Idaho is still working out the kinks, but the football club flashed a few promising signs Saturday in its first scrimmage of the spring. The passing game is clicking -- with Nathan Enderle (in photo above), Justin Morales and Brian Reader at quarterback. And the offensive line seems to be jelling, with a host of runnings backs benefitting.
Of course, the passing game's success is coming against a Vandals secondary that was much-maligned last year. And the O-line is working against a defensive line that still very much a work in progress.
Oh, yes, it's spring -- which means it's hard to make any definitive statements.
For more on the Vandals, keep reading for a story that will run in tomorrow's S-R.
By JOSH WRIGHT
MOSCOW, Idaho – When Eric Greenwood lunges for a jump ball in the corner of the end zone, he'll never be confused for a hulking tight end. But he has tacked on 10 pounds and some needed strength to his wiry 6-foot-6 frame.
So far this spring, the work in the weight room seems to paying off.
The bulked-up Greenwood rose high over cornerback Isaac Butts for a nifty 19-yard touchdown catch Saturday, one of the few explosive offensive plays in Idaho's first full scrimmage of spring practice.
A smattering of onlookers watched the sun-splashed morning session at the Vandals' outdoor practice facility, which is being used while the Kibbie Dome is renovated.
Greenwood's nice showing (three catches for 42 yards and two TDs) was an encouraging sign for coach Robb Akey, who must replace the 54 receptions and six touchdowns that H-back Eddie Williams generated a year ago.
With the absence of a go-to replacement at the hybrid position, Greenwood could see a spike in production along with fellow receivers Max Komar, Maurice Shaw and Preston Davis.
“I thought we had some guys show up and do some good things,” Akey said. “Eric Greenwood certainly showed up with some big plays today. He made a great jump-ball catch over here for a touchdown.”
Greenwood came to Moscow from Edmonds, Wash., at just 185 pounds with less-than-impressive weight-room numbers. Since then, he's added around 30 pounds and seen improvements in a number of key strength categories.
“Testing my speed, my jumping ability – everything went up,” the junior-to-be said. “Even though I weigh more, I (have) way more lean muscle. Not to say I was ever fat, because that's obviously an overstatement. But it's probably better weight than what it was.”
The Vandals alternated between Nathan Enderle, Brian Reader and Justin Morales at quarterback with mixed results. The offense sputtered near the red zone on the first three makeshift series, leading to field goals from Trey Farquhar.
The grayshirt freshman place-kicker displayed a strong leg on all but one of his attempts and finished 5 of 7. Akey no doubt didn't want to get him so much action, especially on the first series when Enderle overshot a wide-open Greenwood down the sideline for what could have been a lengthy TD connection.
“I thought that Nate played pretty well today,” Akey said. “I thought he had some real nice throws. There was one big one, though, that I want to see him hit. That could have been a huge play.”
For most of the morning, Enderle (7 of 12 for 98 yards) and the other QBs were well-protected. The offensive line, led on the left side by tackle Matt Cleveland and guard Mike Iupati, is progressing nicely after losing anchor Adam Korby to graduation.
Akey nevertheless wants to see more pressure from the defensive line. Charles Smith Jr. and Aaron Lavarias were disruptive at times from their D-end posts on Saturday, but it wasn't enough to satisfy the third-year coach.
“As a whole, I need that defensive front to be more physical,” Akey said. “We've got to get better pressure on the quarterback.”
During the Vandals' 2-10 season last year, quarterbacks sacks and consistent secondary play were almost non-existent. The coaching staff hopes it has found a remedy for at least one of those concerns with the emergence of Lavarias and Smith.
“I would say they've gotten way better than last year,” defensive tackle Henry Asuega said. “Their get-off is way faster, hands are better. (They're) getting upfield more than last year instead of just staying on the block.”
NOTES – Defensive starters Shiloh Keo and JoJo Dickson were held out of action Saturday while they recover from injuries. Keo, like he did last year after being lost to a shoulder injury, spent much of the scrimmage barking orders as if he were a coach ... Akey praised running backs Kama Bailey and Princeton McCarty. Bailey led all rushers with 51 yards on six carries while McCarty had 34 yards on seven attempts.