Idaho springs into practice with changes afoot
Michael Harrington has competition. Mike Anderson has a new position. Jarrod Schulte has some unexpected time on his hands.
Those are some of the story lines with the University of Idaho set to begin spring football drills at 10:45 a.m. Saturday. Harrington, the incumbent starting quarterback, will be challenged by junior college transfer Steve Wichman.
“Michael is the starter going in, but all positions are open,” Vandals second-year head coach Nick Holt said. “But by no means is it etched in stone.”
Anderson played defensive end last season, but never seemed to take to the position. The rising senior is moving back to linebacker, where he made 151 tackles as a freshman and sophomore. Holt said Anderson could still see spot duty at end.
“He came in and asked what we (coaches) thought,” Holt said. “He wanted to move back, but he said he’d stay if we wanted him to. He was really productive here as a linebacker.”
In addition to Anderson, several other Vandals are on the move. Marcis Fennell, who saw considerable time as a true freshman on the offensive line, requested a move to defensive tackle, a position he played in high school. Defensive end Tim Bertalot, a prep teammate of Harrington’s in Portland, is now at tight end.
Attempting to enhance Idaho’s speed off the edges, Brandon Ogletree and Ben Alexander are switching from linebacker to end. Both are among UI’s swiftest players, Holt said.
Several Vandals will be out or limited as they recuperate from injuries. Schulte, a former walk-on who started at center last season, recently tore his Achilles tendon. Typical recovery time is 6-8 months, which leaves Schulte’s availability this fall in question. Backup center Eric Nave, a Lakeland High graduate, was sidelined last season with back/neck problems and his career appears to be over.
Receiver Jeff Stowe (knee) and defensive tackle Alex Toailoa will be limited during spring drills. Post Falls graduate Tracy McCormick (knee) is expected to participate. Offensive lineman Ryan Waage’s career is over because of chronic back problems.
Hank Therien, a two-year starter at offensive tackle, won’t participate in spring but apparently remains on the team. He is working on his academics and other issues, according to line coach Jason Eck.
Returning starters Nate VanderPol, Desmond Clark and Jade Tadvick will anchor the offensive front. They’re joined by redshirt freshmen Adam Korby and Kris Anderson, JC transfer Matt O’Donnell and John Verwey, a walk-on from Fresno City College.
“I really like the kids we brought in last year (Korby, Clark and Anderson),” Eck said. “I think they’ll make a big jump.”
Idaho returns experienced running backs in Jayson Bird, Rolly Lumbala and Antwaun Sherman. Devon Sturdivant, who redshirted last season after tearing his ACL as a high school senior in Boise, joins the backfield.
“We’re so much further ahead than we were last year, now we have to make great strides,” Holt said.
Lake City graduate Luke Smith-Anderson returns at tight end. He had a team-high four touchdown receptions in 2004.
Wendell Octave (36 catches, 368 yards) is the top returning receiver. Desmond Belton (15 receptions), former Central Valley Bear Ryan Heacock (10) and Christian Populis (four) also return. JC transfers Matt Askew and Daniel Smith join the mix.
The defense must replace end Brandon Kania and three of four starters in the secondary. Kania, who started most of his four years, will be a student assistant coach. Reggie Jones and JC transfer Jason Martin are competing for starting cornerback spots with Chris Meadows and Herb Cash.
“Those four don’t know which guy is going to be on the field,” cornerbacks coach Alundis Brice said, “so there will be great competition and that’s what helps you is true competition.”
Idaho will hold Saturday scrimmages on April 16 in Moscow and April 23 in Post Falls. The annual Silver and Gold spring game is April 29 in the Kibbie Dome.