Spring Drills Wrap-Up

Battles continue to take place throughout the roster, including the starting QB battle between returning starter senior Michael Harrington and JC transfer Steve Wichman.

OVERVIEW.... For many of the 3500 fans leaving The Dome for last night's Silver and Gold Spring Game, the general consensus was that the team displayed a tangible improvement in team speed across the board and an overall improvement in depth. The rebuilding job isn't finished, but things appear to be moving in the right direction. The JC Transfers, redshirt freshmen and gray shirts impressed, while the returners continued to show improvement from last season. The biggest improvement appeared to be at receiver, where challenging catches were made and several receivers were able to pick up nice gains AFTER the catch. The rebuilding effort in the trenches on BOTH sides of the ball continues, but these young units are showing solid development as they address depth concerns going into next fall.

Steve Wichman
6-3, 220, Junior
QB battle rages on... Hats off to returning starter Mike Harrington on a rock solid spring camp. In the Spring Game Harrington went 6 of 10 for 61 yards and a TD in 4 series of play. He didn't throw a single interception in the game, and in fact he threw just 1 interception all spring against Idaho's #1 defense. His experience as Idaho's starting QB in 17 of Idaho's last 23 games showed, as did the improved explosiveness of the receivers he is working with now. Pushing Harrington throughout spring drills has been Steve Wichman, the touted 4-star JC transfer who joined the team in January. Steve has actually been given more snaps with the #1 offense this spring as he's taking a crash-course in the Vandal offensive scheme. He's made nice progress the last 4 weeks and has shown some amazing skills in his game, but his inexperience has also yielded mistakes that can only be eliminated with continued practice. The battle to earn Idaho's starting QB job for '05 will continue into fall drills, and progress this off-season will be key. Incidentally, probably the biggest "surprise" for many of us at VandalVenue.com is the play of gray-shirt freshman T.J. Conley, who appears to be working as the #3 QB already despite gray shirting last fall. The vast majority of snaps in the Spring Game went to Harrington and Wichman, but T.J. completed 1 of 3 passes for 15 yards in the Spring Game and had been getting plenty of snaps throughout spring drills, while also handling punting duties for the Vandals. He could provide an interesting threat when Idaho sets up to punt on 4th down with just a yard or 2 to go....

On the mend… The Spring Game was without at least 3 projected key contributors on the defensive line for next fall, including interior defensive linemen Siua Musika (6-1, 301, 11 game starter in '04 at Nose Guard) and Alex Toailoa (6-1, 290, redshirt freshman), and sophomore defensive end Ben Alexander (6-1, 230, played in 9 games in '04 as a middle linebacker). Siua and Ben sat out the game with injuries sustained the in last 4 weeks of drills, while Alex continues to recover from an injury sustained in fall drills last year (Alex participated in non-contact drills throughout spring). All 3 are expected back in the fall.

Rocket man…. Undoubtedly one of the deepest units on the team has to be that of the runningbacks. Senior Antwaun Sherman elicited several of the biggest cheers from the crowd on hand, highlighted by a 64 yard explosion on a sweep around the left side of the line as he outraced the defensive backfield to the endzone. Before that Antwaun blew past the kickoff coverage unit for a 70+ yard return and was tackled inside the 20 by kicker Mike Barrow. Sherman finished with 71 yards on 3 carries and 114 yards in 2 kick returns.

Hot and cold… Junior Mike Barrow, Idaho's starting kicker, punter, and field goal kicker last season, is slated to focus his attention solely on field goals and kickoffs in '05 (booting punting duties). In the spring game he was impressive connecting on attempts from 43 and 26 yards, and narrowly missing on an attempt of about 49 yards (hitting the left upright). He also hit 4 PATs. On the downside, he missed a PAT attempt after Sherman's burst, missing wide right.

