Early spring football depth chart: Our observations

Competition is the bane of second year coach Paul Petrino’s spring football camp. The way he puts it is, you can have a starter, but he has to know that if he doesn’t play well that there’s somebody right behind him who could take his job.

The first scrimmage of the spring last Saturday shed some light on where some guys stand in the depth chart, but with three weeks left everything is fluid.

Getting right into it, this is what I’ve observed:

Quarterback

1a. Chad Chalich
1b. Matt Linehan

- There is little separation between the two right now. I’ll give Chalich the slight edge because of experience, but Linehan will have plenty of opportunities to overtake him going into the summer. He threw twice as many passes as Chalich during the first scrimmage, but Chalich had more touchdowns and a better yards-per-attempt average. Whoever comes out of the spring at No. 1 will be the likely starter on Aug. 30. Jake Luton will come in as a true freshman, but is unlikely to challenge for the top spot.

Running back

1a. Jerrel Brown
1b. Kris Olugbode
2. Richard Montgomery*
3. Isaiah Saunders

- Jerrel Brown was thoroughly impressive during the scrimmage, racking up over 100 yards and scoring four times. He showed decisiveness making cuts and going north-south. He and Olugbode have both showed some nice things but one hasn’t separated from the other yet. Richard Montgomery is also heavily involved in the running back picture, but doesn’t factor into the running back competition the same as the other three backs do. He has his own role in the offense, being moved around in the backfield and split of wide to find creative ways to get him the ball in space.

Wide receiver

X – Dezmon Epps
Jacob Sannon
Y – Josh McCain
Trent Cowan
Z – Deon Watson
Chris Featherstone

*Roberto Asencio

- The depth Idaho will have at receiver will look a lot different in the fall when Jermaine Johnson and Kenny Torrence arrive on campus, but the top three guys in the picture may not change. Dezmon Epps has followed his highly successful junior season with the same solid play Idaho expected out of the senior. Josh McCain, however, has broken on the scene a little quicker than Idaho has expected, and they’ll take it. The senior amassed over 200 yards receiving and hauled in 5 touchdowns during the Saturday scrimmage. At this rate he will be starting alongside Dezmon Epps. Sophomore Deon Watson brought in 199 yards during the scrimmage.

* Roberto Asencio doesn’t yet have a set role, coaches are just trying to bring him along day by day. He had his own redzone drill shortly after halftime of the scrimmage on Saturday, ran a couple of corner fade routes before making his only catch on an inside slant where he nearly barreled his way into the endzone.

Offensive line

No position on offense has more competition than this group, with eight players returning with starting experience and two junior college players coming in expecting to compete right away for starting spots.

Here are the offensive line combinations I noticed during the scrimmage:

From Quick Tackle to Strong Tackle:

Jeff Travillion, Nick Van Rotz, Mike Marboe, Kato Fawkes, Mason Woods
Jeff Travillion, Cody Elenz (also sub Steven Matlock), Sione Maile, Dallas Sandberg, Calvin White
Nick Van Rotz, Cody Elenz, Mike Marboe, Kato Fawkes, Mason Woods
Cody Elenz, Sione Maile, Mike Marboe, Kato Fakwes, Mason Woods
Nick Van Rotz, Steven Matlock, Mike Marboe, Kato Fawkes, Mason Woods

- Basically, Petrino wants to see guys in a number of spots in a number of combinations so he can look at the film and see which combination works best. He said he’s looking for the five best guys. Nick Van Rotz and Cody Elenz help themselves out with the ability to play at guard or tackle. Steven Matlock can play the quick and strong guard spots. Kato Fawkes and Mason Woods played the most, and at the moment look to be safe bets on the strong side of the offensive line. Jesse Davis will probably be in the mix back at strong tackle when he comes back in the fall. Sione Maile looks to be the back-up to Mike Marboe.

There are probably more combinations that I wasn’t quite able to get a look at. This is something I’ll keep my eye on as the spring goes on.

Tight end

1a. Justin Podrabsky
1b. Jared Klingenberg
2. Eric Lemke

- This is a hard position to get a feel for. Petrino isn’t going to use tight ends in the passing game based on his history as a play-caller, especially with the depth at wide receiver he’s going to have this season.

Defensive line

DE: Maxx Forde, Marius Burgsmueller
DT: Max Martial, Ryan Edwards, Will Schmidt
DT Tueni Lupeamanu, Matthew Neal, Zach Cable
DE: Quinton Bradley, Anthony Rice

- The goal with this unit is to find a rotation that Bam Hardmon and Ronnie Lee are comfortable rolling out there and rotating. The starting defensive ends are basically set, Quinton Bradley and Maxx Forde have had a great first week to the camp and were slated to be starters in the first place. Getting effort out of those two was never going to be a problem. Bursmueller and Anthony Rice are rotating in behind those two. The competition is on the inside, where junior college transfer Max Martial has emerged as of late. Sophomore Tueni Lupeamanu is getting a lot of snaps as well. The competition on the inside is hot right now because those guys know who is coming in the fall: Glen Antoine and Alfonso Hampton.

(Antoine is with the team this spring, but sitting out due to shoulder surgery).

Linebacker

Will: Eric Tuipulotu, Daniel Peterson
Mike: Irving Steele, Juan Martinez, Broc Westlake
Sam: Marc Millan, Tony Lashley, James Randall

- This is a group I need to watch more during the second week to get more of a handle on, but one thing I’ve noticed for sure is that Irving Steele is quickly making his mark. He led the team in tackles during Saturday’s scrimmage and is constantly making plays sideline to sideline. He stepped in for Juan Martinez, who was out with an injury, and just might keep the spot. He’s also on the field a lot when Idaho goes to a 4-2-5 formation. Marc Millan and Eric Tuipulotu round out the ‘backers in the 4-3.

Secondary

Cornerback

CB1: Delency Parham
CB2: Jayshawn Jordan
CB3: Armond Hawkins
CB4: Desmond Banks
CB4: Nolan Hoiness
CB5: Tyler Douglas

Nickelback: Bradley Njoku

SS: Jordan Grabski, Tom Hennessey
FS: Doyin Sule, Russell Siavii

- The situation in the secondary will be very different in the fall when guys such as Chris Edwards, Dorian Clark and Dennis Rufus get into camp. But for now, Idaho is making due with some guys fighting for good positioning going into the summer. The secondary generally struggled during the Saturday scrimmage, but a few guys stood out.

Jayshawn Jordan had a good first week of spring camp, he’s sticking with his guys in one-on-one coverage and making an effort to force turnovers, getting two picks in the scrimmage, including one against the 6-foot-9 Roberto Asencio. Doyin Sule has added some much needed height and speed into the safety position as well. He’ll be a contender to keep that starting spot when reinforcements arrive in the fall.

Bradley Njoku has also staked out a spot at nickelback, with him, Grabski and Sule all being on the field in the 4-2-5 formation.

Kicker/Punter

Austin Rehkow. And that’s about it.

There hasn’t been a ton of special teams work in spring ball yet.

Sean Kramer is a 24-year old University of Idaho student majoring in Journalism. He's been a sports writer at The Argonaut since the fall of 2011.
One Comment

Please feel free to comment on what I wrote, I appreciate all feedback and criticism

  • Dustin
    8 April 2014 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Sean,

    Thanks for the reporting, keep it up. You are the eyes and ears of many interested fans.

    Go Vandals!

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