Three days of fall camp complete, and the Idaho Vandals have also finished their first practice in pads. That came this afternoon during a gorgeous Palouse day.
I've got a report below -- as well as a quick Q&A with senior tailback Princeton McCarty, one of only two players on the UI roster not signed by Robb Akey. Can you guess the other?
There's no reason to leave you hanging with the answer to my trivia question. It's Derek Wieting, a tight end in his sixth year who happens to run an entertaining Twitter account. Beside McCarty and Wieting, "everybody else is my fault," Akey said earlier this week.
The Q&A with McCarty is below, but first some practice notes:
- The Vandals went just over two hours this afternoon, focusing again on position drills, one-on-one battles, and situational scrimmages. The secondary had a nice day, and it would have been even nicer had several DBs not dropped would-be interceptions. Safeties James Randall and freshman Bradley Njoku had balls fall out of their hands. When it happened to Njoku, fellow safety Gary Walker barked to him, "Safeties don't drop balls. Go to the corner line if you're going to drop balls." The defense also had the upper hand during another brief scrimmage period -- the front seven got to QB Brian Reader on consecutive plays (what essentially amounted to sacks since the quarterback isn't allowed to be hit in practice). After the frustrating sequence for the offense, Reader slammed the ball into the turf. ... However, Reader also threw a nice touchdown pass to Justin Veltung, and later tight end Taylor Elmo had a beautiful diving grab on a Reader pass.
- There were still a few guys missing because of academic issues, but Benson Mayowa wasn't one of them. The starting defensive end missed the first day while taking care of a mandatory class. He was on the field Saturday in a uniform and no pads, so he didn't participate in contact drills.
- There was one change in the first-team linebacking corps compared to the first day. Korey Toomer, Tre'Shawn Robinson and Conrad Scheidt were in the lineup, while Homer Mauga -- with the ones on Thursday and a starter last year -- moved to the second team with John McKinley and Brad Marboe. Toomer was one of several defenders who tallied sacks.
- The first-team offensive line seems well defined, at least at this moment. Tackles Matt Cleveland and Tyrone Novikoff, left guard Sam Tupua, right guard Jordan Johnson and center Mike Marboe took all the snaps I saw with the top unit. The second team is a bit more fluid, but it typically consisted of Spencer Beale (LT), Dallas Sandburg (LG), Guy Reynolds (C), A.J. Jones (RG) and Ben Westrum (RT).
Here's my conversation with McCarty as promised. The 5-foot-8 senior was the Vandals' second-leading rushing last year with 380 yards -- 300 fewer than the year before when Idaho had a much more productive running game. In his previous three seasons, he's had three rushing touchdowns each year.
Q: Three days into camp, first day in pads. How does it feel?
Princeton McCarty: Everybody is excited to get into pads. The first couple days have just been helmets, so it’s good to put the shoulder pads on, helmet (too), and get to do some hitting. That’s what it’s all about.
Q: It’s a lot of new faces and key guys are back. Is this kind of like a figuring-out process?
PM: Yeah, it kind of is. We just got out here a couple days (ago), so everybody is getting used to things out there with the offense, the new things. The first few days are always installation days, big installation days. As you know, we always have little installation days. But these are big installation days. Just a lot of inserting of a lot of plays. Everybody’s got to catch on.
Q: How do feel like the running back group is coming along? Ryan (Bass) is now eligible and Kama (Bailey) seems like he is coming along, and obviously you’re one of the most experienced guys on the team.
PM: I think we are coming along fine. Everybody is just working hard to just get better and improve the group. We’re one of the strongest position groups on the team. So we’re just making sure that we keep pushing forward and let that be a strength of the team.
Q: During spring, Ryan said he feels like he can start. You’ve been here for a long time; you’re the veteran. How does that make you feel and is competition a good thing?
PM: It’s always a good thing. You know, that’s good he feels that way. Everybody should feel that way. The reality of it is we have a lot of good talent here ... as far as the running backs go. So everybody is just pushing forward, trying to get better everyday. That’s what we’re going to keep on doing. There’s a lot of talent here and we’re just going to continue to push.
Q: So it doesn’t bother me?
PM: No, it doesn’t bother me because it’s all about what you do on the field. Until you show your stuff, it really doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t bother me. … Basically we’ve got to prove ourselves on the field.
Q: Last year you guys I think were 118th in the nation in rushing.
PM: Exactly. We had some good talent. I think it was a combination of everything. We had four new starters on the line. So just a culmination of things, and we just all had to come together as an offense.
Q: Do you feel like the line is going to be stronger this year?
PM: I feel like they are. A lot of the guys are returning. We’ve got a few seniors on there.
Q: Anybody new — freshmen or JC guys — stick out to you?
PM: We just got the pads on, so I can’t really tell.
Q: Some look physically impressive.
PM: Exactly, but you really don’t know until they get the pads on. I’m serious when I say that. You really don’t know until you get the pads on. A lot of guys look good and stuff like that, but when you get the pads on, it tells you the most.
Q: You and Derek Wieting are the only two guys here that were not signed by (Akey). So Dennis Erickson signed you?
A: Actually it was (Nick) Holt who recruited me, but I was coming in ’07 when it was transitioning to Akey. So that’s just how I came.
Q: So you feel like one of the old guys on the team?
A: Yeah, fifth year. It’s cool. But I really don’t mind. We’re just a team. I’ve only played since ’08. This is my fourth year playing.
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