The conclusion of the 2015 season saw the departure of seniors of Quinton Bradley and Ryan Edwards from the Vandal football program.
The absence of Bradley, a defensive end, and Edwards, a nose tackle, leave large holes on the defensive line for Idaho.
In addition to Bradleyâ€™s absence, backup defensive end Kaylyn Ayers also left the program. With many new additions to the defensive line for the Vandals, it has yet to be seen what approach Idaho head coach Paul Petrino will take to fill these roles.
Two players emerged during Monday as legitimate contenders for starting positions on the line. Junior Kevin White and sophomore Kevin Shelton routinely excelled during drills and scrimmages during Mondayâ€™s practice at the Kibbie Dome.
White joined Idaho as a transfer from Monroe Junior College in 2015. The 6-foot-4-inch defensive end is fast off the ball and is very capable of tracking down lateral run plays.
Shelton is a 6-foot-3-inch Washington native who saw some playing time last year. The sophomore moved to the defensive line from linebacker early in his college career, and recorded two solo tackles against Wofford last season.
The fact that these two have years of experience and have impressed early in the spring gives the duo an edge against the competition.
However, junior lineman Tueni Lupeamanu said with the beginning of every season, there are no guaranteed starters.
â€œNobodyâ€™s place is set in stone, even mine,â€ Lupeamanu said. â€œWeâ€™re just taking it day by day.â€
Lupeamanu said defensive line coach Kenny Holmes has excelled in the development of new players.
â€œWeâ€™re really getting back to the fundamentals,â€ Lupeamanu said. â€œWeâ€™re taking the basics through the roof for spring ball.â€
Holmesâ€™ fundamental approach was apparent during Mondayâ€™s practice. The coach was hands on with each of his players and ensured the program newcomers went through the reps correctly.
Freshman Gavin Whitesett was one of the young players who showed flashes of potential during team activities.
The defensive end weighs only 202 pounds, but Whitesett possessed a quick tempo off the snap and routinely shot around offensive linemen during drills. Although it is unlikely he will see much playing time next year, Whitesett can serve an effective role in specific situations.
The defensive line as a whole performed well during team scrimmages. On sweeps to the outside, defensive ends such as White were able to track down the running back and trap him on the sideline. Members of the defensive line were rarely fooled during play-action attempts run by the offense.
The line struggled the most when running backs made inside cuts. Members of the defensive line also saw limited success in the pursuit of the quarterback during a scrambling play. On multiple occasions, freshman quarterback Jake Luton was able to burst through a hole in the line to find daylight.
It is still too early in the year to see the full effect of the defensive line, as Petrino will want to reduce the number of potential injuries to the skill players on offense.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @brandonmtnhillÂ Â