Two days are in the books. The third will happen Wednesday afternoon and the fourth on Friday before Idaho’s first spring scrimmage on Saturday.
Competition and energy were the main themes, and it was easy to see why.
Prior to the start of practices, coach Paul Petrino spoke to squashing the “his guys and my guys” narrative when talking about Robb Akey’s recruits and his recruits. To him, that’s meant having to focus less on effort and more on being able to coach technique and fundamentals.
Very few of the 22 starting positions are safe right now, with the secondary, offensive line and quarterback being the hottest positions of competition throughout the first two days of practice on Sunday and Monday afternoons.
There was so much energy on Sunday’s first practice that a light scuffle broke out between offensive and defensive players, one that looked to be instigated by Richard Montgomery and Eric Tuipulotu. Later, after Doyin Sule made a hard hit, Petrino had to huddle the entire team to make sure that energy wasn’t going to get anybody hurt. Although, Petrino said he wanted the energy to be at the level it was on Sunday.
Here’s how practice has gone down so far –
– Chad Chalich is slightly ahead of Matt Linehan. Experience has something to do with it, as does grasp of the offense. Chalich is making the safer decisions and so far has made less mistakes. Though both quarterbacks tossed a pair of interceptions during Monday’s practice. There isn’t a lot of separation between the two, the scrimmages will be critical in deciding who goes into the fall ahead.
– The offensive line is going to see a lot of experimenting this spring, and may suffer because of it. Tackles Jesse Davis and Cody Elenz are going to be limited. Junior college signees Kato Fawkes and Jeff Travillion have seen immediate time with the first team line, Travillion at strong tackle, Fawkes at weakside guard. Sophomore Steven Matlock is also heavily involved, playing the strongside guard he played late last season. The line is still struggling, but that is going to be expected with as many new guys and new combinations the coaches are going to be trying out during the spring. It doesn’t help to go against an experienced and deep Idaho defensive line.
– Speaking of the defensive line, those guys are dominating right now. Petrino used the worst “beast” to describe Bradley and that’s what’s been playing out on the field. Him and Maxx Forde have continually gotten into the backfield. Luckily for the quarterbacks, they’re not live for hitting this spring. Ryan Edwards and Tueni Lupeamanu are so far slotted in at the defensive tackle spots, with Max Martial and Ryan Edwards mixing in as well. Glen Antoine is a big, big boy, but is sidelined with a shoulder injury this spring. He’ll factor in heavily in the fall.
– The secondary has been a bright spot so far. They forced three turnovers on Modnay’s practice and two on Sunday’s practice. The additions of Doyin Sule at safety and Armond Hawkins at corner off his redshirt season have been big so far. Sule adds much needed height and physicality to the safety position, Hawkins is a solid cover corner who will be a player to watch throughout the spring. Freshman Nolan Hoiness has been moved to corner after coming in initially as a running back.
– Wide receiver is a deep, deep position for Idaho thus far. The highlight has been converted quarterback Josh McCain, who looks very naturally at making cuts, catching the ball with his hands, bringing the ball in and moving up-field. Dezmon Epps looks to have picked up where he left off. Deon Watson and Jacob Sannon have seen a lot of reps, as has walk-on sophomore Jordan Pastras of Post Falls. Redshirt freshman Rueben Mwehla has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury, although has been suited up. Oh yeah, and there’s 6-foot-9 Roberto Asencio on his 14-day tryout. So far, he’s been very, very raw and rough. Not good at adjusting to the ball when he has one-on-one coverage and is rough trying to get off the line when pressed, but there’s no doubt that if he can figure it out would be an incredible red zone weapon. That is the hope for this coaching staff. Petrino and WR coach/Offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich have been very patient with him.
Head coach Paul Petrino
On quarterbacks – “On day one it looks like Chad had a little better day, but you’re never sure until you watch the tape but we’re just light years ahead of last year, they both are, because they’ve both been in the offense for a year. I thought of them played way better than anybody did the first couple of days last year, Chad probably had a better day today, but Matt did some good things today, I thought they both did some good things.”
