MOSCOW, Idaho – If the dog days of August apply to football, the Idaho Vandals are in the middle of them.
The Vandals have been in preseason camp since Aug. 3, and their first game, with Fresno State, isn’t until Sept. 1. They have had a pair of Saturday scrimmages with a mock game to go. But an endless routine of position drills and running plays in pass skeleton and 11-on-11 stretches on day after day.
One of the things camp might have decided was who is going to replace four-year starter Matt Linehan as Idaho’s new quarterback. Idaho coach Paul Petrino, however, acknowledged after the most recent scrimmage that he has all but decided to play both junior Mason Petrino and sophomore Colton Richardson in at least the Vandals’ first two games against Fresno and Western New Mexico.
It’s not that neither quarterback has distinguished himself, Petrino is quick to add. Rather, they’ve both played well.
Petrino and Richardson each has a package of plays suited to his skills. But they both run a base offense expansive enough that defenses can’t predict what they are going to see from the Vandals based solely on who is taking snaps, Mason Petrino said. He’s the better runner of the two, and the way freshman running back Tyrese Walker turned the corner on option plays in practice early this week, defenses are going to have to respect Idaho’s pitch, opening lanes for a running quarterback.
“He was a great player in Louisiana,” Petrino said of Walker, just 165 pounds but electric.
Petrino said he also expects to defeat man coverage with his feet.
“If everyone has a man, I should take off and run,” he said.
Richardson is finding his comfort level in Idaho’s passing game. Throughout fall camp, he’s been making defensive backs and linebackers redefine close coverage.
“I’m never too scared to throw into tight windows,” Richardson said. “I know my arm. I can fit tight balls into tight windows.”
In addition, Richardson said he’s been perfecting timing with redshirt freshman wide receiver Cutrell Haywood on slant routes and is pleased that redshirt junior wide receiver Jeff Cotton has returned from an injury. Cotton is a good-sized target at 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds.
“That’s got to help,” Richardson said of having him back on the field.
Because Petrino and Richardson realize they are both going to play, their focus on the sideline is sharpened, Petrino said. They know there is a high probability that insights gleaned while watching can then be applied on the field.
“Knowing you’re not going to get hit, you can look at different stuff,” Petrino said.