It didn't take long for the Idaho offense to assert itself in this afternoon's scrimmage. Five plays and a quick connection from Brian Reader to Preston Davis, who sidestepped at least four defenders on his way to the end zone, and the Vandals were rolling.
Read on for more about the scrimmage, the Vandals' running back depth chart and the team's injury toll.
The scrimmage was all about big plays. In the passing game. In the running game. Even on special teams. But not on defense. Idaho coach Robb Akey was so disturbed by the first-team defense's lack of urgency to start the scrimmage that he walked down the sideline to remind them they were playing “too damn cautious.”
Afterward, Akey still wasn't pleased.
“I think our defense has a lot of ability, but I didn’t like the way our defense started out today,” he said. “I want to see them flying their tails around. We need 11 hats flying to the football, and I didn’t think they got started out that way.”
Each time the top two offenses took the field, they scored. And often it was quickly. Newcomer Mike Scott, a junior college transfer, made a splash with a sideline grab for a touchdown on the first play of one drive that started at the 20. Then Troy Vital scored on the second play of the next drive with the No. 2 offense with a 19-yard scamper.
The running game got bogged down again in certain short-yardage situations. But Akey and running backs coach Jason Gesser were pleased with the performance of the tailbacks.
“After that first scrimmage one thing I challenged them with is we never really had those big plays,” said Gesser, in his first year with the program. “We had one play with Kama (Bailey) on a screen, and that was it. So I wanted to see more seven-, eight-yard-plus runs. Making big plays. We’ve been consistently doing that for the last three or four days now.”
Ryan Bass showed his quickness by the reversing the field during a 33-yard run, and then he followed it up by taking a punt return all the way back. “It was good to see Bass going.” Akey said. “He hit a home run on the punt return today, so that’s a good thing. I told him he’s almost as fast as his head coach.”
So is Bass locked in as the starter at tailback? Not exactly. No one in the crowded backfield has emerged, at least not to Akey's liking. That includes Bass, Bailey, Princeton McCarty and Troy Vital, each of whom has alternated between the top two offenses at different points.
But Gesser isn't concerned.
“You can seriously sit back and argue, watching the film and watching the scrimmages, for each guy,” Gesser said “… The thing is, they’re so dynamic in what they do and what they bring to the table. I’m going to be honest with you: they’re all going to play this year.
“Whoever’s the starter is the starter, but they all are going to get rotated into the game because they all bring something different to the game.”
Reader continues to impress at quarterback; he was 13 of 15 for 162 yards and three touchdowns. And he continues to develop a nice chemistry with Scott, who as late as July thought he might walk on at New Mexico State. Instead, he walked on at Idaho.
Scott had three receptions for 42 yards and two TDs. He's shown a knack for finding ways to catch balls in traffic or outstretched on the sideline while staying inbounds. Said Akey, “He’s showed up a lot. He’s showed up through this whole camp, from the first practice. … He’s showing me that he’s able to go get the ball, make things happen. I think he’s learning things pretty well. He’s got a chance to help us out a great deal.”
Three-fifths of Idaho's starting offensive line either started the day on the sideline or ended up with an injury. Matt Cleveland didn't participate with a sprained ankle, and center Mike Marboe and left guard Sam Tupua went down on the same play with sprained ankles as well. All three injuries are relatively minor, Akey said. Meanwhile, backup linemen Dallas Sandburg and Spencer Beale also didn't participate in the scrimmage with apparent injuries.
Other injury news: linebackers Korey Toomer (hamstring) and Homer Muaga (neck) also sat out. Backup linebacker John McKinley went down late in the scrimmage with an apparent shoulder injury.
On the tailback front, Bass and Bailey both were hobbled during the two-hour session. Both injuries appeared minor.