Timely turnovers…. Four different Vandal defenders grabbed turnovers in the Spring Game, headlined by the interception and 29 yard return for a TD by JC transfer cornerback Jason Martin. Martin worked extensively with the #1 Vandal D and looked sharp in coverage and stopping the run. Also looking sharp with the #1 defense was sophomore cornerback Reggie Jones who started 1 game for Idaho last fall as a true freshman but missed the latter half of the season with an injury. Also grabbing picks were safeties Brandon Mascorro and Tone Taupule (a JC transfer this spring who has looked impressive throughout camp), while redshirt freshman defensive end Taylor Rust scooped up a fumble (and also deflected a pass while seeing plenty of time with the #1 D) .

Making the switch…. Sophomore Marcis Fennell, who started 2 games for Idaho last fall as a true freshman on the offensive line, made the switch this spring to the defensive line and looked sharp in the spring game. Running with the #1 D for much of the night, Marcis finished with a team best 6 tackles on the night, including a quarterback sack in the second half. JC transfer Ryan Davis looked solid, and although he didn't record a tackle he showed some nice explosion off the ball and looked good disrupting things in the middle. The staff rotated this unit liberally, and with the return of Musika and Toailoa in the fall, the DL should be significantly improved going into '05.

Stretching the field…. We had heard that the receiving corps had made strides in stretching the field a bit more this spring, and the unit didn't disappoint in the spring game. Literally, the receivers showed significant improvement in overall speed. The unit was led by JC transfer Matt Askew who recorded 58 yards on 4 receptions, scoring 2 TDs in the game including a 27 yard scoring strike from Wichman. Junior H-Back Keith Greer was impressive on 3 receptions, while JC transfer Daniel Smith hauled in 4 catches for 38 yards. Sophomore Desmond Belton hauled in a 5 yard TD from Wichman while redshirt freshman walkon Lee Smith, a speedster out of Everett (WA), held on to a 15 yard pass from T.J. Conley while taking a shot on the catch. Gray shirt freshman Tracy Ford didn't disappoint either. He came up with a key reception early in the game to keep a drive alive, finished with 30 yards on 2 receptions and 26 yards on 1 kickoff return. The shifty speedster out of Bellevue also showed some grit going for passes over the middle.

#75 Matt O'Donnell and
#65 Kris Anderson
Name that lineman…. Without returning starters Hank Therien or Jarrod Schulte, and with '04 major contributor Marcis Fennell now on the D, Idaho is breaking in quite a bit of new blood on the OL. In the Spring Game redshirt freshmen Adam Korby (OC) and Kris Anderson (RG) ran extensively with the #1s, as did sophomore Matt O'Donnell (RT), a JC transfer with 3 years eligibility who joined the team in January. Returning starters Nate VanderPol, Jade Tadvick, and Desmond Clark give this group solid leadership going into next fall. If senior Jarrod Schulte (Idaho's starting center in '04 who is out this spring with an injury and is hopeful for fall), and junior Hank Therien (a 6-7, 322 pound athlete with exceptional potential) are able to return in the fall, Idaho's depth across the OL should be solid (especially with the class coming in this fall). Without Jarrod or Hank, Idaho's depth will be a concern in '05 as youngsters will play an even more integral role in the trenches for Idaho.

OUTDOOR IMAGES from week 3 of spring drills (by Marlin Smith)
INDOOR IMAGES from Spring Game (by Larry Johnson and Pat Hauge)

Luke Smith-Anderson
6-5, 260, Junior
Tight End

Rory Fawley
5-9, 202, Freshman

Nate VanderPol
6-6, 296, Junior
Offensive Tackle

Peter Bjorvik
6-4, 245, Freshman
Tight End

Siua Musika
6-1, 302, Sophomore
Nose Guard

True sophomore runningback #32 Rolly Lumbala (6-2, 240) takes a handoff from Wichman.

RS-Freshman defensive end #57 Taylor Rust (6-2, 225) and true sophomore #5 Brandon Ogletree (6-3, 225) working drills.

T.J. Conley
6-3, 210, Freshman

Mike Anderson
6-3, 235, Senior
Outside Linebacker

Reggie Jones
5-10, 180, Sophomore

Luke Smith-Anderson
6-5, 260, Junior
Tight End

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