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Vandals’ O-line starting from scratch

Idaho's second scrimmage of spring was this morning in the Kibbie Dome, and there were several interesting nuggets that came out of it. We have a full report below.


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Our story on Mike Marboe and the offensive line is below. We also have notes on the QB situation and new injuries. Before we get to that, a few notes:

  • The Vandals finished the scrimmage with few two-minute drills, the last of which was promising to see from Akey's vantage point. “For our offense, I was really glad to see the two-minute drill and end-of-the-game scenario. They were down by five and came down the field and scored to win. I thought that was good for them to put that together.” The last drive was piloted by Davis and highlighted by three catches for Najee Lovett.
  • The Vandals' final full-pad practice will be Tuesday, followed by a no-pad run-through on Thursday before Friday's Silver and Gold Game (6 p.m., Kibbie Dome).
  • Linebacker Sua Tuala made three tackles for loss and a stellar takedown of Ken McRoyal, who was streaking down the sideline. “Here comes your middle linebacker hawking a slot receiver. That was a big-time great effort from him,” Akey said.
  • Akey also singled out the play of freshman receiver Marquan Major and the pass rushing of Benson Mayowa. Like Mayowa, Quentin Bradley had two sacks after getting three in the first scrimmage.
  • Trey Williams was with the first-team defense at safety to start the scrimmage over Thaad Thompson and Bradley Njoku. Cornerback Dion Bass, also with the first-team D, stood out with several nice defended passes.

Here's our story for Sunday's paper. Let me know if there are any Vandals topics you are interested in reading about by contacting me through Twitter: @SR_JoshWright.

By Josh Wright
Correspondent

MOSCOW, Idaho – Mike Marboe was speaking generally when he said the Idaho offense started from scratch this offseason. But his comment seems especially apt for the offensive line, a unit he now anchors – after a mere 12 starts at center.

Marboe will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, and he welcomes his role as mentor to the herd of new faces he’s worked with this spring.

Yet he knows in most programs, he would be considered one of the newbies. Not a veteran who shoulders major responsibility.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys,” Marboe said Saturday after the second scrimmage of spring. “I’m not even that old. I’ve played one year. You’ve got to grow up. It’s hard. When you get thrown to the fire, you’ve got to grow up and be a man about it and come into your role.”

Attrition and injuries have forced first-year offensive line coach Gordy Shaw to mix and match inexperienced linemen this spring. The Vandals lost three starters from last year and they’ll be without five injured tackles/guards in Friday’s Silver and Gold game in the Kibbie Dome.

Coach Robb Akey said all five – including Guy Reynolds and Jordan Johnson, both of whom played last year – are expected back in the fall. Nonetheless, the injuries have left UI with nine healthy linemen as it wraps up spring camp.

With the Vandals unable to field a full first and second team, redshirt freshmen left tackle Cody Elenz and Dallas Sandberg have taken almost every snap in practices and scrimmages. Sandberg, in fact, has played all five positions.

“My first spring here I had to take every rep like Dallas and Cody are doing …” Marboe said. “So I feel their pain and every time out there today I just told them to keep fighting.”

Marboe, a 6-foot-2, 303-pound business major, grew up in Wenatchee in a family steeped in Idaho football. His father, Scott, played for UI, as did his uncle and cousin.

Marboe graduated from Wenatchee High early so he could enroll at Idaho a semester before most freshmen signees. This is his third spring camp, and Akey is seeing signs of him maturing into a leader.

“He’s working at that, yes,” Akey said. “And that’s something I like and I’ve been paying attention to with him.”

Outside Marboe, guard A.J. Jones is the only other returning offensive line starter. But Marboe believes the Vandals could have their best offensive line in three years, even with the uncertainty that comes with new personnel, a new line coach and new scheme.

“I think we’re all going to be on the same page the whole time,” Marboe said. “It will be a great season for us, I think. There will be a lot of improvement over where we were the last two years.”

QB competition still up in air

Dominique Blackman started Saturday’s 90-minute scrimmage with a series of precise throws. Taylor Davis ended the scrimmage throwing well. And at different times, each struggled.

The juniors have been in a tight battle for the Vandals’ starting quarterback job, and the competition remains unresolved. Davis was 13 of 20 for 132 yards Saturday, while Blackman was 11 of 16 for 83 yards.

Both QBs slung nice throws that were either dropped by receivers or batted away by defensive backs.

“There was some opportunities to make plays on the ball in the passing game that we didn’t make,” Akey said.

First-year wideout Najee Lovett, who had four catches for 72 yards, said Davis and Blackman seem to go back and forth on a daily basis. “Every day is neck-to-neck to me,” he said.

Notes

Idaho’s spring game starts at 6 p.m. Friday. Admission is free. … Backup tight ends Justin Podrabsky, a Lewiston High grad, and Jared Klingenberg left the scrimmage with injuries, both after hauling in catches. Podbrasky went down with a right knee injury and Klingenberg, a redshirt freshman, injured his right shoulder.
  


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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