Spring football practice underway

Redshirt junior left tackle MATT CLEVELAND (6-4, 300) is the lone starter returning from Idaho's monstrous 2009 offensive line, and he will be looked up to as a team leader as the Vandals begin spring camp this week in preparation for the 2010 season. Inside is a schedule for spring practices and a camp preview from UI Vandal Athletics Media Relations.

Spring Football Practice Schedule
Thur, 25 - 3 p.m.
Fri, 26 - 3 p.m.
Sat, 27 - 10 a.m.
Tue, 30 - 3 p.m.

Thur, 1 - 3 p.m.
Sat, 3 - 10 a.m.
Tue, 6 - 3 p.m.
Thur, 8 - 3 p.m.
Sat, 10 - 10 a.m.
Tue, 13 - 3 p.m.
Thur, 15 - 3 p.m.
Sat, 17 - 10 a.m.
Tue, 20 - 3 p.m.
Thur, 22 - 3 p.m.
Fri, 23 - 6 p.m. SILVER & GOLD SPRING GAME
Sat, 24 - Robb Akey Golf Tournament

The following are two official press releases from the University of Idaho Vandal Athletics Media Relations.

LINK: University of Idaho Official Athletics Site

courtesy Becky Paull
UI Vandal Media Relations

Day one of spring football 2010 is in the books and Idaho coach Robb Akey and the Vandals were excited to be back on the turf.

"We woke up one day and now we're back out on the field," senior safety Shiloh Keo said. "It just feels good to be back out on the field."

Thursday's first session was without pads but that didn't stop the Vandals from having a high intensity, high energy workout as they strive to build on their 2009 Humanitarian Bowl victory and 8-5 season.

"I think our guys did a nice job during the wintertime in the weight room and on the conditioning circuit," Akey said. "Now we get to work on the football end of things. There was a lot of good teaching that took place out here today. It was a little bit rusty in being the first practice."

Having advanced to a bowl game for the first time since 1998, Akey said the benefits of the extra work during the bowl prep were in evidence Thursday.

"There was some good carry over from some of the things we're trying to do," he said. "We got a lot of good work done. I don't have to challenge guys to get themselves going. That was all very good. I do want to see it cleaner tomorrow."

Job No. 1 is rebuilding the offensive line depleted by the graduation of four seniors. The lone returner is junior Matt Cleveland at left tackle. Other than the line, however, the offensive unit is a veteran one.

"We've got some play-makers coming back," Akey said. "We still have to have a wall up front. To throw the ball, we have to protect the quarterback. If we're going to run it, we have to be able to block for those runners."

The defense returns a host of players but there are some young returners and some newcomers Akey wants to see push those who already have had time on the field.

"There is more competition," he said. "That's a good thing. Competition always leads to better performance on the field."

Friday's practice begins at 3:45 with Saturday's at 10 a.m. For the remainder of spring ball, Tuesday and Thursday practices are at 3 p.m. with Saturday scrimmages at 10 a.m. The Silver and Gold Game is April 23 at 6 p.m.

Spring Football Practice Begins
courtesy Becky Paull
UI Vandal Media Relations

Matt Cleveland has a big role to fill when spring practice begins Thursday for the University of Idaho football team. His charge: Provide the leadership within the line – the Vandal unit where he is the lone returning starter for an offense that was ranked in the top 20 nationally in seven categories. Of the four graduating seniors, one – Mike Iupati, is NFL bound and left Idaho as the most decorated player in school history. "The first guy I'm pushing to step up is Matt Cleveland," said coach Robb Akey of the Vandals' returning left tackle. "He's the sole returning (offensive line) starter. It's important for that group of guys and our football team for Matt to be ready to take on some of (the leadership role). He's ready."

Cleveland's first test is this afternoon when the Vandals take the field at 3 p.m. for the first of 15 NCAA allowed practices. Other practices are Friday, Saturday and next Tuesday as well as April 1, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20 and 22 with the Silver and Gold Game April 23. Weekday practices are at 3 p.m. with Saturdays at 10 a.m. The Silver and Gold game is at 6 p.m.

The offensive line isn't, obviously, the only area of focus. "Certainly, we're still continuing to stress, and we're going to continue to stress, the competition level on the field," Akey said. "We're going to have competition at positions. We're going to have guys competing to win – whether it's an individual drill, a team drill, a third-down drill or whatever it is. We want them to go out there with the expectation of winning and making themselves better football players." The Vandals are coming off their most successful season in a decade. The preparation leading to their thrilling victory in the Humanitarian Bowl over Bowling Green is what set the stage for this spring's practices. "We had the benefit of some extra individual work and technique work while were in our bowl preparation," Akey said. "We have the ability to build off of some experience at some positions. That's what I want every player to be paying attention to and I want every football coach on the field paying attention to – helping each player at his position become better fundamentally."