On the fight and energy level on Sunday – “There were just a couple of silly things. I want the energy, I don’t want it to stop but we don’t need to be getting anybody hurt when we don’t have full pads on. That was good, I don’t think I ever had to do that last year, it was good that the energy was like that, they were flying around and getting after it, just have to keep improving.”
Did competition have something to do with that energy? – “Yeah, because there was so much competition. Exactly, you’re right on. And I want it to be that, but at the end of stuff, don’t get each other hurt.”
Do Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich bring different skill sets? – “They’re very similar too in a lot of ways. I don’t think it’s that big of difference, it’s just nice that they both know the offense so much better and that’s something we have to keep building on. I think they’re a lot more similar than you probably think.”
How different is this spring from last spring? – “A lot different. It’s a lot more, more of a comfort level with all of the players, comfort level of them understanding what’s going on. It’s a lot nicer just to come out and coach instead of worrying about effort and attitude on every single play, you can just coach technique and coach fundamentals. It was a great day, it was a lot of fun today. It’s kind of nice to know where we’re at and what we have, now let’s just keep improving. It’s nice to have a lot more competition because then you don’t have to get on them as much about effort because you can handle that by just putting in the next guy.”
Defensive end Maxx Forde
On the mindset of the defense coming off of a poor 2013 – “We need to get better in a lot of places as a defensive unit, we did give up a lot of points last year. We need to change our mentality as a defense first and foremost, we’ve done a lot of that already this year. Just attack people, be relentless, I think that mentality will help us get a little further. Also not having any mental mistakes, knowing where you’re supposed to be. Those are things we’ve been working on.”
Quarterback Chad Chalich
On being in yet another quarterback competition – “Matt is a great quarterback, Taylor is a great quarterback, you just have to have competition within your practice to have a great quarterback in this situation come out on top. So you know I’m battling every day, I have to be perfect every day just to beat out Matt. He’s a great quarterback, great quarterback, comes from a great family. I’m just coming out here battling every day and that’s going to make me a better quarterback.”
On how his shoulder feels – “I felt pretty good today, I’m getting in the training room and working it out every day to get it stronger. It’s going to get there, it’s going to take some time.”
Quarterback Matt Linehan
How different is this spring camp from the fall camp? – “I have to say it’s different, because it feels like, not really like there’s more of a purpose, I feel like I have more of a part here, like I’m here for a reason. I’m here to help this team win, I want to help them out as much as I can. Especially getting to know my guys better, getting a better bond with our teammates, it’s a way better feel.”
What did Chad Chalich tell you to help you prepare? – “He told me to wait it out because the redshirt year is hard, waking up at five in the morning to go and lift, running the scout team, doing signals during the games. It was a tough year but it was a great learning experience, I learned a lot that year. I talked with coach Petrino, coach Cinkovich, coach Erickson, all really helping me. Those Sunday night scrimmages were one of the best things I could have ever done because I learned the offense so much quicker because of that. The redshirt year was tough but I’m glad I had it.”
Do you feel you have a similar or different skill set from Chalich? – “We do have different skill sets but we can both do the same things. Chad’s good at different things and I’m good at different things. He’s ran the read-option a little more than I have, I’m still kind of learning how to run it, but I know I can do it, I feel like I can do it, if they need me to run the read option I know I can do it.”
How are you handling some of the early mistakes you’ve made in the spring? – “I’m learning from the mistakes, that’s the most important thing right now. I just has to make sure I lesson those, I have to make sure those go down as spring ball continues. The mistakes, I guess you could use the freshman excuse, but I don’t think that works here, I should know better. Coach Petrino always tells me take what the defense gives you, I just have to do a better job of knowing that.”
What did your dad (former Idaho quarterback Scott Linehan) tell you to help you prepare for this competition? – “He just told me to enjoy it, because when it’s gone you just never really remember it like it was. Enjoy it now because you’re going to miss the competition. He just told me to come out here and compete and have fun. Not to press too much, just to come out here and enjoy it.”