|2000 fans were on hand to watch the 2002 Silver & Gold Game.|
As an Idaho alum and Vandal sports fan, I was privileged enough to get an opportunity to watch this game from the Kibbie Dome floor. From that proximity I had a chance to get a first hand look at the competitive intensity of the players in this game, and witnessed the camaraderie of a tightly knit, young team having fun.
It was the kind of fun that comes at the end of 4 weeks of hard work, where virtually every position on the team was involved in a serious battle for the starting role. Offensively, the makeup of the team is starting to take form. The offense "looked" like a group returning 7 starters and plenty of young talent in the depth chart. Defensively, although a new staff was assembled just 4 short months ago, the team looked...prepared. Routine tackles weren't missed, basic blitzes were effective, and several pass breakups (and an interception) were recorded by the DBs. Its doubtful anyone left the Kibbie Dome calling this defense the second coming of the "Steel Curtain", but noticeable steps were made in the right direction for a defense which last year started 2 true freshmen, 1 true sophomore, 2 JC transfers, and 2 safeties who were converted to linebacker.
Below is a brief summary of the Spring Game from an outsider's perspective, with tidbits from discussions with a number of fans after the game. NOTE: The heights and weights listed are a year old.
After suffering through a brutal 2001 season, Idaho had a number of defensive issues which needed to be addressed. A new defensive coaching staff was assembled, and with it a new defensive scheme had to be taught. Having been to the scrimmage 2 weeks ago, the improvement between then and now was evident. Questions still remain to be answered at several key positions with respect to who will be starting and how the depth chart will be filled. But this group here now has grown. If their hard work and dedication carries over into the fall, then Idaho should be in better shape defensively for the 2002 season.
|Mike Bonelli, 6-2, 225, RS-Fr|
As we've stated throughout the spring, this is a young group (especially the depth chart for both ends) with good size and athleticism. Under the guidance of first year Defensive Line coach George Booker the line is quickly implementing new schemes and assignments. The freshmen played well, particularly in run support. Newcomer Kraus is quickly making a name for himself, and Brandon continues to build on a strong freshman season. Redshirt freshman Tyler Scott (6-4, 250+) will be given looks at both the tackle and end positions, and has had a solid spring.
On Saturday, it was not a "dominant" performance by the defensive line, but the overall improvement from a year ago was evident.
|Kody Kraus, 6-3, 228, Jr
||Mike Jones, 6-3, 276, Sr|
|James Staley, 6-2, 218, Sr|
In short, probably the most intriguing aspect of the stats on the night had to do with the fact that the tackle leaders for both the Silver and Gold teams were either linebackers or linemen, not defensive backs. A significant change from a year ago, and another sign that things might be headed in the right direction for the Idaho defense.
One move made this spring that will certainly be worthy of our attention going into next fall will be following where sophomore Nick Williams is utilized on the 2002 defense. Last year as a true freshman Nick earned a starting role at the mid-way point at free safety and performed well. On Saturday he recorded 4 tackles at linebacker, including 3 solo tackles. We don't know if this was just an experimental move or a permanent change, but he's looked solid at both positions.
|7 Jordan Kramer, 6-2, 220, Sr
46 Jordan Lampos, 5-10, 239, Jr
|Nick Williams, 6-0, 192, So|
|Ed Rankin, 6-1, 202, Sr|
The safeties also looked good on the night. Redshirt freshman Nate Nichols led the safeties with 4 tackles, while senior Sergio Robleto had 2 tackles. Sophomore Simeon Stewart recorded a pass deflection and one solo tackle.
Obviously, giving up 4 long touchdown passes on the night says that there is still work to be done. And yes, the JC DBs coming in this fall will probably make an impact (either in the depth chart or in starting roles). But the change in defensive philosophy is evident. The DBs are learning when to look for the pass, the defensive backfield seems to be better positioned to defend the pass, and they are providing better run support. Its certainly not finished, but it appears to be headed in the right direction.
|Antoine Geraghty, 6-1, 192, RS-Fr
||Simeon Stewart, 5-8, 178, So|
When spring ball started, the biggest question at certain key positions was "who's going to step up?". As of this moment, the starting quarterback has been named, while the make-up of the starting offensive line is coming together. There have been strong performances at wide receiver, but the starting battle is still underway. The backfield has probably been the biggest "surprise" so far, which bodes well for the Idaho offense going into the 2002 season.
