MOSCOW – The glimmering new black helmets drew most of the attention, from players and the media, at Idaho’s fall camp opener.
But it was another sight at the Vandals’ practice field Thursday that sparked coach Robb Akey’s interest.
The Vandals finally have bodies, and lots of them, at key positions. After being depleted in the spring at wide receiver and along the offensive line, UI is flush with a mix of newcomers and players returning from injury at both positions.
“It makes everything so much easier,” starting center Mike Marboe said. “This is the most guys (on the offensive line) we’ve had since I’ve been here. And just having those extra bodies, it gives us some rest. It gives us a chance to watch other people, take some more mental reps.”
When Akey looked toward the corner of the field where the linemen were practicing, he couldn’t spot new offensive line coach Gordy Shaw, who was hidden behind more than a dozen big bodies. To the sixth-year coach, that was a positive step.
“It was a hell of a lot better than it looked in the spring,” Akey said.
With so few linemen in March and April, tackle Cody Elenz and guard/center Dallas Sandberg took nearly every snap. Now they have reinforcements, including tackles Jordan Johnson and Kyle Salm.
Another notable returner is receiver Justin Veltung, a potential starter who had been sidelined with a turf toe injury.
The Vandals have a deep crop of wideouts, led by Veltung, offensive captain Mike Scott and junior college transfer Najee Lovett. Many of the potential contributors – like walk-on Jahrie Level, who made a splash with a highlight-reel catch – have little to no FBS experience.
Veteran and first-year players alike were excited to unveil all-black helmets with faint gold speckles, a surprise that the coaches were able to keep until Wednesday when the team reported to camp. This will be the first season since the 1970s that the Vandals haven’t had some shade of gold in their helmets.
“I think they look sharp,” Akey said. “ … But they’ll look real good if we play well inside them. That’s what I care about the most.”
No-shows at camp
Semisi Tupou, a 380-pound junior college offensive lineman who signed in February, will not play for UI. The Long Beach, Calif., product will instead attempt to play in the Canadian Football League, Akey said.
“He found out if you go to the CFL you don’t have to get that schoolwork done,” Akey said. “That’s what he was going to attempt to go do.”
Another February signee, tailback Trae Armstrong, opted to accept a track scholarship at Arizona State rather than play football and run track at Idaho.
Akey said the Vandals will be at 81 or 82 scholarships this season, just shy of the 85 maximum allowed for FBS schools.
Moses officially joins staff
Wayne Moses has been in Moscow since spring camp as a consultant, but Wednesday was his first official day as the Vandals’ running backs coach.
Moses previously held the same position at UCLA and with the St. Louis Rams, and he’s already won over the Idaho’s starting tailback.
“He’s a great coach and I listen to everything he says because I know it’s going to take me to good places,” senior Ryan Bass said of Moses “… I just love following his example and everything. I love looking up to that guy.”
The Vandals’ first full-pad practice is Monday, a day before their first scrimmage. … Akey said it could be until after the second scrimmage that he names a starter at quarterback between Dominique Blackman and Taylor Davis … Redshirt freshman cornerback Solomon Dixon got reps with the first-team defense Thursday. Tracy Carter, another potential starter at corner, was out with a lip injury.