Paul Petrino wore a wide smile after practice on Monday evening. Maybe that was because the Vandals had another solid spring session, or maybe it was because of who was in attendance. Standing on the sideline were former Seahawks offensive lineman Robbie Tobeck and Tobeck's son, Mason. Earlier in the day, Idaho offered a scholarship to Mason, a junior tight end and linebacker at Cascade Christian in Puyallup, Wash. He's also been offered by Colorado State. Robbie played at Washington State and spent 13 years in the NFL.
After Petrino shook hands with both Tobecks following practice, we ran through a quick one-on-one interview with the second-year coach. Petrino said he doesn't foresee naming a starting quarterback before the start of fall camp, and he also gave us his philosophy on long scrimmages.
What's your goal in going through so many scrimmage reps?
Petrino: "To get them a bunch of reps and to teach them to play hard so we’ll win games in the fourth quarter. So then the game’s easy. They’re going to play twice, sometimes two, sometimes thee times as many plays in a scrimmage in the spring and once in a while in the pre-fall than we have in a game. So really in the fourth quarter of a game they should feel like, man, I’m fresh.
"That’s how I was raised. That’s how my dad used to scrimmage. That’s how my brother scrimmages. That’s how John L. Smith used to scrimmage. That’s just how I’ve been raised, so that’s what I believe in."
Fair to say that's abnormal?
Petrino: "Yeah, it’s real abnormal. Most people don’t go that many. Most people are worried about getting people hurt. To be honest with ya, I think the more you hit, the less the guys get hurt. And it’s been good this spring. You don’t see all those guys standing on the sideline that are banged up compared to last year, so I think our guys are getting used to it and our guys are playing harder. (They’re) used to banging."
How would you assess quarterbacks Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich after watching tape of both scrimmages?
Petrino: "I think they’re both playing really well. I don’t think it’s fair to compare them to each other, but I think they’re both playing really well. They’re both playing way better than our quarterbacks did last year. And we’re in a good position. It’s going to be a heck of a battle, and it could go on a long time. They do a little bit different things, but I think they’re both playing well. They both made better checks Friday night. I was really happy to see that. Still got to eliminate … we only had one interception; we’ve got to get that to zero. I’ve been happy with them both, really. Both being good leaders, controlling the offense and doing good things."
S-R: Are you OK going into fall without a starter?
Petrino: "Yeah. Totally. Right now it’s too close — I mean, unless something happens in the next two weeks, but right now it’s close. We found out last year we had to play three, so the better we can get the both of them to be our starter, the better off we are. But right now I really don’t foresee me naming a guy until the fall as of right now."
On having Quayshawne Buckley back on the D-line?
Petrino: "Yeah, it’s great. He played really well at the end of the year last year. He’s played good so far in the spring. That’s a big boost, a big help. Get the two JC guys out there (Max Martial and Glen Antoine) and get the other one here in the summer (Alfonso Hampton), and we should be really deep inside on defense.
"And Tueni (Luepamanu's) been playing really well, too. So that should be one of the strengths of our team, really."
Are you confident Hampton will qualify academically?
Petrino: "Yeah. I am."
What does Ashley Ambrose bring as DBs coach?
Petrino: "I think he brings all kinds of knowledge. He played for Dick LeBeau in the NFL. He’s played for a bunch of great coaches in the NFL. Was a big-time player. Coached at Cal, coached at Colorado. His year at Cal I believe they were No. 1 in the conference in defense. He just brings a lot of knowledge to the room when we are game planning. I think he had a great relationship with the players. He coaches them hard, but they seem to really like him and work hard for him. So it’s really been a good get for us and a positive. We’re lucky."
Fair to say the defensive backs need to make the biggest jump of any group from last year?
Petrino: "Ah, I think everybody has to take big steps. They do, and we have other people coming. But the ones that are here already are getting better, and we’ve just got to keep improving."
Biggest surprises beyond Josh McCain?
Petrino: "I think the receivers as a whole are really playing good. Can’t play much better than Dez (Epps) played on (Friday). Josh played good. Deon Watson’s had two great scrimmages. Jacob (Sannon) improving, so that position has looked good. You know, Irving Steele had like 18 tackles the other day. I think Tony Lashley has a chance to be good in the future. There’s just a lot of guys who are getting better and better. We’ve just got to keep improving."