Scrimmage No. 2 Summary

As has been the case for much of the first three weeks of spring drills, the Vandal defense looked sharp Saturday afternoon in the Dome while the offense continues to search for consistency. Senior middle linebacker JARON WILLIAMS led all tacklers with 11 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a sack on a day that saw numerous outstanding individual defensive performances.

BRINGING THE WOOD ... Unlike at any time in the last five years that we've tracked these practices, the Vandal defense is actually pushing the offense this spring. The starting defensive front is rotating as many as eight or nine players up front, and they are stuffing running lanes and putting pressure on the QB regularly. And this isn't exactly a rookie starting offensive line either, with four starters back from last season, including two seniors working the left side of the line, each of which has 3-years of starting experience under their belt, and an 11-game starter at center. Granted, the OL experience level drops dramatically with the second string unit which is manned primarily by redshirt and grayshirt freshmen. But when the starting O plays the starting D, the defense is not getting pushed around as it was in years past.

David Vobora forced a Bird fumble. Tone Taupule picked a Wichman pass. The starting D rang up 7 sacks (two by Ben Alexander, two by Charles Campbell, and one each by Jaron Williams, Josh Shaw, and Taupule). Redshirt freshman DT Marvin Jones grabbed 4 tackles, senior OLB/MLB Robert Davis made 8 tackles and blocked a pass, and the defensive backfield didn't give up a single TD through the air today. As has been stated on numerous occasions, the O is installing a new offense so this all goes with a bit of a grain of salt.

And, to be clear, it'll be several games into the season before we really know how good this unit really is (if the first game isn't an indicator, the next three games will be).

But the Vandal D, for the first time since we've been watching these practices, scrimmages, and camps the last few years, is not giving the offense anything. They're being stingy, they're hitting with some "pop", flying to the ball, and flat-out doing their assignments well.

For those of us that have watched these drills in the past, it's actually a nice change of pace to see the offense really have to work for what they get. The extra effort now will only make the offense better prepared for next season, especially when the team cruises out to East Lansing in a few months for the season opener.

SPECIALIST BY COMMITTEE ... As has been stated earlier, a lot of athletes are getting serious looks this spring. This goes for both runningbacks and wide receivers. On the opening series, the offense broke out of the huddle with Luke Smith-Anderson at tightend, Keith Greer at H-Back (lined up in the backfield on the first play), Jayson Bird at runningback, and Lee Smith and Wendell Octave both split out at wide receiver. In the first couple series with the #1 offense Tracy Ford, Rolly Lumbala, and Gavin Smith rotated in at RB, while Eddie Williams (seeing some action at slot today), DeAngelo Ramsey, and Max Komar (among others) rolled in to catch the ball.

With the second offense, sophomore Rick Harrison and redshirt freshman Peter Bjorvik split TE duties, Greer and Williams split H-Back duties, and Tracy McCormick, Flip Kleffner, and much of the rest of the WR rotation saw PT with Chris Joseph primarily running the second unit.

Obviously the staff is looking for players to step up and claim ownership at all of the specialist positions. We've seen senior wide receiver Wendell Octave most consistently with the starting offense (Octave had an acrobatic juggling reception in which he tipped the ball, fell, and caught it while on his back for a 12-yard 1st down). Luke Smith-Anderson is the #1 TE, and Keith Greer is topping out the H-Back chart (with serious PT at TE also). But beyond that, most of the positions appear to be fairly fluid going into the final week of Camp.

EVALUATING THE PUNTERS... Three punters tested their skills Saturday, with a couple stellar performances recorded. Senior First-Team All-WAC kicker Mike Barrow, who has done double-duty as Idaho's kicker and punter for 2-years, had two punts Saturday with an impressive average of 59.5 yards per boot. His first, a 55-yarder, went unreturned. His second, from his own endzone, sailed 60-yards in the air before being blown dead after netting 66-yards.

Sophomore T.J. Conley, Idaho's starting punter the first six games last year before an injury ended his season, had two punt attempts. The first, a 60 yarder (including kick and roll), appeared to get a little more elevation than Barrow's. His second attempt was blocked by a hard-charging David Vobora.

Sophomore Matt Gregg, a walkon transfer from Brown University, got a taste of the action in the scrimmage as well. Unfortunately something went wrong with the play (we're uncertain if it was a bad snap, mishandled ball, rushed punt, or just a missed effort), but from his own 35, Gregg got off a low line-drive taken by Reggie Jones at his 31-yard line. Jones exploded for a 69-yard touchdown return before the punt unit had a chance to set up.

In general, the punting has looked good this spring and the performance Saturday, save for one mistake, was good.

On a side-note, Gregg did launch the opening kickoff of the scrimmage, and Barrow connected on one of two field goal attempts, converting a 42-yard attempt and missing a 41-yarder.

THE FINAL WORD ... As stated in the last report, the offense is running a myriad of sets this spring. Empty backfield, I-formation with 2 tightends, Pro-look, trips, shotgun with empty backfield...everything. When the offense settles into a groove, this will be one creative offense to watch. If the offense makes the same progress in the next week that it made last week, the spring game should be an even more interesting matchup next Friday.

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