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Vandals’ first day in the books

The Idaho football team started preparing for the 2013 season in earnest this afternoon in Moscow. Our first practice report of fall camp (yes, it's still summer) is below.


*****

There weren't too many newsworthy items that came from the first practice. The Vandals operated at a frenetic pace, like they did in spring, with coaches in players' faces and receivers finishing every catch by sprinting to the end zone. The most animated I saw Paul Petrino was after freshman safety Desmond Banks intercepted newcomer Josh McCain. Petrino had wanted McCain to throw a deep corner route; instead, he throw long over the middle, and Banks easily picked him off.

Petrino, as I mention in the story for tomorrow's paper, was particularly upset about a few assignment errors. He called them unacceptable, even on Day 1. He also threw his hat off (something that happened often in spring) when backup center Spencer Beale snapped the ball poorly and Chad Chalich fumbled.

Other thoughts from Petrino and a few players:

  • Petrino's initial thoughts: “I thought there was some real good things, and like anything, some things we’ve got to get better at it. There was a couple things execution-wise that made me mad. We shouldn’t have had a couple mistakes that we had with all of spring ball and all of them working on their own all summer. But overall, I thought the effort was good. I thought guys were flying around. It was exciting to see some of the new guys. You look around the field and there’s a whole bunch more speed here. But the execution’s got to improve a lot.”
  • Petrino said four of the five starting offensive line spots are locked up at this point — Mike Marboe at center, Jesse Davis and Cody Elenz at tackle and Dallas Sandberg at guard. The other guard spot was occupated by Niklaus Von Rotz for some of Monday's practice. Marboe and defensive end Maxx Forde had good things to say about Davis, who switched to the OL in the middle of spring. Said Marboe, “Yeah, he’s doing great. Jesse’s just a big man. So it’s nice to have him over there. He’s a football player, so he’s adjusting. He’s still got a little bit to learn. He’s my roommate at home, so he’ll still ask me questions every once in a while. But he’s (coming) along great. He’s going to be a great asset for us. Like I said, he’s a football mind; he’ll get it. He’s come so far. He got thrown into the fire in the middle of spring, so he’s doing great.”
  • Asked what he watches for in practices like this one, Petrino said, “You just look at stuff one play at a time. And then you go in and watch tape. Looking at assignment, alignment and get-off every play. And then whether they’re executing the technique they’re supposed to do. That’s one of the big things that we’re trying to make a big deal of is that we’re going to be great, technically sound football players and understand our fundamentals. And that allows you to play the game fast.”
  • Petrino on which players have most clearly gotten bigger or stronger, “Cody (Elenz has) gotten bigger. Roman Runner looks like he’s leaner and quicker and faster. I thought Maxx (Forde) looked like had a little more burst to him today. Quinton (Bradley) looks like he’s a little bit bigger. And then there’s some new guys here that are fast, real fast. So that’s good to see.”
  • Petrino said a Vandals' leadership council met once a week for the summer, and different players are starting to emerge. “But when that will really show up is about five days from now, like next Monday when we got two-a-days after a long scrimmage. It’s easy to be a good leader today.” As far as leaders for each position group, he mentioned Marboe and Davis on the offensive line; Kris Olugbode at running back; Roman Runner and Najee Lovett at receiver; Forde and Quinton Bradley on the D-line; Marc Mllan and Broc Westlake at linebacker; and Solomon Dixon in the secondary.
  • Regarding the QB competition, Petrino said Chalich, Taylor Davis and McCain all did good things. “I think the No. 1 thing in the quarterback (race) is just whoever can get you in the end zone the most. That’s really what it comes down to. We’ll have long scrimmages and whoever can get us in the end zone the most, that’s who will be our quarterback.”
  • Petrino said Lovett, Dixon, Richard Montgomery and Rueben Mwehla are the likely candidates to serve as kick and punt returners.
  • Chalich on ranking the practice speed on a scale of 1-10: “I’d say about probably an 8. It’s the first day; there’s going to be some kinks and getting back to where we were in the spring. We worked really hard during the summer, just everyday in the film room and getting out and working.”
  • More Chalich on tempo: “It’s something else. It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before. But it’s that college level. It’s bigger. It’s pretty much a full-time job for us. It’s something that we pretty much get paid to do, but, you know, it’s our scholarship and we’re going to come out here and keep getting better everyday. And we’re going to win some games this year.
      

Here's my unedited story for Tuesday's paper:

By Josh Wright
Correspondent

MOSCOW, Idaho – It's been just one day of fall camp and eight months of preparation under a new regime with no wins or losses to show for it. But Idaho defensive end Maxx Forde noticed buy-in of Paul Petrino's system started soon after the coach was hired in December.


And now? There's no question in Forde's mind – about the coaching staff or his teammates' willingness to listen.

“I believe in the process,” the redshirt junior said Monday. “It’s worked at other places. So why not here?

As the Vandals' first day of fall camp showed, there's nothing flashy about Petrino's process. The first-year Idaho coach, after stints as an offensive coordinator in the SEC and Big Ten, spends much of his time talking about being precise, technically sound, grinding everyday.  

It's all about repetition and execution, which is why the Vandals practiced 21/2 hours Monday afternoon and why Petrino promised the team's fall scrimmages will be long and fast-paced, just like scrimmages in the spring.

The goal, he said, is “to make the players believe we’re going to be what we call ‘grinders' – guys that work hard everyday; get up and just go to work and improve every single day.”

The Vandals started their practice prep early Monday and then were scheduled to finish the day with film study late into the evening. In between, they worked in individual, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills in shorts and jerseys at their outdoor practice field.

“It’s pretty much a full-time job for us,” quarterback Chad Chalich said. “It’s something that we pretty much get paid to do, but, you know, it’s our scholarship and we’re going to come out here and keep getting better everyday. And we’re going to win some games this year.”

The warm, mostly sunny session was capped by the offense gathering around Spokane freshman place-kicker Austin Rehkow, who showed a big (and inconsistent) leg during field-goal practice. Once most of the team was released, the newcomers ran through more plays under Petrino's direction.

And after field had cleared, true freshman quarterback Matt Linehan and offensive lineman Nick Edenfield worked again and again on their QB-to-center exchange.

“It’s all business out here,” junior center Mike Marboe said. “Coach has made that real clear to us that’s our mindset and that’s how we have to approach practice everyday. That’s what we did. … We prepared all morning for this practice.”

Among the highlights were down-the-field catches from Roman Runner, Maurice Trotter, and walk-on Max McIntosh. Meanwhile, JC receiver Dezmon Epps and true freshman running back Richard Montgomery were two of the newcomers who flashed blazing speed.

JC QB Josh McCain, who went with the second offense, also showed shiftiness in the open field.

“It was exciting to see some of the new guys,” Petrino said. “You look around the field and there’s a whole bunch more speed here. But the execution’s got to improve a lot.”

Even for the first day, the coach was irked by assignments errors that he called unacceptable. After the team had spent the spring and summer together, he refused to give them a pass.

“That infuriates me; you should have no assignment errors on Day 1,” Petrino said. “We’ve freaking been putting (the system) in forever.”

NOTES – Safety Trey Williams didn't participate in practice. Petrino said the senior was dinged up but should be fine. The Vandals' first full-pads practice is Friday afternoon. The first scrimmage is Saturday at 10 a.m.


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