Things we learned on Friday night: Richard Montgomery is really fast. Idaho's quarterback battle likely won't be resolved soon after fall camp starts. The Vandals' defensive front could be special (Paul Petrino's words, not mine). And they have a stable of skilled wideouts.
OK, most of these things Idaho fans already knew. But they were all crystallized during the two-hour Silver and Gold game, attended by perhaps 500 fans at the Kibbie Dome.
We have notes and our story below.
First, a few notes before getting to our story:
-- Coach Paul Petrino said quarterbacks Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich had good springs. Both missed throws in the spring game, and both will likely be competing for the starting spot up until -- or close to -- the season opener on Aug. 30 at Florida. "I think they improved every single day," Petrino said. "Obviously there were a couple plays today where they’ve got to throw the ball away. That’s probably the biggest thing that frustrates me. ... They got to get ready to get the ball away and not take all those hits. They both understand the offense so much better than last year. It’s going to be a heck of a fight, a heck of a competition and that’s a great thing for our football team and I feel right now we’ve got two really good quarterbacks."
-- Linehan noted several specific things he wants to work on over the summer: seeing the defense, making correct reads, balance in the pocket and stepping into throws.
-- The first and second offensive line units were the same for most (if not all) the night, but Petrino said three starting spots are "wide open." He's earlier indicated that center Mike Marboe and guard Steven Matlock had emerged in camp. Marboe is a fifth-year senior who I wrote about for Friday's paper; Matlock played as a true freshman last year. The other first-teamers on Friday were Mason Woods, Nik Von Rotz and Kato Fawkes. The second team was Sione Maile at center, Cody Elenz and Dallas Sandberg at guard and Jeff Travillion and Calvin White at tackle. Petrino noted four of those second-unit linemen started games last year.
-- Petrino and offensive line coach Jon Carvin, who I talked to on Wednesday after practice, both cited increased competition as a big reason for the O-line's improvement. "We brought in some guys that really helped us there," Carvin said. "And it’s a different deal when you’ve got a guy behind you who’s pushing you for playing time. Like you must improve. You have to get better. You stay the same, you’re going to get passed. So that has been fantastic, and having a number of guys where we can rotate and get guys more experience and less guys taking 100 reps and more guys taking 50 reps, that’s just been great. So I do think we’ve been improving. Still got a long ways to go in my mind to be a great O-line. But we’re making steps to get there." Carvin mentioned Fawkes and Travillion, two new JC players, but he also said it helps to have Elenz and Sandberg back after they missed the last part of 2013 to injuries. The Vandals also expect to have Jesse Davis back after he missed spring camp. Carvin said at the end of last year the Vandals were traveling just eight offensive linemen to road games. "Usually you want to have 10 to 11. So guys were taking a ton of reps in practice. And not that that’s an excuse; if you have to do that, you have do that. But I just think having more guys and more energy and more competition has just made us that much better."
-- Carvin also praised Matlock, a Boise product who arrived late to fall camp last year. "... He had to catch up, and that took him his first four or five weeks. Then he started getting into the mix. Then just his fire and his competitive nature and his toughness — those things, you don’t coach those. You try to, but those are just engrained in some people. And he’s one of the guys that has that, and that’s why I’m so glad to have him. And now he’s had installation. He’s actually been taught everything the proper way that we like to teach it. Man, he’s definitely growing and improving. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for years to come in my mind."
-- Petrino saw the unity that he had hoped to before the spring from his players. "I think we’re a unit right now. We’re a fist. … I feel like we’re really close right now." Defensive end Quinton Bradley said that team has been family-oriented since Petrino took the job, with no favoritism shown to his recruits over players who were already at UI. "That stigma, if it was there, is gone."
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho Vandals don't have a clear-cut starting quarterback heading into the summer. But they have playmakers in spades – and a starting defensive front brimming with confidence.
Idaho finished its spring with the Silver and Gold game at the Kibbie Dome on Friday night, with Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich looking as close to one another in a nip-and-tuck QB race as they had over the past five weeks.
The two young quarterbacks alternated snaps with the first-team offense, which carried the gold team to a 61-7 victory in the four-quarter spring game.
The real story, though, was the explosiveness shown by sophomore Richard Montgomery and the dominance of the first-team defensive front seven.
Montgomery, a 5-foot-8 scatback/receiver from Jacksonville, started the spring game with a 61-yard touchdown on a wheel route out of the backfield. Then he flashed his brilliant speed – on a 15-yard draw play for a TD and on a 61-yard scamper during which he outraced the second-team defense for another score.
The sophomore finished with 163 total yards (83 rushing, 80 receiving) and three TDs.
It wasn't just Montgomery's quickness that excited coach Paul Petrino. The whole team, he said, is noticeably quicker – and better – than his first spring a year ago.
"Our team’s just so much faster," Petrino said. "Our whole team works so much harder. You can hear the hitting. You can just see it out there and hear it. We’re just a way better football team and it’s exciting.
"I think the attitude, the effort and just the feeling that we have (on) the team is awesome."
Montgomery was the biggest playmaker on the field. But other offensive players stood out, most notably sophomore receivers Jacob Sannon (nine catches, 142 yards) and Deon Watson (nine for 160), as well as senior wideout Dezmon Epps (11 for 121).
Meanwhile, converted wideout Josh McCain left the scrimmage with a left ankle injury but still had 80 yards receiving. Petrino said the senior should be fine.
"We’re not solely dependent on one person," Watson said of the receiving group. "The depth is crazy."
Running backs Kris Olugbode and Jerrel Brown also traded the spotlight with mixed success. Olugbode had the longest run of the night, a 40-yard carry up the middle, and finished with 80 yards on 10 rushes. Brown had 14 carries for 86 yards.
Much of the night, though, the defensive line clogged the running lanes. That was particularly the case with the first unit, led by QuayShawne Buckley and Maxx Forde, going against the second-team offense.
"I think it has a chance to be pretty special," Petrino said of the D-line.
Linehan took the bulk of the throws as he did most of the spring, finishing 30 of 46 for 373 yards through the air. Chalich was 16 of 27 for 306 yards. Both had two TDs.
Petrino reiterated that he's fine not naming a starter until the fall. He wants to develop both as if they'll play in games.
"It's a win-win situation for us," Watson said.
The Vandals walk away from spring with a positive vibe. Earlier in the week Petrino said UI was ahead of schedule, while multiple players said there was a completely different energy with the team than last year.
"We’re all ready to start winning," Chalich said. "It’s been a while."