Idaho interim football coach Jason Gesser said that Logan Bushnell will start at quarterback Saturday versus San Jose State and will share reps — during practice and in the game — with backup Taylor Davis. Bushnell and Davis have been pushed up the depth chart after the dismissal of starting QB Dominique Blackman for a violation of team rules.
As we reported Saturday night, Blackman and linebacker Conrad Scheidt were kicked off the team after failing drug tests. Gesser would not specify why Blackman was booted, but said the violation had occurred more than once. Tight end Taylor Elmo was also suspended for violating athletic department policy.
“The whole situation the last week has been not easy,” said Gesser, who replaced the fired Robb Akey on Oct. 21. Earlier, he started his call on the WAC coaches teleconference with this: “It’s been crazy. Seven days have felt like a month for me right now with everything going on.”
We have more from Gesser below.
Here are more notes from Gesser's two sessions with the media:
The Vandals will not play freshmen quarterbacks Chad Chalich or Austin DeCoud the rest of the year. Chalich, a Coeur d'Alene High product, has been traveling with the team and signaling calls on the sideline, so he's more ready than DeCoud. Chalich indicated to Gesser that he would play if needed, but he preferred to preserve his redshirt. “Selfishly I would love to play them,” Gesser said. “I just don’t think it would fair to them.” Regarding Chalich, Gesser said, “He still needs to get more work in. And he felt the exact same way.”
Gesser said Davis would play at least a series or two against SJSU, probably in the second quarter. Davis had been the third QB on the depth chart after splitting time as starter last year with Brian Reader. Bushnell, meanwhile, will get his second start of the season.
Gesser doesn't expect a “drastic drop” with Bushnell and Davis over Blackman; the competition during fall camp, he said, was close throughout. Blackman's strengths, he said, were reading defenses. But Gesser also expects Bushnell and Davis will make “smarter decisions” than Blackman. Gesser noted Blackman's propensity to force throws and throw interceptions.
Idaho's practice last night — the first without Blackman — was one of the best of the season, Gesser said. He noted the players have to come to grips with all the changes. “I think our team, they’re starting to come together,” Gesser said. “They’re starting to figure out, 'Here’s the situation we’re in.'”
Elmo will be allowed to practice and play with the scout team during his suspension, which Gesser said was for more than his inflammatory tweet directed to AD Rob Spear after Akey's firing. “It was a handful of things,” Gesser said. UI will address creating a Twitter policy for football players — and perhaps all athletes — in the offseason, he said.
Asked if the distractions of the past week have taken away from game-planning for the Spartans, Gesser said, “I’d be lying to you” if they hadn't. He said the Vandals, however, are a week ahead in their preparations because of the bye week.
In addition to still playing calls as offensive coordinator, Gesser said he will remain quarterbacks coach. He will be on the field during games after sitting in the coach's box previously. Gesser said he's relying more on defensive coordinator Mark Criner and the rest of the coaching staff because he can't focus on all three units like Akey did. “More responsibility and accountability is put on those guys to step up,” Gesser said.