Idaho linebackers shouldn’t make too many rookie mistakes this fall, because the defense could have three senior linebackers on the field at the same time.
The Vandals tied up their cleats for their first spring practice Wednesday in the Kibbie Dome.
Senior linebackers Broc Westlake, Marc Millan and Daniel Peterson returned for their final season and senior Chris Edwards, who played safety last season for the Vandals before leaving the team five games into the season, returned to the team and will also play linebacker.
“I think that brings a lot of leadership to the defense that we definitely needed the past couple years, so I think that going forward it’s going to help us,” Millan said of the experienced linebacking corps.
Idaho coach Paul Petrino said Edwards was moved to linebacker to increase the speed at the position. Edwards, a 6-foot-2, 217-pound Detroit native, led the team with two interceptions last season before he left the team.
“What I’m really trying to do on both sides of the ball is get faster,” Petrino said.
Millan said Edwards is one of the smartest guys on the defense.
“He’s a safety, so he’s fast obviously, he’s smart,” Millan said. “He’s definitely one of the smartest guys we have on our defense. He just clicks all the time. He understands the defense and he loves to hit just like the rest of us, so it’s going to be fun.”
Linebackers coach Eric Brown said Edwards is a perfect fit for his new position.
“He’ll be really good at that position,” Brown said. “The way the defense is built, that position is kind of that hybrid safety, and he’s perfect for it. So that type of player is what you look for, and he’s got to learn it, and he’s got to pick it up, but I think it’s going to be a really good move for him.”
Brown also said the experience in the linebacker group will be an advantage, but he is also excited about the younger linebackers too.
“I think that’s big time to have guys that have gone through it and been in some of the battles,” Brown said. “But what’s also good is there’s some good, young competition. You got the older guys that have some experience and then you got some real good, young competition. It should be some good battles in the spring. I’m excited for it.”
One of the young linebackers who Brown is impressed with is the 6-foot-3, 209-pound freshman Kaden Elliss from Salt Lake City.
“We’re really high on him right now based off of his effort in the weight room, his effort in some of the drill work that the weight staff has put him through, and he’s a long kid,” Brown said.
Elliss played quarterback and defensive end in high school, where he earned Utah High School Athletic Association’s Most Valuable Player in 2013 after leading Judge Memorial Catholic High School to its first state championship in 30 seasons. Elliss’ dad, Luther, played 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive tackle and was a first-round draft pick in 1995.
“He’s going to make some plays in space,” Brown said. “But we’re in shorts right now. It’s just hard to get overly excited until we put on some pads and get after some things. He’s a kid that could be impressive in the fall.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org