Dawn of a New Era

Idaho's spring football season ended Friday night with the annual Silver and Gold Game at the Dome. As expected (given the complete coaching overhaul and new schemes on both sides of the ball), the game showed where improvements have been made, and where more improvement is needed.<br> <br> The biggest change? Everyone, from redshirt freshman CB <b>Eric McMillan</b> up through the 5th year seniors, displayed a quantum leap in intensity.<br> <br> The Holt era has officially begun.


Friday night the play calling was heavily focused on the passing game. Multiple comments made by the coaching staff after the game indicated their desire to get the passing game the vast majority of the snaps for the night, even though the running game proved effective given its occasional opportunities, and the offensive line (especially when healthy) could be one of the strongest units on the team in ‘04.

Unlike many programs around the region, injuries this spring were few. In fact, only RS-Sophomore left tackle Hank Therien (6-7, 318), one of Idaho's top returning linemen, was held out of the spring game due to an injury suffered last week (shoulder). Junior wide receiver Jeff Stowe (6-0, 190) and RS-soph defensive lineman Andrew Stobart (6-2, 249) missed the entire spring season as they continued to rehabilitate injuries suffered before spring drills started.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Keith Greer
6-2, 250, Soph, TE
In contrast, 2 players ramped up their rehabilitation and ended up playing significant roles the past 2-3 weeks. Interestingly, both are tightends. First, sophomore Keith Greer (6-2, 250) made a remarkable recovery from the injury he suffered in the first game of last season (and, in particular, complications from the subsequent surgery) to play a significant role in the spring game. His rapid rehabilitation is a testament to Keith's toughness and determination. Secondly, RS-junior Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 250) fought back from his second torn ACL injury (suffered in the first game last season) to earn playing time with the first unit. Both players are key to Idaho's success next season (in an offense that relies heavily on 1 and 2 tightend sets), and both have overcome alot to not only get back on the field, but play meaningful roles in this crucial spring season.

It was outstanding to see both Vandals back on the field, and to see them playing prominent roles in the game.

Finally, we'd like to tip our hats to former walk-on Jerrod Schulte, a RS-Junior center who is battling for the starting job this fall. Jerrod, from Pomeroy, WA, was awarded a scholarship by Coach Nick Holt, and we want to be among the first to publicly congratulate Jerrod on this effort, and wish him the best of luck this fall.

Below is a quick wrap-up of the game. Enjoy!

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
The Vandals retro single-back offense is coming together, with linemen such as #67 Tony Kiel (6-3, 317, Sr) and #68 Nate VanderPol (6-6, 312, RS-So) leading the way.


PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Geoff Zuber
6-4, 300, RS-So
The name of the game for the Idaho offense in 2004 will be the passing attack, and Idaho's young offensive line for 2004 will be critical to it's success. Up front the Vandals had to shuffle the Number 1 line to cover for the loss of left tackle Hank Therien (6-7, 322), who injured his shoulder last week. Right tackle Nate VanderPol (6-6, 312) was moved to the left tackle position, while Jade Tadvick (6-5, 320) was moved to right tackle. Senior Tony Kiel lined up at left guard, while junior Ryan Waage lined up at right guard. Center was manned in the first half by former walk-on Jarrod Schulte (6-3, 269), and in the second half by redshirt freshman Eric Nave (6-3, 260). It's been a competitive spring for the offensive line, with a number of prospects (like RS-sophomore guard Geoff Zuber) seeing significant playing time with both the first and second units this spring.

Among the best stories of this scrimmage was the return of Keith Greer (6-2, 250) and Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 250) to the tightend lineup. Both played well despite the time they missed in contact drills earlier this spring. Greer ran with the second unit offense, while Smith-Anderson ran with the number ones (Luke caught 2 passes for 18 yards on the night). In addition, Luke split time on the No. 1 offense with senior Willie Sipoloa (6-2, 250), who moves to TE after several seasons at fullback. Willie's been a great story this spring, as he's trimmed down, hit the weights, and appears to be a solid member of the TE rotation going into fall. Converted DE RS-freshman Dan Aizpitarte (6-3, 256) and sophomore Jared Hansen (6-2, 233) saw significant time as well. This offense will utilize 2 tightend sets frequently, so the deeper this unit can be, the better.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Willie Sipoloa
6-3, 249, Sr
Luke Smith-Anderson
6-5, 252, Jr

Questions still remain regarding the wide receivers (especially with junior Jeff Stowe missing spring drills as he recovers from his injury suffered at the end of last season), but senior Jimmy Labita, redshirt sophomore Wendell Octave, and senior Bobby Bernal-Wood appear to be staking their claim at the top of the chart. However, it was RS-Fr walkon Tracy McCormick (5-8, 147) who led all receivers with 7 catches for 87 yards. Among the gold unit, Octave had 3 catches for 78 yard, Labita had 4 catches for 68 yards, and Bernal-Wood had 3 catches for 20 yards. The team is still searching for a lock-down, go-to receiver that can be counted on to make a play when the team absolutely needs it. And more consistency from play-to-play is required. But given all the changes implemented in the past couple months, the development is coming along.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Akeem Anthony
5-4, 160, RS-Fr
The runningbacks didn't get a tremendous number of opportunities to carry the ball, but the backs made the most of their chances. True sophomore Cliff Mason (5-10, 205) led all rushers with 13 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown on the night. In the 4th quarter Cliff went down with an ankle injury (a high ankle sprain). On the next series, his replacement, senior Justin Wall (5-10, 218) who had been working with the #2 unit switched over to the 1st unit offense and went 31 yards for an electrifying TD sprint (Justin ended the day with 43 yards on 7 carries). Redshirt freshman Akeem Anthony carried 6 times for 12 yards, while sophomore Nathan Holder had 4 carries for 16 yards.