While the offensive line was gutted by graduation, virtually every other position on the field has a strong contingent of returners.

Offensive line: Cleveland is the only returning starter although Tevita Halaholo and Tyrone Novikoff have game experience. As for filling the other positions, Akey said he's looking to a mixed group of newcomers and veterans to see who will fill the roles. Among them are Guy Reynolds and Clell Hasenbank, who were on last year's depth chart, as well as newcomers Sam Tupua, a junior college transfer; Kyle Salm, a grayshirt, and Mike Marboe, a high school graduate who joined the Vandals this spring. Also in the mix are returners Bilal Liggins and Ron Mallory – both sophomores.

Quarterback: Senior Nate Enderle returns after being ranked in the top 10 nationally in five categories – an accomplishment that includes the nation's fifth best pass efficiency rating. Knowing competition improves all, Akey said junior Brian Reader and redshirt freshman Taylor Davis will be taking plenty of snaps.

Running back: ‘The Diesel' – DeMaundray Woolridge - is gone but the backfield isn't empty with the return of senior Deonte` Jackson and junior Princeton McCarty – both of whom have shown tremendous ability. With the exceptional depth at running back last year, the Vandals were able to redshirt Troy Vital, who played as a true freshman and figures to be in the mix as a sophomore this year. Also vying for time will be Corey White and Kama Bailey –both juniors.

Receivers: Leading receiver Max Komar graduates this spring but, like running back, the cupboard isn't empty with the return of seniors Eric Greenwood and Maurice Shaw, and junior Preston Davis. All three demonstrated big-play ability last season. Akey said the challenge to them is to see if they can make themselves the go-to player. There should be depth provided by some youngsters who saw bits of playing time last season. Included in that group are junior Marsel Posey and sophomores Robert Hatchett and Justin Veltung.

Tight end/H-back: Another position with experience back and experience leaving. Peter Bjorvik and Kevin Small graduated but Daniel Hardy, Idaho's second-leading receiver, returns. His challenges should come from a large but young group, which consists of redshirt freshmen Taylor Elmo, Clayton Homme, Michael LaGrone and Daniel Micheletti, along with sophomore Patrick Mealey, who saw spot play last year.

Defensively, one starter graduated – safety Jeromy Jones. That leaves a wealth of returners, who should be challenged by a strong group of young players.

Safeties: Shiloh Keo is back for his senior season. Opposite him, there are challengers in Quin Ashley, who came to Idaho as a quarterback, was moved to receiver and went to the secondary last year when he redshirted. Along with Ashley, senior Brandon Artz is back as well as sophomore Gary Walker – both of whom played last fall. Mixing in are redshirt Trey Williams and high schooler James Randall.

Cornerbacks: Senior Isaac Butts and junior Kenny Patten both return but there is competition in the form of sophomore Aaron Grymes and juniors Matthew Harvey and Eric Hunter – part-time starters in 2009, as well as redshirt freshmen Marcus Graves and Shawn Tucker.

Linebackers: There are some linebackers back – Robert Siavii, JoJo Dickson, Paul Senescall and Tre`Shawn Robinson. That's only part of the good news. There is a group of young players, which includes sophomores Brad Marboe, Jared Heston and Conrad Scheidt and senior Korey Toomer, ready to fight their way into the mix.

Defensive line: The returning starting unit includes tackles Jonah Sataraka, the 2009 defensive captain, and Michael Cosgrove, and ends Aaron Lavarias, a full-time starter, and Benson Mayowa and Andre Ferguson, who shared time opposite Lavarias. Akey is challenging tackles Fono Sekona, Henry Asuega and Larry Dugan, and end Charles Smith to find ways to have an impact.

Specialists: Not only are Keo (punts) and Bailey (kickoffs) returning to special teams but so are kicker Trey Farquhar, punter Bobby Cowan and long snapper Chris Ramos – all of whom were dependable for their consistency and accuracy.

"We're going to find out what this football team is going to be," Akey said. "My expectation is we're going to build off the previous team's success. What can this football team do? I would like to see this football team repeat as a bowl team – not only a bowl team but as a bowl winner."

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