The following is a conversation with Coach Cable. This conversation occurred the Thursday before the annual Silver and Gold game. Having not been able to make it to any other spring scrimmages I thought it would be interesting to get Coach Cable's thoughts on the team and spring practice and then see for myself at the Silver and Gold Game.
After the Silver and Gold game I knew coach was right on in what he told me. On defense I saw a much-improved team. The fundamentals, which at time appeared to be lacking last season, appeared to be much better. Lanes were filled, sideline-to-sideline speed was much better, and the DB's turned to look for thrown balls, and there were very few broken tackles.
In watching the defense it was apparent that the group to watch next year will be the linebackers. The linebackers all played with an intensity and speed that I had not witnessed before. Jordan Kramer was the man at the Silver and Gold game. Jordan recorded 10 tackles 5 of which were solo tackles. Two of these tackles were for losses. James Staley recorded 8 tackles and Patrick Libey 6. Included in Libey's 6 tackles were some ferocious hits.
The defensive ends looked great as well lead by Mike Bonelli with 4 tackles (2 solo) and 1 sack. Brandon Kania and Jeff Edwards each recorded a sack.
Next fall it will be interesting to see how the complexion of this defense changes with the addition of 4 defensive tackles and 4 defensive backs. The sooner these new players get accustomed to the new environment, the better.
The offense should be more explosive than last year. According to Coach Cable returning Quarterback Brian Lindgren is playing at a different level than he was last year. The addition of the 2 JC tailbacks will add depth to the position. All of the running backs looked great. Malfred Shaw hits a hole in the line at break neck speed and always appeared to be looking for open field when in the secondary. Even though Redshirt Freshman Paul Ziegler had only 31 yards on 7 carries what really stood out to me was Paul's ability to block. When he threw a block the defender was out of the play, period.
Next season I expect the offense to be more powerful than last year with a better-rounded set of skills and players. It was also evident that the defense will be much improved. Look for the addition of the 4 JC defensive linemen along with Brian Howard and Mike Bonelli to make an immediate impact on the overall performance of the defense.
VandalVenue.com: How is Spring Practice coming along?
Coach Cable: What I'm pleased about is we've gotten better every day. There are parts of this team that are dramatically better than last year. The hardest thing for me right now is evaluating the defense because I know we're better you can see it by how we line up and where we are with our eyes and angles and all of those fundamental things we were very poor at last year, we've addressed that but to evaluate the defense is hard because we have 8 guys that are not even here yet. I don't know if you can fairly evaluate them, I like what is happening but I also know what's coming and if it works out, you will all be pleased. We're progressing and that's a positive. The best example I can give you is a booster called up, and this is typical sometimes, they don't leave their name and just they just start yelling and dropping bombs on voice mail about the defense giving up 700 yards in a scrimmage. You're right. There was 38 points scored. You're right, but we also went 142 snaps, that's 2 games worth. Split that up; let's just do the math. They don't want to hear that, and yet if you practice long enough you can get 500, 600, or 700 yards against a defense. And I do scrimmage more than most people but we need to. I'm very pleased and I think Gary Coston [Special Teams] is going to help a ton. Keith Stamps [Kicker] in live practice has made every one but one. Ryan Downes [Punter] is a weapon and a half. Pope [Kicker] is kicking the ball to the back of the end zone. He hasn't quite gotten it out of the end zone but he's close. I like the schemes and we need to find a return guy. We have one but we need another one. Defensively, like I said it's easy to evaluate the Howard's and the Kania's, Kody Kraus and Mike Bonelli. Those guys are really good players. Our backers are really good players. Ed Rankin can do some things but you don't know if he's good enough because we've got 4 players coming in. They're either going to prove he's good enough or he's not going to play. Same thing when we talk about Mike Jones and those other inside guys. I don't know if they're good enough right now. There's 3 300 pound plus kids coming in here that we think can get the job done.
VandalVenue.com: How big of an impact do you think the 4 corners and 4 defensive linemen will make?
