The Vandals' spring camp finale is tomorrow (6 p.m., Kibbie Dome), and Robb Akey ran down the highlights of spring with the media earlier today. Akey spoke about Idaho's starting quarterback battle, players who have impressed him, new offensive coaches and former players who have a chance to be drafted next week.
We summarize his comments below.
UPDATE: Our spring game preview is now online.
We'll be at the Kibbie Dome tomorrow night with all the updates. The Vandals will start scrimmaging about 6:15 and go about an hour, Akey said. There will be special teams work and two-minute drill situations, similar to the first two scrimmages. "Tomorrow is tagged as the Silver and Gold game," Akey said, "but it’s going to be our third scrimmage. That’s what it’s going to be."
The biggest news of Akey's teleconference? It's not all that surprising, but he said the starting QB competition will continue into the summer and fall camp. Dominique Blackman and Taylor Davis have split time with the first unit all spring, and "there hasn’t been a whole lot of separation at this point in time." Added Akey, "Now I’d love to see both of them come out and light it up tomorrow night. … I’m looking to see something clean and consistent show up for those guys. Both are doing things. Taylor did some real good things coming out of last week and moving the two-minute drill last Saturday."
Akey said he's fine with how the QB race has gone so far. But ...
"I want them to be urgent about it. And I do believe they’ll separate themselves at some point along the way. That will be the focus of our fall camp, getting that to happen."
Other highlights from Akey:
- On spring overall: "We’ve got a lot accomplished. We’ve got a new way of doing things trained and taught with our offense. And it’s soaking in, sinking in and making sense. It’s helped us be more effective. I think we’re doing things better. I think we’re more disciplined on that side of the ball than we were."
- On defense: "I think we have a chance to pretty decent on defense. We’ve got some good experience there. We’ve got more than enough installed with our defense this spring."
- On injuries: "Now, if I had a disappointment about the spring, it would be that it’s not 15 practices longer and we got too many guys hurt. I’m disappointed in that. We got three guys injured last week who aren’t going to be able to scrimmage tomorrow — a running back and two tight ends. We’ve got five offensive linemen that have been out. Now Jordan Johnson is back in the mix. Hopefully that will continue to progress and we’ll get some reps from him tomorrow night. … That’s a guy we expect to be on the field for us come this fall and he needs that opportunity, he needs that playing time."
- Akey said tight ends Justin Podrabsky and Jared Klingenberg and tailback James Baker will miss Friday's spring game. All were injured last week.
- On the offensive staff working together: "I like the way those guys are working together. I like the way our players our responding to them." Specifically with the wide receivers, Akey added that they "are being pushed to play with discipline. And they’ve been hungry for that and they’ve responded well to that." That seemed to be a slight shot at former receivers coach Luther Carr, who was replaced by Mike Levenseller.
- On offensive line: "This is our third offensive line coach in three years. … If there’s one unit within your football team that needs to have cohesiveness, it’s the offensive line. … Gordy Shaw was the first guy I thought of when Coach (John) McDonell left. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him and always have." Akey then told a story about early in spring when Shaw was a minute or two late for a meeting with his players. "He goes in the room and there’s no offensive linemen in there. You’ve got to be kidding me? ... Well, they had gone in the back of the meeting room, laying down behind a back row of chairs to mess them with a little bit." He added, "You know what that told me? They kind of like the new guy or they wouldn’t be messing around with that. … That showed me they believed in the guy and they got off to a good working atmosphere. I was really happy to see that."
- Akey said he likes how center Mike Marboe has progressed as the "quarterback of the line." He also said A.J. Jones is "having a real strong spring. I like the way he’s playing. He’s played physical. He’s got good hips. He’s doing things well. He’ll be one of our guards." Brady Lisoski is also getting most of the reps at right tackle. "He's done some good things," Akey said.
- On the young guys who have been forced to action: Cody Elenz has been forced into action at left tackle after Jordan Johnson went down. Said Akey, "That’s where we started Jordan Johnson at the spring to see what he that might do and now we’ve kind of been excited how Cody has responded to that. We know Jordan can play inside, so we may have found ourselves potentially an answer there." He's also glad to see all the reps Dallas Sandberg has gotten at guard, center and tackle. Sandberg is the second-string center behind Marboe at this point.
- Akey said all five O-linemen who have been hurt will be back in the fall. And he expects to get a contribution from JC transfer Semisi Tupou. He said it's also time for Spencer Beale, Ben Westrum, Kyle Salm and Guy Reynolds "to make a difference."
- Akey said middle linebacker Sua Tuala "may have been our most consistent player of the spring. He may be the palyer of the spring. … I really like what he’s done." James Randall has been Tuala's backup at MLB, and Akey likes what he's seen.
- On the defensive line: The Vandals have "four linemen who can start and six lineman who can get on the field. Hopefully we can get a seventh one can be a factor also. We’re good at two tackle spots. First two guys, I think, are pretty good. We’ve got a chance to have a little bit of depth coming in there if Ryan (Edwards) continues to progress." Akey also mentioned Dontae Scott needing to getting stronger.
- On the defensive ends: "Benson Mayowa, when he’s one, is a darn good player. Quentin Bradley has shown me some good things. There’s a youngster that I think is going to be a factor in the fall. … he’s got a burst, and that’s a good thing. Vince Keener has had a good spring. He’s really stepped up. He’s one of our more improved players over the course of spring practice. And Max Forde is playing well."
- Gary Walker is a definite starter at safety, and three players -- Trey Williams, Bradley Njoku and Thaad Thompson -- are battling for the other spot. "Each of those guys are doing some good things and are going to be able to help us."
Akey said Korey Toomer "has a chance to get drafted." He's interviewed with Miami, Tampa Bay, a New York team, Cincinnati and Seattle. Tyrone Novikoff, Matt Cleveland, Tre'Shawn Robinson and Mike Cosgrove are other possible late-rounders or free agents. Robinson, the Vandals' middle linebacker last year, has worked out for Seattle as a fullback.