For three hours Paul Petrino kept the energy level high inside the Kibbie Dome, his voice heard echoing off from wherever you were inside the building. After about 190 plays, the second-year Idaho football coach was mostly content with what he’d seen out of his team during its first scrimmage of spring football.
“We’re night and day better, we just have to keep getting better. You see a lot of skill on offense that can make big plays,” Petrino said. “Both quarterbacks are light years ahead of how we were playing last year at this time at that position. Still need to grow and get better on the offensive front, then there were a lot of guys on the defensive side flying around, hitting and playing with great effort. Overall I was happy. I’ll watch the scrimmage and sometimes you’re not as happy or sad once you watch it on tape.”
Petrino’s ideal vision of a scrimmage would have been a defensive-offensive gridlock that ended in a draw. With 20 offensive touchdowns it would hard for it to be called that, but Petrino said he was happy with the defense at times when he went to them and asked that side of the ball for stops.
“It kind of went back and forth, I would say with that many touchdowns you probably have to say the offense but then were times when the defense got after them pretty good, I thought both of them played better,” Petrino said. “More so than both sides of the ball but I think there were little groups on each side of the ball that really have to improve.”
The theme of this scrimmage was competition, in which there was a lot of it. The make-up of his offensive and defensive depth charts became somewhat clear, but a majority of those spots are hardly safe as the spring goes on.
First, the clear winner today:
Josh McCain. The quarterback-turned-receiver is quickly staking his claim to not only get the amount of snaps he wants, but to be a starter. He led all receivers with 218 yards receiving and five touchdown receptions, the longest being a 65-yard strike across the middle. He looks natural at the position and that this rate will be starting alongside Dezmon Epps.
“It’s special, it’s exciting. You know what he can do is he can just play the ball in the air so well, whether it’s a little under-thrown in the air, it’s a deep ball in the air, he has great natural skills, makes me look like a big dumb whatever you call it for not playing him there last year. He looks pretty special,” Petrino said of McCain.
Some more praise for McCain, who had touchdown receptions of 50, 24, 10, 65 and 15 yards.
“He’s really fast for one, he likes to pump his arms, that’s basically what coach emphasizes to do is pumping our arms, running after the catch which he’s really good at,” receiver Jacob Sannon said.
Quarterback Chad Chalich, who was on the throwing end of all five of his touchdown receptions.
“He’s just a great all around athlete, he has everything you want at receiver, he’s fast, has great feet, he can get open whenever you want, he has great hands. He’s a great receiver, he made plays like you saw today.”
Now, some other observations:
– The two quarterbacks continue to battle to a standstill. Linehan had a better day on Friday to perhaps close the gap, but Chalich’s seven touchdown passes did him a lot of good on Saturday. It’s unlikely that there is much, if any, separation between the two going into practices next week.
Linehan did throw 62 pass attempts to Chalich’s 34 pass attempts, but that also has to do with Chalich’s shoulder health and some fatigue he went through this week.
“I think it’s a level playing field right now between me and Chad, he’s right there. Someone’s going to have to separate themselves by the end of spring ball, right now I think we’re both battling, it’s a great competition right now, Chad’s a great quarterback, I believe in my ability, as spring ball continues we’ll see what happens but right now he’s right there,” Linehan said.
– Things happened in the running game, with Jerrel Brown standing out with a 106 rushing yard performance. He had a very impressive 35 yard touchdown run, using two cutbacks to adjust to find holes before scampering down the right sideline into the endzone. He ended the scrimmage with four scores.
“I love when the defense likes to bring it, a lot of the guys I play with I played with in junior college, we’re all brothers in the locker room, so when the defense comes out and brings it that just fuels me to go even harder and bring it,” Brown said.
– The secondary generally struggled on the day, but it wasn’t as hopeless as some of the performances from the group last season. Junior Jayshawn Jordan was solid in one-on-one coverage some plays and created two turnovers. Safety Russell Siavii also created two turnovers, including a slick one-hand grab across the middle on a pass from Linehan.
Jayshawn Jordan has a particularly impressive interception, when he left with Roberto Asencio in the corner of the end zone to wrestle it away from him on the way back down.
Petrino also lauded the play of Bradley Njoku today, who played the nickel position. Idaho is implementing some 4-2-5 formations with Sule, Njoku and Grabski the safeties.
– I counted at least four different offensive line combinations, including three different ones where Marboe was at center (meaning three different first team combinations). It’s going to take Idaho all spring to find a combination it’s comfortable with heading into the fall. Nine sacks during this scrimmage didn’t help the line much.
I’ll have more on that tomorrow when I release an early depth chart.
– McCain wasn’t the only receiver getting in the action. Dezmon Epps and Deon Watson also had very good days, Watson accumulating 199 yards and Epps with 147 yards receiving. The two shared three touchdowns, two for Epps, one for Watson. Sophomore Jacob Sannon was the fourth leading receiver with 5 catches for 47 yards.
“I really like it (the competition), they force me to play better because there’s competition on the field. I see them making big plays, it compels me to make big plays,” Sannon said.
Chad Chalich: 22-34, 394 yards, 7 TD – 2 INT
Matt Linehan: 40-62, 484 yards, 4 TD – 2 INT
Jerrel Brown: 22 ATT, 106 yards, 4 TD
Kris Olugbode: 19 ATT, 94 yards, 2 TD
Richard Montgomery: 17 ATT, 65 yards, 2 TD
Isaiah Saunders: 12 ATT, 66 yards, 1 TD
Josh McCain: 8 catches, 218 yards, 5 TD
Deon Watson: 11 catches, 199 yards, 1 TD
Dezmon Epps: 11 catches, 147 yards, 2 TD
Jerrel Brown: 7 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD
Jacob Sannon: 5 catches, 47 yards
Roberto Asencio: 1 catch, 9 yards
Jared Klingenberg: 1 catch, 11 yards, 1 TD
Chris Featherstone: 2 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD
Steele 13, Siavii 13, Jordan 13, Tuipulotu 13, Westlake 12, Njoku 11, Grabski 10, Millan 10
Quinton Bradley – 3, Bradley Njoku – 2, Irving Steele – 1, Maxx Forde – 1, Tueni Lupeamanu – 1, Eric Tuipulotu – 1