Spring camp ended Friday night and soon the team will begin summer conditioning drills in preparation for the 2006 football season. The scrimmage went much as the entire spring has gone, with the defense dominating and the offense struggling to find a rhythm through the air.
The Dennis Erickson
era officially began in February, and the magnitude of change happening within the program is becoming more evident weekly. Case in point, Saturday's Spring Game drew anywhere from 5000 - 6200 fans (depending on who's estimates you read), easily surpassing spring game attendance estimates of the recent past (Silver and Gold Games were generally well-attended during the Holt era, but Friday's attendance was 2-4 times what this game typically draws). The media encircling Erickson after the game paints a good picture of the attention that this single coaching hire has attracted to the campus of the University of Idaho. The field after this game is generally open to the public, but Friday's post-game assembly of media and fans on the carpet was impressive.
SICK BAY ...
Spring Games don't typically draw this kind of media attention, but under Erickson that has already begun to change.
All told, at least 10 Vandals did not suit up for the Spring Game due to various injuries, including four starters from last season in Josh Bousman, Siua Musika, Jevon Butler and Reggie Jones. Defensively the following athletes did not suit up for the final scrimmage of spring: NG Siua Musika
, LB Jevon Butler
, CB Reggie Jones
, LB Adam Shamion
, and DB Jarvis Huff
. Offensively, four linemen (Kurt Newboles
, Billy Bates
, Nick Heywood
and Geoff Zuber
) and TE Andrew Stobart
did not suit up for the game. No new injuries were reported.
SEARCH CONTINUES FOR GO-TO WIDE RECEIVERS ...
Redshirt freshman walkon wide receiver Max Komar worked slot with the #1 offense.
Although various wideouts throughout spring camp have had hot-streaks during the last 4-weeks, nobody has distanced themselves as a go-to receiver or the clear leader at any of the receiver positions this spring. Among the group working with the No.1 offense Friday night, redshirt freshman invited walkon Max Komar
(playing primarily slot receiver in Friday's scrimmage) led all receivers with two catches for 28 yards. Sophomore Lee Smith
(working at split end) grabbed one ball for 12 yards. None of the starters (including seniors Wendell Octave
) scored a TD. Granted, this was against the #1 Vandal D (which recorded 5 sacks on the evening and an interception) and QB Steve Wichman
completed just 4 of 20 attempts. But there is obviously some work this group needs to accomplish this off-season to be ready for next fall. As they work out the kinks of the new offense this summer, the unit couldn't ask for a better coaching staff to work with as they prepare for fall camp.
BANGING IT UP THE MIDDLE...
According to at least one of our "scouts", both Jayson Bird
ran as strong and as hard as they've run all spring, gaining 96 hard fought yards on 20 carries and scoring 3 TDs between the two of them. Redshirt freshman Devon Sturdivant
, battling back from injuries, added 31 yards on four carries. All three showed nice explosion past the line of scrimmage and some power on dives up the middle. This group (including sophomores Gavin Smith and Tracy Ford) knows stiff competition will be joining the backfield this fall, and the group overall had a productive spring.
For all of the wide receiver's struggles hanging onto the ball Friday, the tightends definitely showed some ball-handling skills. Collectively, the groug gained almost 110 yards on 6 receptions, led by sophomore Rick Harrison
's 49 yards on two receptions. Senior Luke Smith-Anderson
and sophomore Eddie Williams
each hauled in one pass for the No. 1 offense, while Harrison and redshirt freshman Peter Bjorvik ran with the #2s and each caught two passes. Erickson's offense utilizes TEs extensively, and the early results this spring were impressive from a group that is demonstrating solid depth.
JURATOVAC AND FENNELL BATTLER FOR STARTING NOD ...
Redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac split starting duties at right guard.
The battle between redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac
(6-3, 297) and junior Marcis Fennell
(6-2, 304) for the starting right guard slot raged all spring, and both split starting duties with the #1 offense Friday night. Both have played well this spring (Fennell brings two years of extensive playing experience at center and guard, while Juratovac earned Scout Team Player of the Year honors last year during his redshirt season), so knowing that Idaho has some depth within its guard rotation is a relief, especially given the rugged early season schedule that will take Idaho to play at Michigan State of the Big Ten to start the 2006 season.
