The Idaho football teamâ€™s Monday practice at the Kibbie Dome was highlighted by junior Jordan Frysingerâ€™s return to the gridiron.
The wide receiver returned from an injury and worked extensively with the quarterbacks during team activities.
â€œIt was really his first day coming back from injury where he got to take a bunch of reps, so it was good for him today,â€ said Idaho head coach Paul Petrino.
Frysinger played in six games for the Vandals last season, seeing time as both a wide receiver and defensive back.
The junior had several strong performances during team sessions Monday, including two touchdown catches against the secondary core of defensive backs.
Petrino said he saw marked improvement with backup quarterback Jake Luton.
â€œI think he really did a good job today,â€ Petrino said. â€œItâ€™s kind of like anything â€” when you get a whole bunch more reps, you have the chance to have more good plays, but you also have a few more mistakes. I think that might have happened the first couple days, but today was his best day by far.â€
The freshman is currently practicing with the first-string offense, due to sophomore Matt Linehanâ€™s foot injury.
Petrino said he was impressed with Lutonâ€™s ability to respond to defensive schemes under pressure.
â€œThatâ€™s really the biggest thing heâ€™s got to do to get to the next step,â€ Petrino said. â€œBecause heâ€™s got the big arm, but itâ€™s just the accuracy and taking what the defense gives you and being consistent.â€
The Idaho head coach said Luton has developed the ability to seek out secondary options in the passing game.
â€œ(Heâ€™s) not always forcing it deep, and heâ€™s checking down and taking the underneath stuff when he has to,â€ Petrino said.
Freshman quarterback Gunnar Amos also ran drills with the offense during Mondayâ€™s practice.
â€œGunnar probably had a better day Saturday than he had today, but you know Iâ€™ve got to watch it on tape,â€ Petrino said. â€œBut the extra reps that they both have been getting has been really good for both of them.â€
Petrino said he has not seen any transition period with the quarterbacks as they adjust to assistant coach Charley Molnar, who switched coaching duties from wide receivers to quarterbacks earlier this month.
â€œLast yearâ€¦Bryce (Erickson) worked on special teams and Charley had them for individual (coaching) anyways, so I donâ€™t think it was that big of a move,â€ Petrino said.
The Idaho head coach said Molnarâ€™s experience with the quarterback position has allowed him to excel in his new role.
One of the key position battles for the Vandals during the spring is the starting role at running back. The three competitors â€” sophomore Aaron Duckworth, freshman Isaiah Saunders and redshirt Denzal Brantley â€” all split time evenly at the position during practice Monday.
Petrino said competition between the three has remained fairly balanced during the opening of spring activities.
â€œI donâ€™t know if theyâ€™ve had enough reps in a row to separate themselves yet,â€ Petrino said. â€œDenzalâ€™s done a nice job of catching the ball, and Isaiah has had a couple of really nice runs too. All three of them have done good things. If you had to say anyone has had maybe a couple more plays, itâ€™s been Duckworth.â€
The Vandal defensive line has also made adjustments with the graduation of senior defensive end Quinton Bradley.
â€œQuinton was obviously a great player for us,â€ said Idaho junior defensive lineman Tueni Lupeamanu. â€œWe had a lot of schemes around him. I felt like itâ€™s opened our defense a lot more, looking into different ways we can attack the QB or play the run, especially with Ryan Edwards gone. For sure those two are really missed, but I feel like we are stepping it up this spring.â€
Lupeamanu said he has seen improvement in sophomore teammate Kevin Shelton, as well as the rest of the defensive line.
â€œI think the same with all our teammates, weâ€™ve all got to keep working,â€ Lupeamanu said. â€œNobodyâ€™s place is set in stone â€” even mine. We are just taking it day by day.â€
The junior said the team has focused on fundamentals with the absence of Edwards and Bradley during spring activities.
â€œWe havenâ€™t really changed anything â€” weâ€™ve had a different mindset with Coach Holmes helping us out on the D-line,â€ Lupeamanu said. â€œWeâ€™re really just getting back to the fundamentals and weâ€™re just taking the basics through the roof during spring ball.â€
Lupeamanu said drills between the defensive and offensive lines have been competitive during the first few practices.
â€œI felt like itâ€™s back and forth a lot, really,â€ Lupeamanu said. â€œWe have some practices â€” sometimes in the middle of practice, offense has a lot of momentum (or) defense has a lot of momentum. But I feel like thatâ€™s how practices should be, which thatâ€™s how itâ€™s looking like right now.â€
Petrino said he has seen a seesaw battle in the trenches during the first spring practices for the Vandals.
â€œToday was kind of a blitz pick-up, and the offense probably had the best (performance),â€ Petrino said. â€œAt the start of the run play-action, the defense probably did the best. And then the team kind of went back and forth, and thatâ€™s kind of what you really want.â€
The Idaho head coach said there were many positives the Vandals could take away from the opening weekend of practices.
â€œI think we look faster and I think we seem faster out there,â€ Petrino said. â€œYou always want to improve your tacking and you always think you can improve your blocking. Itâ€™s something that we kind of want to get better at every day, but I think itâ€™s been pretty good so far.â€
Josh Grissom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GoshJrissom