Making an impact

THE ANNUAL SILVER AND GOLD SPRING GAME is just around the corner (Friday night starting at 7:30 PM PST), and a few position battles appear to be solidifying. Idaho's newest linebacker IRVING STEELE has been impressive, running with the No.1 unit and leading the Vandal D in tackles each of the last two scrimmages. With intense competition across the board, many position battles continue to rage.

The ongoing quarterback battle between incumbent starter, sophomore Chad Chalich, and redshirt freshman Matt Linehan continues to develop. Both, at times, have looked impressive this spring, but neither has made a clear separation over the other as Idaho's field general heading into the 2014 season.

But that doesn't affect some position battles that appear to be solidifying at various spots throughout the depth chart. Many spots are still up for grabs, but the picture may be getting a little clearer for some.

Below are a few spots that are starting to take form.

- Mike Marboe, Center
- Steven Matlock, Quick Guard
- Mason Woods, Strong Tackle

Mason Woods
No, the top five haven't emerged yet. But a few appear to be making a bit of a separation. The Idaho coaching staff has done a remarkable job of mixing and matching linemen this spring. Several on the Vandal line can play both guard and tackle (Cody Elenz and Nick Von Rotz in particular have lined up at both positions), and most have played multiple positions throughout the spring. Certainly fourth year starting center Marboe is no surprise. Neither, really, is Matlock who is coming off an impressive true freshman season in which he started over half of Idaho's games last year. But the big Canadian, 6-foot-9 sophomore tackle Mason Woods, has been coming on strong and spending a significant amount of time with the top O-line.

"I don't know if any of them have a spot for sure," Coach Petrino said after Saturday's scrimmage. "But if anyone has stepped up, those three have."

There is a lot of time to battle for a starting role before the season opener in late August, with an impressive amount of starting experience and developing talent in the depth chart vying for those few starting spots. The complete line likely won't be defined until fall camp.

Marc Millan
Newcomer Irving Steele has been impressive throughout spring camp, leading the Vandal defense in tackles each of the last two weeks. It's probably too early to say he will be the starter this fall, but at this point it is difficult to imagine he won't be playing a prominant role this fall on the inside. Also playing well and extensively this spring is outside linebacker Marc Millan, a junior who was named an Honorable Selection All-Independent Team selection following a season in which he was Idaho's leading tackler last fall (90 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks).

How the rest of the depth chart fills out remains to be seen. Broc Westlake, James Randall, Eric Tuipulotu, and freshman Tony Lashley have all seen significant playing time this spring and will factor heavily into the rotation in 2014.

Senior Bradley Njoku has been spending significant time with ones this spring and appears to have the inside track on a starting job at strong safety, with a solid push from sophomore Russell Siavii. The battle for free safety has been intense, with newcomer Doyin Sule getting reps with the ones along with returning starter sophomore Jordan Grabski. With the addition of Chris Edwards this summer, expect competition for the starting safety spots (and depth) to get an even bigger boost.

Dezmon Epps
This has been one group that appears to have made major strides since last fall. That, or they're the biggest beneficiaries of an overall offense that is on an upward trajectory. Senior Dezmon Epps and sophomore Richard Montgomery (the fastest player on the team reportedly running a sub-4.3-40) have been explosive, while 6-foot-4 sophomore Deon Watson is coming on strong spring camp. Former QB Joshua McCain has possibly been the biggest surprise -- not because of his athleticism, we saw enough of that last fall to know what he could do in open space with the ball. Mostly, its because for a player that hasn't really played wide receiver much, he has eased into the transition and goes about his business with confidence.

This is a solid core group heading into summer workouts and fall camp, with key components at wideout and in the slot. The receiving corps could see another boost with the addition of two JC standouts (3-star speedster Kenny Torrence and lanky 6-foot-4 Jermaine Johnson) expected to hit campus in June. Time will tell, but right now this has the makings of productive, intriging, and - dare we say it - potentially deep group to watch in 2014.

Jerrel Brown
There's a really good chance that Idaho's starting ball carrier each week could switch between senior Jerrel Brown and junior Kris Olugbode. The two predominantly north-south runners have had some big, effective scrimmages this spring. Sophomore speedster Richard Montgomery offers a noticeable change of pace from time to time, and a target in the flat.

But the heavy lifting is likely going to come down to Brown or Olugbode this fall -- or maybe big Elijhaa Penny (6-foot-2, 242-pounds, 4.53-40), who rushed for 1,338 yards and 20 touchdowns at Cerritos College last year, will have something to say about that when he arrives in Moscow this summer.

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