Getting reps with the #2 offense, grayshirt freshman Kellen Beam
, a converted TE out of Spokane, worked left tackle in Bates' absense and played well. Redshirt freshman Bryce Sinclair
, a mountain of a human being, manned the #2 right tackle position. Sophomore Brandon Schulte worked left guard and redshirt freshman Irvin Stevens
worked at center.
SETTLING IN ...
True freshman quarterback Nathan Enderle takes aim.
Friday was the first opportunity for a large number of Vandal fans to see one of the QBs battling to take over the reins as Idaho's signal caller of the future; true freshman Nathan Enderle
. For those that don't know, Nathan graduated from high school (Nebraska) in December and enrolled at Idaho in January. He ran with the #1 offense, getting some reps in the fourth quarter against Idaho's starting defensive unit. Showing some poise for a youngster (and presence at 6-5, 220-pounds), he completed 2 of 4 passes for 24 yards. Obviously the focus of this game was to give Wichman as much starting time in Erickson's new offense as possible, so Enderle's opportunity was limited. But with Enderle, Chris Joseph, T.J. Conley, and soon to arrive Jon Tobin, Idaho's starting battle in 2007 will be interesting.
DEPTH ON THE DEFENSIVE FRONT...
Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Marvin Jones
Despite having starter Musika sidelined with an injury, the Vandals displayed a deep DL Friday night. Outside Charles Campbell
and Ben Alexander
ran with the #1 D, while Taylor Rust and George Fa'avae ran with the #2s. Inside, Idaho continues to experiment with DE Josh Shaw
playing inside at DT next to returning starting NG Ryan Davis
. It's becoming apparent that Shaw (6-2, 255) will see some serious time there this fall, giving Idaho a lot of speed up front. When Shaw kicks out to end, Idaho can line up any combination of Davis, Musika, Alex Toailoa and Marvin Jones
to plug up the middle. Clearly this is as deep as Idaho has been in the trenches in years, and something that should bode well for this fall. Add JC transfer Jon Dominguez and invited walkon redshirt freshman Tyrel Fenwick
(6-7, 261) to the mix, and a formidable defensive front is beginning to take shape.
CORNERS CONTINUE TO PLAY WELL...
Senior Jason Martin started at right corner Friday night.
It's difficult to tell how much of the corner's performance influenced the offense's struggles Friday night (we'll find out a little more just how good our corners are early next fall), but the unit overall looked good...just as they have all spring. Starting left corner Stanley Franks
and starting right corner Jason Martin
worked the entire game and yielded virtually nothing (40 yards and three receptions, no TDs). Collectively they routinely get good position on the receiver, come up in run support well, and have a nice break on the ball. When this group regains junior Reggie Jones, the rotation should be solid next fall. Props to invited walkon redshirt freshman Zachery-James Santos
picking off both T.J. Conley
and Chris Joseph
during the second half of the scrimmage. He has looked good throughout spring camp (two weeks ago one of our scouts wrote "this kid will surprise this fall"), and is reportedly Idaho's #4 CB.
LINEBACKERS SHOWING THEIR DEPTH...
Every year it seems the linebacking corps is described as the "heart" of the Vandal defense, and this year may not be any different. With junior Josh Bousman
sidelined by an injury, the starting linebacker unit consisted of David Vobora
(WILL), Jaron Williams (MIKE), and Brandon Ogletree
(SAM). The group played aggressively all night, delivering some of the biggest hits of the contest. Substituting generously into the rotation was Jason Brown
at WILL, and the ongoing battle at MIKE for starting duties between Williams and fellow senior Robert Davis
(Williams played the entire first half with the No. 1s, Davis played the second half). Which one tops the chart for the season opener may not be decided until fall, especially when injured grayshirt freshman Adam Shamion and incoming recruit Paul Senescall are expected to join in the battle.