Sandwiched between two-a-day practices on Monday and Wednesday, the Vandals practiced Tuesday morning for more than two hours. We've got a brief report and an update on the strides the offensive line is taking after the jump.
The Vandals are less than two weeks from their opener at North Texas (Aug. 31, 4 p.m. Pacific), and they're clearly in game-prep mode.They spent the latter portion of Tuesday's workout on kickoffs (Dezmon Epps, Richard Montgomery and Najee Lovett were returning kicks from Austin Rehkow and walk-on Ryan Bordner), scout team work for North Texas and the usual 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
A few notes before we get to the offensive line:
The Vandals' offensive interior has been hit with injuries — both in spring and this fall. Jordan Johnson, a potential starter, won't play this year because of his health. Tackle Jesse Davis, a converted defensive lineman, missed the first fall scrimmage with a concussion. And guard Dallas Sandberg also missed part of the first scrimmage and all of the second with a concussion.
But the starting five is back together, and the veteran of the group — center Mike Marboe, traditionally a tough critic of the line — likes what he sees. “… We’ve really been coming together as a group,” he said. “And we’ve gotten a lot better since camp started. It’s been nice having Jesse and Dallas back this week. I think it’s exciting. I think we’re really starting to work well together. And hopefully that will turn into some good results this season.”
Quinton Bradley and the defensive front seven had their way in the first scrimmage. Plus, Marboe had trouble with high snaps. But last week, the Vandals' O-line tightened up their pass protection and opened a few holes for Brown and Montgomery (though Petrino said UI's run blocking needs to improve).
In addition to Davis and Cody Elenz at tackle and Marboe at center, Niklaus Von Rotz has been in control of the guard spot opposite of Sandberg since camp opened. (I stay away from labeling players as left guard or right tackle, for example, because the Vandals flip back and forth as part of each offensive series.)
Meanwhile, because of the injuries, a few backups have gotten more reps with the first unit, which has paid off, Marboe said. That includes fifth-year senior Larry Dugan (who's listed at 360 pounds and was quite a bit heavier when Petrino was hired) and redshirt freshman Calvin White.
“There’s a lot of guys doing great things on the O-line,” Marboe said. “Larry Dugan has been having a great camp as well. Calvin White’s been taking a ton of reps. So those guys are all getting better. And that’s mostly due to those injuries — those guys had to step up and that was awesome.”