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UI spring football: Coaching continuity works wonders for Vandals

Idaho Vandals senior center Mike Marboe (74) leads the way for running back Kristoffer Olugbode last season against Wyoming. (University of Idaho)
Idaho Vandals senior center Mike Marboe (74) leads the way for running back Kristoffer Olugbode last season against Wyoming. (University of Idaho)

Vandals can just play without having to learn new system

MOSCOW, Idaho – Mike Marboe’s first spring football experience at Idaho came just after the Vandals had pocketed a once-in-a-decade bowl victory and coach Robb Akey was rewarded with a contract extension.

This was late March 2010. Marboe had graduated a semester early from Wenatchee High School so he could enroll early at Idaho.

He still remembers walking around the practice field in a fog.

“My eyes were as big as 50-cent pieces all day and I didn’t really know what was going on,” the Vandals’ veteran center said this week.

Tonight at 7:30 at the Kibbie Dome will be Marboe’s fifth and final Silver and Gold spring game. It will also be the first one that he takes orders from the same offensive line coach that he had the previous year.

Coaching continuity, even if it only spans two seasons, has made a serious difference. For the first time, Marboe came into spring camp with a full grasp of his coach’s preferences, on-the-field demeanor and all the rest.

Instead of focusing on learning a new system, he was able to simply play.

“He made a comment before we started (spring) that it’s going to be awesome that nothing’s going to be new to him,” UI offensive line coach Jon Carvin said. “He’s going to know everything before we even go out there.

“And that’s definitely translated, because his technique – he knows what he’s trying to do, how to do it. And now he’s become effective at doing those things. So that’s really a major plus for him.”

Marboe, a 6-foot-2, 293-pound redshirt senior and third-generation UI football player, is leaner and stronger than he’s been. He raves about Idaho’s strength-and-conditioning program, and about the effect that second-year coach Paul Petrino has had on the program.

Marboe is part of the core of an offensive line that, in Petrino’s words, has “really improved.” And he appears to be primed for the best season of his career.

“I think he understands what we’re doing now better,” Petrino said. “He’s stepped up and become a better leader. And he’s just playing better. He’s playing a lot better right now than he did last year.”

Marboe has started 36 consecutive games since his redshirt freshman year and already has a business degree in management and marketing. (He’s working toward a finance degree.) During that time, he’s developed into a leader – on the O-line and the whole team. But he’s done so through a fair share of turmoil.

Akey was fired midway through his redshirt sophomore season in 2012. The Vandals have lost 39 of 49 games in the four years he’s been in Moscow, and they’ve churned through four O-line coaches during that time.

The first, Dan Finn, left after the 2010 season for San Diego State. John McDonell lasted just one year after that. Then Gordy Shaw came in 2012 and was replaced the following offseason by Carvin.

Marboe, though, couldn’t be happier with his position coach now.

“Coach Carvin and I, we just speak the same language,” he said. “I love him. He’s a great coach. Playing for him, you know exactly what to expect and I’ve just come along, as well as developing my techniques that they expect from me and everything.

“To be in the same system again, it’s comfortable.”