Brian Lindgren, 6-4, 209, Jr
The battle for the backup role (one that is likely to get plenty of playing time next year) is still on, however, between sophomore Adam Mallette and redshirt freshman Michael Harrington, the younger brother of Oregon's Joey Harrington who was selected 3rd in this year's NFL draft. Both played well Saturday. Adam hit on 14 of 25 passes for 212 yards and a 28 yard touchdown. Michael connected on 7 of 14 passes for 154 yards and 3 touchdowns (43, 37, and 34 yards). Neither were intercepted, and both played with the confidence they've displayed all spring.
One thing is for certain, this will be an interesting battle to follow this fall.
Jeff Stowe, 6-0, 186, RS-Fr
Less glamorous but effective was the effort put in by senior Josh Jelmberg, recording 7 receptions (almost twice as many catches as any other receiver) for 82 yards and a TD. Seniors Christopher Belser and Eric Hunter have had solid spring performances, and were effective on Saturday night as well.
The depth at this position is as good as anticipated, but it won't be until fall before the top positions are defined. As stated by Coach Cable after the game, possibly the biggest improvement this spring involved the receivers making plays AFTER making the reception.
Orlando Winston, 6-0, 185, Jr
Christopher Belser, 5-11, 169, Sr
|Malfred Shaw, 5-10, 207, Jr|
Junior Malfred Shaw continues to be the workhorse he was advertised to be, while junior Zach Gerstner is looking as strong as ever. On the night Malfred gained 130 yards on 16 carries, including busting a 48 yarder near the end of the game. Zach went 80 yards on 8 carries and scored a touchdown from 3 yards out. Redshirt freshman Paul Ziegler was the number 3 leading rusher on the night with 31 yards on 7 carries, while junior speedster Shung Peoples put up 20 yards on 6 carries.
Having both Malfred and Shung in Moscow this spring has helped the running back depth immensely going into next season. Combined with Zach's maturity and the development of the freshmen, this could be a strong position for Idaho next year, especially if Blair makes a full recovery as anticipated.
One final note, the fullbacks looked good Saturday. This critical position gets very little press, but is largely responsible for paving the way for the running lanes. Senior Kevin O'Connell continues to impress with his ability to clear a path for the backs. Junior Nate Griffin (5-11, 247) showed his versatility with a pass reception for 7 yards and also had 1 carry on the night. With the return of sophomore Willie Sipoloa (6-2, 261), the fullbacks should have good depth going into 2002.
|Shung Peoples, 5-10, 182, Jr
||Paul Ziegler, 6-0, 170, RS-Fr|
|85 Michael McCoy, 6-3, 245, So|
77 Joshua Jelinek, 6-4, 313, Sr
Converted defensive lineman, senior Joshua Jelinek, has been working with the first unit most of the spring and looks at home back on the offensive line (he was originally recruited as an offensive lineman before helping the defensive line the past 2 years). Seniors Seann Mumford and Ray DeAnda, both of whom traded starting jobs at strong tackle last year, have played well. Junior Kyle Stewart, sophomore Tony Kiel, and redshirt freshmen Jake Leachman and Drew Burton have also looked good this spring. Junior Kevin Reese, a transfer from the University of Montana, has also looked good as a backup center. This group, overall, is good, and we anticipate some significant battles in the depth chart all next fall.
At tightend, Idaho has the luxury of returning both tightends from last season. On Saturday, true sophomore Luke Smith-Anderson hauled in an impressive 33 yard pass. Redshirt sophomore Michael McCoy continues to impress with his size and strength off the line, especially as a blocker. Redshirt freshman Kevin Neill and sophomore Brendan Floyd round out the tight end depth chart and should provide good height (both stand 6-6) at this physical position.
|Jake Scott, 6-5, 290, Jr
||Drew Burton (52), Robert Mitchell (72)|
Jake Leachman (75), Brendan Floyd (87)
|Ryan Downes, 6-5, 213, Jr|
An intereting battle is forming within the kicking ranks this season. Senior Keith Stamps was perfect on PATs (2-2) and hit a 28 yard field goal. Redshirt freshman Sam Parry was also perfect on PATs (2-2), and popped an impressive 47 yard field goal attempt. Junior Brian Pope went 1-1 on PATs, narrowly missed a 54 yard field goal, but booted a kick-off through the endzone. All 3 kickers are playing well, which is a testament to first year Special Teams Coordinator Gary Coston. Who will handle the various kicking duties (the player kicking field goals may not be the same one kicking off) still appears to be attainable for all 3 players, and a welcome sight for Vandal fans.
|Keith Stamps, 5-10, 215, Sr
||Brian Pope, 6-2, 209, Jr|