MOSCOW, Idaho – The first batch of spring practices under a new coaching staff is always important. But to head coach Paul Petrino and the University of Idaho football team, the next four weeks are especially critical.
Simply put, Petrino has an intricate system. It involves a large number of base plays and packages – many more than the Vandals’ returners grew accustomed to under Robb Akey.
“I think it’s a lot more volume,” Petrino said when asked about the challenges of grasping his playbook. “We’re doing more offensively and defensively.”
Starting today at 4 p.m., Idaho’s new staff will introduce new schemes for the first time on the field. The first of 15 spring practices for the Vandals will be at the team’s outdoor practice field.
UI players won’t have to digest the new system all at once. Coaches instead will install protections, coverages, blitzes and all the rest in seven-day increments. The Vandals will get through two installations in spring, then repeat the process in the summer (when players are on their own) and fall camp.
“So by the time we line up to play North Texas on Aug. 31, we should have been through the installation at least 12 times,” Petrino said.
The first day of spring will be Petrino’s 110th day on the job by his count, and the former Arkansas offensive coordinator is pleased with how his players have responded to the regime change. But he’s also curious how the team will operate under pressure.
Partly for that reason, the Vandals will have hold live scrimmages for the quarterbacks – also a departure from Akey’s tenure – starting March 30 at 10 a.m. Petrino wants to see how the four QBs react to getting hit and having to move around the pocket.
Senior-to-be Taylor Davis, junior-college transfer Anthony Neyer and redshirt freshmen Chad Chalich and Austin DeCoud will get equal reps in practice, Petrino said. At least for the first few days.
“I already have in my mind who’s a little bit ahead of who,” said Petrino, declining to elaborate. “But you’ve got to get out there on the field and see them in live bullets and see how they play.”
Petrino hopes one of the four emerges so he can name a starter heading into fall camp. But another JC transfer, Josh McCain, will also figure into the QB competition when he joins the team after this semester.
One of Idaho’s strengths appears to be its depth on the offensive and defensive lines. Petrino said four of the five O-line starters could already be in place – led by slimmed-down center Mike Marboe and guard Dallas Sandberg – while Quinton Bradley and other returners on the D-line show promise.
“Really the biggest goal on both sides of the ball is to find our 11 best players. That’s something we’ve got to come out of spring knowing who those guys are.”
In addition to March 30, the Vandals will hold scrimmages on April 13 and 19. Their spring game is April 19 at 6 p.m.