Fall Camp In Full Swing

Under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-80s, the Vandal football team has officially launched their 2006 WAC campaign. Battles are well underway on both sides of the football for starting roles as Idaho prepares for its season opener at Michigan State. One place where the battles will be key will be on the offensive line, and that is our focus in this article.

This afternoon the Vandals conducted their first practice in full pads for the 2006 season. Most of the team (approximately 70 athletes) spent their summer in Moscow training for the rugged schedule ahead, and the team reported in outstanding physical condition.

Given this, combined with an influx of high school and JC talent, position battles are stepping into high-gear. Even more important is the fact that many of these battles are happening between 2nd and 3rd teamers, not just players battling for starting roles. The depth chart at most positions is extremely fluid right now as the team's youth makes a run at playing time this fall.

Senior Nate VanderPol (68) and sophomore Adam Korby (72) are returning starters from last season.
Nowhere on the team is this more evident then on the offensive line. Even with the loss of giant Hank Therien (6-7, 322, Sr) and powerful Desmond Clark (6-3, 300, Jr), the unit as a whole is deeper across the board than they were a year ago. For this first time since 2003, it is highly unlikely that the Vandals will need to burn anyone's redshirt this fall. Center Adam Korby (6-3, 290) was named to the Rimington Trophy wach list this spring, and senior left guard Jade Tadvick (6-5, 315) was named to at least one preseason All-WAC team. Tadvick and fellow senior Nate VanderPol (6-6, 306) have been starters for 3 years, while right tackle Kris Anderson (6-3, 299) started 9 games last season as a redshirt freshman.

Adam Juratovac is in a heated battle for starting right guard.

The battle for the starting right guard position has been intense between junior Marcis Fennell (6-2, 305), redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac (6-4, 290) - last year's OFFENSIVE Scout Team Player of the Year - and converted defensive lineman Tyrel Fenwick (6-7, 265), a walkon who last fall earned Idaho's DEFENSIVE Scout Team Player of the Year. All three are getting good looks with the first team and we expect this to be an ongoing battle all fall.

Mike Iupati instantly bulks up the Vandal OL depth chart. He could play guard or tackle, and is currently working at LG.

Newcomer Mike Iupati (6-6, 330), a sophomore, has been working as the #2 left guard behind Tadvick and has been impressive in one-on-one drills already. He has impressive agility and foot speed for such an enormous athlete, and will be one to watch closely in the weeks and years ahead.

Sophomore Billy Bates (6-5, 275) was one of the true freshmen last year who was forced to burn his redshirt to cover for injuries that plagued the Vandals all season long...particularly in the trenches. He filled in for VanderPol when Nate was injured against UW and went on to start two games before an injury against Fresno State ended his season. By our account he has been working most frequently as the #2 right tackle behind Anderson, and he is expected to be a serious contender for playing time this fall.

Grayshirt freshman Kellen Beam is among a crop of newcomers who give Idaho much needed depth for the future.
This unit is no longer hurting for height either, as several freshmen begin making a name for themselves. Grayshirt Kellen Beam (6-7, 255), a converted tightend out of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep, has been working as the team's #2 left tackle. Also working at LT we've seen invited walkon Spencer Towne (6-6, 260) out of Kennewick (WA) getting some solid reps as well. They are young, but with a solid year under the watchful eye of offensive line coach Greg Smith and a season in the Iverson Strength and Speed Center, both will likely shed their youth quickly.

At right tackle monstrous redshirt Bryce Sinclair (6-5, 345) and true freshman recruit Tristan Turner (6-4, 280) have been getting their reps with the 2s and 3s.

Korby appears to have a strangle-hold on the starting job at center, but redshirt freshmen Irvin Stevens (6-3, 267) and Brandon Schulte (6-3, 290), a RS-Fr walkon out of Pomeroy (WA) are getting their reps with the #2 offense.

One more grayshirt freshman to keep an eye open for is Kurt Newboles. At 6-7, 298 pounds, the big kid out of Chehalis (WA) will likely begin making some noise soon. He's been at practice but appears to be slowed with an injury (unconfirmed). When he's healthy, he will add one more body to what has suddenly become a solid, albeit young offensive line depth chart.

And given the freakish array of injuries that barraged the Vandal OL last season, depth in this unit will be a good thing. By our account, Idaho is working 3 full offensive line platoons. That is an amazing transformation in the last 2 years for a team that in 2004 went into the season opener with 2 true freshmen starting on the offensive line....virtually unheard of at any level of college football.

Stepping back for a moment, this group, beyond the starters, is still young. But the benefits of recruiting to the Western Athletic Conference are starting to pay off, and after two diligent years of Idaho's recruiting focus being on rebuilding the Vandal OL, the effort is beginning to finally pay off.

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