Coach Cable: How big of an impact? Huge, but when will that happen? You wish in a perfect world it will be August 31st against Boise but the reality is it usually takes them 2 or 3 games. Hopefully we can get them in and settled as soon as possible. It's tough. Thank God the 2 tailbacks and Kody Kraus are here now and going through that transition. You'll see tomorrow night [SG Game] Shung Peoples can play and Malfred Shaw can play, but Malfred might be special. If they weren't here though, they wouldn't know the offense. This will be their fifth game [scrimmage] and they have learned most of the offense but not all of it.
VandalVenue.com: Has there been any update on Dennis Taeatafa's petition for another year?
Coach Cable: He has to complete the academic year before you can submit the petition.
VandalVenue.com: Are we full on scholarships right now?
Coach Cable: Yes. We should be at or right at 85.
VandalVenue.com: What would you say are our deepest and thinnest positions right now as far as depth?
Coach Cable: The deepest would be offensive line or tailback. Thinnest would be tight end or defensive tackle. In a couple of months from now we won't be saying that. We have 3 tight ends and we moved Brendan Floyd over there but he needs time.
VandalVenue.com: During the scrimmages before the SG Game do you play best on best or is it a mixture of depth?
Coach Cable: We always go best on best.
VandalVenue.com: What about us being back in the dome this year?
Coach Cable: Big. I know for the players coming in here [dome] for pre-game and eating and being able to relax not worrying about catching a bus or going someplace that is new. It's like being on the road all of time and I understand the reasons for it, but I think it is a real bonus for us to come back to the dome. From a players standpoint it's huge. You are just so much more comfortable. You come out of your locker room, you come out onto your field. It's home and you know there's a lot to that. The thing that will be important is there has been a lot of voices, both pro and con, playing over there [Martin Stadium] and playing in the dome. This will give people a chance to put their money where there mouth is. If you're a Vandal fan and a Vandal supporter then you'll have your butt in the dome. I've played in that dome and I've coached in that dome. Two years ago against NMSU there were over 15 thousand people in that stadium. It's a huge advantage and some are waiting to see if we will be worth a damn to come to watch in the first place, I know that, but you also need that support. I just think it's a huge advantage. We're excited.
VandalVenue.com: Has there been a group that has stood out in your mind as just looking awesome this year?
Coach Cable: Yea, there have been a few of them. The offensive line has been pretty good. The linebackers are special. The Quarterback's have been pretty good. I would say those 3 have been the ones to jump out at me most. But at the same time Kody Kraus, and nobody knows about him yet, he's really good and I'm really glad he's on our team. He is a great recruit for Idaho. He gives the presence of Brandon Kania on both sides or they can come in and work together. That's a lot of pressure off of the edge. The linebackers have been very impressive. I would say those groups are the groups I've been most impressed with in spring ball.
VandalVenue.com: Do you plan on rotating the quarterbacks during the game like you did last year?
Coach Cable: Yes, so long as, and they are on track right now, whoever the backup is can come in and help us win. If I'm not convinced of that, I won't do it. I know one thing; it paid huge dividends last year. Last year some people said "you're crazy" or "it was a bad coaching move" but look what happened and look where we're at. You [Vandal88] haven't seen any spring practices yet have you?
Coach Cable: Well, Brian Lindgren is playing at a different level than he was last year.
VandalVenue.com: He [Brian Lindgren] was playing at a pretty good level last year.
Coach Cable: Yea, but you'll see. He's doing all right. Hasn't turned it over one time. Last week I think he was 16 of 19, the week before he was 21 of 23.
VandalVenue.com: That speaks well for both Brian and the offensive line doesn't it?
Coach Cable: Quarterback's have done well as well as the line. The line should do well. Moving Josh Jelinek in there has been a positive for us.
VandalVenue.com: Last year I heard about players staying the summer and working out. Are some players doing that this year?
Coach Cable: You know they should. From a public standpoint that's how you know the commitment of your team. Anyone who goes away for the summer and says "its summer let's have fun", then football is probably not all that important to them. Staying for the summer shows commitment, both from a coaching standpoint as well a public standpoint. One of the issues there is its summer school. That's an added cost in the budget but somehow we'll make it work.
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