Unlike many spring sessions, there was actual news that came out of Idaho’s Saturday morning scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Justin Morales, who was battling for the starting quarterback gig, has left the program and will transfer, coach Robb Akey said.
It was clear something was up when Nathan Enderle and Brian Reader took almost all the snaps in the scrimmage (with Logan Bushnell also taking a few). By all accounts, Morales was impressive last year in fall camp. But with Reader coming on (and having three years of eligibility left), Morales “essentially” made the decision on his own, Akey said.
Read more below in my story filed after the scrimmage.
By JOSH WRIGHT
MOSCOW, Idaho – The chase for Idaho’s apparently open starting quarterback job is still being waged. But for the first time this spring, the competition has been winnowed down to two players.
Redshirt freshman Justin Morales has opted to leave the Vandals, coach Robb Akey said after Saturday’s scrimmage. His departure means incumbent Nathan Enderle or transfer Brian Reader will start for the Vandals in the season opener on Sept. 5 at New Mexico State.
Morales, a fleet-footed left-hander from Carlsbad, Calif., will finish the spring semester at UI and transfer, Akey said. It had become increasingly clear before his decision was announced that he was losing ground to the more experienced Enderle and Reader, who has three years of eligibility left.
“He’s going to go somewhere else and see if there’s a better scenario to play quarterback,” Akey said of Morales. “So I’m wishing him well.”
Two years ago Reader faced a similar situation to Morales’, albeit at a much larger school and in a football-mad part of the country. After redshirting at Arkansas, Reader left for Monterey Peninsula Junior College in his home state of California.
He doesn’t regret his decision to leave the Razorbacks, nor does he quibble with Morales’ move.
“It’s too bad Justin transferred. He’s a great guy,” Reader said. “But it’s his decision. I was in that decision before in my life and if that’s the right feeling you’ve got to do, that’s just what you’ve just got to do.”
Neither Reader nor Enderle looked sharp for much of the scrimmage at Idaho’s outside practice field. With steady rain coming down and what Akey referred to as poor pass protection, both quarterbacks didn’t warm up until the latter part of the morning.
That left plenty of opportunities for the Vandals’ stable of running backs. Princeton McCarty (10 carries for 81 yards) and Kama Bailey (28 yards and two touchdowns) were the most impressive of the bunch.
“I think we’ve done a good job offensively running the ball this spring,” Akey said. “The kids are doing a nice job and the offensive line is doing a nice job in that respect.”
RUN DEFENSE LACKING
While several of Idaho’s tailbacks have shined through two scrimmages, the club’s defensive line has failed to make an impact against the run. It’s a growing concern for Akey.
“I’m pretty confident when I go look at the video, I’m not going to see the attack that I want to see in that defensive line,” the coach said. “I do believe we’ve got the guys that can do it, and we’re building habits with them. I know it takes time.”
One bright spot has been Aaron Lavarias, who’s switched from the interior to defensive end. He had three sacks in Saturday’s scrimmage, part of 21 tackles for loss from the defensive unit.
At 6-foot-3, 262 pounds, Lavarias is more suited for defensive end. It was the position he was recruited to play before moving inside right before the 2007 opener at USC to offset a lack of depth.
This spring the Woodinville, Wash., native is also showing a willingness to voice his opinion on the field. He was easily the most boisterous player Saturday.
“I’m from western Washington, so this is football weather to me,” Lavarias said. “Some of these Cali boys, they like the sun. But I like the rain. That pumps me up, makes you feel tough out there.”
Regardless of the motivation, Akey approves.
“I did like the intensity I saw out of him today,” he said. “It’s a game. You need to have fun. Sometimes I was the only one hooting and hollering out there.”
NO MORE STATUS QUO
After a so-so performance by the defense last week, safety Virdell Larkin said defensive coordinator Mark Criner “ripped us” in a meeting leading up to Saturday. Whether or not Criner’s message served as a wake-up call, the D certainly looked more energetic this time around.
“We have the same understanding,” Larkins said. “We want to be great at this. We don’t want to lose eight, nine games a season. We want to change.”