At quarterback, junior Michael Harrington is solidifying his hold on the starting job ahead of redshirt freshman Brian Nooy. For the game Mike was 13 of 25 for 196 yards and 2 interceptions (one bounced off the hands of the intended receiver). Compared to the rest of his spring, this was a rough day. Brian, playing against the #1 defense, went 8 of 15 for 80 yards and also threw 2 interceptions. Grayshirt freshman Chris Joseph went 1 of 5 for 13 yards and an interception. There were some impressive throws by all the QBs, along with a few mistakes. But the group's progress the past 4 weeks has been noticeable, particularly given the amount of information they've digested.

We've heard rumors that essentially the entire team plans to stay in Moscow this summer and train. This would be outstanding for the entire team, particularly the offense where repitition is the name of the game. The team has been practicing inspired football for 4 weeks, and continuing that trend through summer would be significant.


The defensive unit has had a lot thrown at them this spring, learning a completely different defensive philosophy and scheme. Given the magnitude of the change, the team looked solid throughout the scrimmage.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Michael Togafau
6-3, 296, Sr, NT
Jeff Edwards
6-3, 267, Jr, DT

Up front the line was able to apply pressure (both the 1st and 2nd units). Statistically, Senior nose tackle Mike Togafau had 5 tackles on the night, including 2 tackles for loss and a sack. RS-junior defensive tackle Jeff Edwards (6-3, 263) had 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and knocked down 3 passes at the line of scrimmage. Among the defensive ends Brandon Kania (6-3, 241), Mike Anderson (6-3, 237), Ernest Davis (6-6, 230), Curtis Bibolet (6-3, 232, Sr) and Mike Bonelli (6-2, 236, Jr) were among the most noticeable. Anderson recording 4 tackles (2 for a loss) and a sack, Bibolet hauled in an interception that he returned 63 yards in traffic that was called back on a separate penalty, and Bonelli had 2 tackles for loss and a sack. The move of Anderson and Bibolet from linebacker to their new defensive end position appears to be working well, and provides an interesting offset to Kania, Bonelli, Davis, and the others on the opposite side of the line.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Mike Anderson
6-3, 238, Jr, DE
Brandon Kania
6-4, 241, Sr, DE

The linebacking unit was active, and delivered some of the more impressive hits on the night. The change in tempo was palpable in the second quarter when starting middle linebacker Cole Snyder (5-11, 230, Jr) unloaded on junior wide receiver Nathan McLallin on a slant route. As Nathan was turning upfield after making the catch, Cole put a hit on him that not only stopped him cold in his tracks, but forced the ball free for an incompletion. Nathan was not injured on the play (fortunately), but the hitting going on was aggressive throughout the night. Sophomore Jaron Williams recorded a sack on the night while classmate Robert Davis recorded 3 tackles. RS-Freshmen Josh Bousman and Sam Tossie recorded 4 and 3 tackles, respectively.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Jaron Williams
6-2, 225, So, WILL
Cole Snyder
5-10, 230, Jr, MIKE

The defensive backs for both the Silver and Gold units played well under Coach Mills and Coach Bryce. It wasn't a perfect night (the Silver unit gave up a 55 yard reception to Octave-Harrington, while the Gold gave up a 30-yarder to McCormick-Nooy), but the CBs did an impressive job sticking to the receivers, and the safeties were strong in pass and run support. Senior rocket J.R. Ruffin (6-0, 167) continues to impress with his tackling skills in run support, while RS-freshman Eric McMillan (5-9,173), starting at CB opposite Ruffin, is solidifying his hold on the starting job. JC Transfers Herb Cash (5-11, 161) and Lawrence Guynes (6-2, 180) saw plenty of action and were solid. RS-Sophomore strong safety Brandon Mascorro (5-10, 200) and senior free safety Simeon Stewart (5-8, 180) provided an impressive net in the backfield.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Eric McMillan
5-9, 173, RS-Fr, RC
J.R. Ruffin
6-0, 170, Sr, LC

The entire defensive unit has made significant improvement over the course of the past 4 weeks, and their performance Friday proved it. But, as is the case with the offense, continuing that development through the summer will be key to success next fall. The boost in overall depth with the incoming recruiting class will help, but this group is playing tough. Redshirt freshmen like Eric McMillan, Josh Bousman, Lee Jones, Kyle Williams, Sam Tossie, and the rest are stepping up to the challenge. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are stepping up to replace the departed senior class. As linebacker Cole Snyder said in Saturday's Lewiston Morning Tribune, "Everybody's starting to really come together." Its obvious, and it shows when comparing scrimmages from earlier this spring to tonight's game.

The staff is rubbing off on this team as well, and the jump in team intensity is beginning to take form.


RS-sophomore Mike Barrow is the starting kicker and punter, and showed impressive signs in both capacities. For instance, on the first punt of the game, the snap sailed over his head. He ran back to retrieve the ball, bolted toward the sideline, then punted on a full run. The spiraling boot traveled 40 yards in the air, and saved what otherwise would have been a disaster. Nice athleticism and smarts from a youngster. Replacing 4-year starter Ryan Downes (holding several UI records) will be difficult, but the replacements have been performing adequately.

In the kicking department, Mike was rock solid on PATs, and scored the game's first points on a 22-yard field goal attempt. Junior Sam Parry (a walk-on out of Nampa), was just short on a 46-yard field goal attempt to end the second quarter.

The teams did not lineup in kickoff coverage in this scrimmage.

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