go into spring ball as the favorite.
Vander Waal, who played in 13 games over two seasons at Wyoming, moved relatively quickly as well, announcing his commitment to Idaho State on Jan. 7, three weeks after he announced his intentions to transfer.
ISU’s new quarterback was sitting courtside for the ISU women’s basketball game against Northern Arizona at Reed Gym on Saturday, and the Idaho State Journal caught up with him postgame to talk moving to Pocatello and his hopes for the ISU football program.
Idaho State Journal: You’re a quarterback with Mountain West Conference experience, you would have had a lot of schools after you once you decided to transfer. Why did you pick Idaho State?
Tyler Vander Waal: Ever since they offered me, I’ve had a really good relationship with the coaches.
I talked to coach Ferriter for 45 minutes after they offered me, just talking life, ball, everything in between. It made the decision real easy, the relationship that I had built with coach Phenicie and coach Ferriter. It was an easy choice. And then I took my visit on Monday (Jan. 6, one day before Vander Waal announced his commitment), and I fell in love with everything they had to offer. We were watching film on Monday and talking the offense. I think it’s an offense that suits what I like to do. (Run-pass options), spread the ball around, I think that’s something that I’m relatively good at, so it was an easy choice really.
ISJ: Rob Phenicie has been adamant that this is a team with a lot of talent at other positions that needs a quarterback. Did that appeal to you?
TVW: Yeah, absolutely. He told me, ‘We struggled last year as a quarterback group.’ They want someone to come in and take over, and that’s kind of what sold me. I want to come in, be the guy, take over from Day 1 and turn the program around. They won three games last year. I like to win games. As a quarterback, you want to be that guy that turns the program around. It really sold me when he told me that, from Day 1, I’ll learn the offense relatively easily, from the first day of spring ball, I’ll be taking reps with the (first-string). So that’s appealing. All I’m asking for is an opportunity, and he promised me he’ll give me an opportunity.
ISJ: What else about the situation appealed to you?
TVW: Growing up in Sacramento, (California), I grew up watching Sac State, so I’m real familiar with Big Sky football. Sac State recruited me a little bit when Jody Sears was the coach there. I watched a lot of Big Sky football growing up with them, (UC) Davis. I went to a lot of Sac State games. I believe the Big Sky is a conference that’s make it or break it with quarterbacks. A quarterback can turn a whole program around. Just talking with my folks, I’m excited to play in the Big Sky. The games are close to home, we’re playing schools like Davis and Sac State. I saw those teams were both on the schedule this year. That appealed to me. And really it was just talking to the guys. I came in here, took my visit on Monday, talking to (wide receiver) Tanner (Conner), picking his brain. Seeing the guys who have graduated that are in the coaches’ office, talking to them, seeing what the graduate assistants have to say about everything. Because those guys are going to shoot you straight up. The players aren’t going to lie to you. They told me, they laid it out on the table, what’s going to happen, what they want from me. They’ve been straight up throughout the whole recruiting process, and I really appreciated how upfront they were.
ISJ: Tell me a little bit more about your game. How do you like to play?
TVW: I would say I’m relatively similar to what (Buffalo Bills quarterback) Josh Allen is. I don’t know if a lot of a lot of Idaho State fans know, but his senior season, his last year at Wyoming, was my freshman year, so I learned a lot under him, learning how to read a defense and stuff. I would say I’m more of a drop-back, sling it around the field. I like to do that. Spread the ball around to different guys. RPOs, we ran a lot of the same stuff at Wyoming. That was a big plus for me. I like to be in control, I like to think I’m a natural-born leader. I think I perform best under pressure. Going back to my first year at Wyoming, we were playing Wofford and I drove them 60 yards with under a minute and ended up winning that game. So I think that’s something that I do well. I know how to extend plays when I need to get out of the pocket and find guys downfield. ... I wouldn’t say I’m a run-first kind of guy, but I’m deceptively sneaky when I do run.
ISJ: What were your first impressions of Pocatello?
TVW: I like it a lot. The way I describe it to everyone that asks is that it’s a bigger, more active version of Laramie (where the University of Wyoming is located). I like it. The scenery’s beautiful, everyone I’ve met so far has been nothing but nice to me. It’s everything that I looked for after transferring. I didn’t want to go play in the SEC, I knew that wasn’t for me. It’s about finding that right fit, and this is definitely the right fit, it feels like home away from home, in a sense.
ISJ: Anything else you want to mention?
TVW: I just want Idaho State fans to know that I’m excited to be here, as you know. I’m excited to have this opportunity, and I hope that Bengal fans are ready for the show that we’re going to put on in 2020. I think Idaho State is going in the right direction, coach Phenicie has this place going in the right direction, and I’m excited to be a part of it.