The first day of Idaho fall camp went deep into Monday evening, and we're done filing our story. We've got an assortment of notes and quotes after Day 1 below the link. Read on.
First, here's an unedited version of my story:
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – Their first practice in full pads isn't until Thursday. Still, the Idaho Vandals, especially a few rambunctious defensive players, spent much of Monday's fall camp opener going as close to full tilt as possible for a shirts-and-shorts session.
The 11-on-11 team scrimmages got physical at several points – a little too physical for Paul Petrino's liking. But the second-year coach doesn't mind the general trend.
He has a more athletic, faster and deeper team than a year ago, one that knows the fast-paced practice tempo that he demands.
Even the players can sense it.
"I think we’re a better team already," sophomore running back and receiver Richard Montgomery said. "But there’s still some stuff that we’ve got to clean up as a whole from every position."
The most glaring issues: drops from receivers and missed opportunities from quarterbacks Chad Chalich and Matt Linehan. Neither signal-caller was sharp, and both said they might have been too amped up after preparing all summer for Day 1 of camp.
"To be honest with you, I thought they both needed to practice better," Petrino said. "They both probably practiced better all spring than they did today. They looked a little rusty today."
The QBs split reps evenly for most of the 2½-hour practice, with true freshman Jake Luton getting sporadic snaps. Luton, a 6-foot-6 native of Lake Stevens, Wash., ended Monday's final scrimmage with a picture-perfect deep ball to newcomer Jermaine Johnson.
Johnson bobbled the throw and didn't bring in the catch, but Luton made an impression.
"Jake’s got all kinds of talent," Petrino said. "He’s got a big arm. He’s just new. … Talent-wise, he’s up there. You’ve got three quarterbacks like Chad, Matt and Jake, and they’re sophomores and freshmen or redshirt freshmen. That’s a good thing for the program."
Petrino was most impressed by the offensive line and secondary, two position groups that played poorly last season when UI slogged through a 1-11 season. He also couldn't help but notice the physical stature of two new junior-college signees – 6-foot-2, 248-pound running back Elijhaa Penny and 6-2, 217-pound safety Chris Edwards.
Regarding Penny, who flashed solid speed for his size, Petrino said, "I hope he looks that good in pads. If he’ll just be tough, as big as he is, how are going to tackle him?"
Because it failed to meet Academic Progress Rate standards, Idaho will lose four hours of practice time per week during the season (in addition to not being eligible for the postseason). So Petrino has stressed the importance of practicing efficiently. He got on linebacker Irving Steele for going too aggressively on back-to-back scrimmage plays, yelling at him, "That's not how you act!"
"We’ve got to practice smart, we’ve got to practice fast," he said. "Harder than anyone in the country, but smarter too, so we don’t lose anybody (to injury)."
Correction: An earlier version of this post, as well as the print edition of this story, incorrectly spelled Elijhaa Penny's first name.
NOTES AND QUOTES
- Petrino said he thought wideouts Deon Watson and Jacob Sannon made some nice plays. He's not worried about finding speed at receiver. He just wants toughness at the position. "We’ll be fast at receiver. We’ve just got to make sure we’re competitive enough and tough enough. We will have enough speed. Who’s going to step up and be the tough guy? The guy that will step over the middle and get blocked and make tough plays."
- Richard Montgomery labeled himself as a "full-time receiver and half-time running back now." He said he doesn't prefer one position over the other.
- Matt Linehan, the son of former UI QB and Dallas Cowboys offensive Scott Linehan, spent a couple days with the Cowboys at their training camp in Oxnard, Calif. "It was great. Learned from guys like (Tony) Romo and Brandon Weeden and especially my dad. Learning from those guys and how they learn and how they play. It was great. It was a great learning experience and I’ll always appreciate it." Linehan spent time with Romo reviewing film, a session that he said he appreciated. "He was really good with me. While we were watching tape, he said, ‘This is what I do. I want to show you how to do this.' And he was really great. He’s a great guy."
- On splitting time during the season with Chad Chalich, Linehan said, "I’m with whatever the coach says. If Chad or I are starting that game, it doesn’t matter if we’re both playing. I’m cool with it. I’m doing what it takes to make this team win and make this team better."
- Chalich said his throwing shoulder "is there" after last season's injury. "I’ve been working it this whole offseason. So it’s there and I’m ready to go and I’m ready to get after it this season."
- Petrino was glad to be able to sit in on players' weightlifting and conditioning this summer during the time that the NCAA allotted. "In the summer, it was real big. You just get to be around them more. You get to learn more about them. Be more personal with them, get them to see them lift, get to see them grind. You see who will push themselves hard when they’re out here conditioning and who won’t. So I loved it. My assistants might not have because you don’t get as long as a vacation, but I thought it was great."