MOSCOW, Idaho – It’s too bad, Idaho coach Paul Petrino told his wife the other day, Chad Chalich and Matt Linehan aren’t going toe-to-toe at wide receiver. That way, there would be room to have both on the field at the same time.
“They’re just two kids that you love and that you want on the team,” Petrino said Sunday afternoon. “Just two of the best kids on the team in a battle, but you only can play one quarterback at a time.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that Petrino won’t try to use both QBs in the same game.
The Vandals begin fall camp this evening at 6 with their first practice in preparation for their Aug. 30 season opener at Florida. The competition at quarterback between Chalich, a redshirt sophomore from Coeur d’Alene, and Linehan, a redshirt freshman, is expected to be fierce after they played evenly for most of spring.
If the race is still too tight to call in 3½ weeks, Petrino has no problem platooning the two young QBs at the Swamp.
“I don’t have a timeline exactly right now,” he said. “I could even see, to be honest with you, playing both of them in the Florida game.”
The Vandals used three quarterbacks last year while going 1-11 in Petrino’s first year. Chalich showed promise as the starter through the first seven games, but his season ended two pass attempts into an Oct. 12 loss at Arkansas State when he injured his throwing shoulder.
Petrino said Chalich feels better after attempting fewer passers than Linehan in the spring. Still, coaches will monitor him throughout camp to ensure his shoulder doesn’t tire and his mechanics don’t suffer.
The question of who will start at QB is the biggest story line entering Petrino’s second fall camp, but the Vandals have plenty of other unknowns, too. Here are three other questions to keep track of throughout August.
Who will emerge at receiver?
Leading returning wide receiver Dezmon Epps was kicked off the team two weeks ago after his second legal incident of the offseason, and Petrino said junior-college signee Kenny Torrence – who the coach spoke highly of in February – likely won’t suit up for the Vandals.
So who’s left at wideout? Deon Watson, Chalich’s teammate at Couer d’Alene High, had a big spring and the most receiving yards in 2013 of any returner. Jacob Sannon, Rueben Mwehla and tailback/receiver Richard Montgomery bring big-time speed to the position, while Josh McCain, a quarterback last year, looked like a natural at receiver in the spring.
Also expect to see lots of snaps during camp for newcomers Jermaine Johnson, a 6-foot-4 burner, and former Illinois wideout Jordan Frysinger.
“I think that that’s a position that needs to be one of our strengths,” Petrino said.
Will experience along the offensive line pay off?
The Vandals return all five starters from last year’s final game, and they brought in several JC transfers – including Kato Fawkes and Jeff Travillion – who could supplant a more experienced lineman or two.
But UI also gave up 53 quarterback sacks last year – the most in the FBS.
“I’m expecting the offensive line to play way better this fall,” Petrino said. “I think they all made huge strides in the weight room this summer. I think they made strides, especially in their pass protection, in the spring.”
Can new additions help the secondary?
Last year Idaho yielded the second-most passing yards per game (315.8) in the nation, so it’s hard to imagine the defensive backfield will be an area of strength. But a few developments point to the secondary showing considerable improvement.
Petrino likes the progress cornerbacks Jayshawn Jordan and Delency Parham made in the spring after first-year CBs coach Ashley Ambrose was hired. While Desmond Banks will likely redshirt after offseason shoulder surgery, three newcomers should add depth and an infusion of talent.
Joseph Smith, a speedy 5-9 cornerback, transferred to Idaho after graduating from Utah. He’s eligible right away under the NCAA’s graduate transfer rules.
The Vandals also opted not to grayshirt freshman Dorian Clark from Jacksonville, while Chris Edwards, a 6-2, 217-pound transfer from Butte College, should be in the mix at safety.