The Idaho football team put the finishing touches on spring camp this evening, and it did so without an organized spring "game" like you might expect. Instead the Vandals put on an exhibition filled with team drills and scrimmages from different spots on the field.
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By JOSH WRIGHT
MOSCOW, Idaho – It wouldn't be quite accurate to label the Idaho Vandals' spring football finale as a game. Not even a simulated one.
For a good chunk of Friday evening, it was more like dressed-up practice, with a medley of heated drills and more individualized battles that allowed the club's many injured players to get into the fray with no-contact action.
But alas, when it came time to scrimmage, the Vandals provided a few thrills for the roughly 500 fans on hand at their SprinTurf practice field. And this time, the excitement came through the air.
Nathan Enderle and Brian Reader both showcased their passing acumen during the Silver and Gold finale with a handful of nicely thrown deep balls and a touchdown pass apiece. Idaho's quarterback competition will extend into the fall, but there's no doubt who's leading the race to start the Sept. 5 opener at New Mexico State.
“Nate has been the better quarterback this spring,” coach Robb Akey said. “He is throwing the ball better and running the offense very well. Brian Reader is throwing the ball great and is getting a lot better at running the offense.
“The presence of those two around each other and the competition has been a good thing.”
At nearly every position, increased depth and experience led to some hearty battles for starting spots this spring. With the five-week session complete, the Vandals say they are better off for it.
Enderle (7 of 12 for 121 yards) looked sharper as spring progressed with Reader (6 of 9 for 94 yards) pushing him, and UI's wide receiver corps looks to be stronger with Eric Greenwood, Max Komar and Preston Davis at the top of the heap.
The defense, meanwhile, performed without the presence of many key parts, especially at linebacker and along the line. But safety Shiloh Keo, who's recovering from shoulder surgery, has seen enough to be impressed.
“Since I've been here I think this is definitely the best defense I've been on,” said Keo, who will be a redshirt junior in the fall. “That's good to see, especially as an older guy – that's what you want to see.”
Paul Senescall, a mainstay who operated without fellow linebackers JoJo Dickson and Tre'Shawn Robinson in contact drills, offered a similar sentiment.
“Our talent level has gone up, but the thing is everybody is one,” the Spokane native said. “We're on the same page. ... I think that's one big thing we've had to learn and work on for the past few years, and I think it's finally starting to click, so it's real exciting.”
Nevertheless, Akey again stressed Friday that the defense must improve as a run-stopping unit. Without linemen Oga Faumui and Fonomanu Sekona, both of whom have knee ailments, the Vandals' depth was a major issue.
After spending lots of time on the running game in earlier sessions, the coaching staff opted to use the final scrimmage as an exhibition for the aerial attack. UI's deep crop of tailbacks ran the ball just 13 times for 28 yards, while Enderle and Reader combined for 21 pass attempts.
“We threw the ball a lot tonight,” Akey said. “We wanted to emphasize on that a little bit more. We've been running the ball quite a bit throughout the spring and that's been something as an offense we've done well; as a defense we still need to clean up some things. I'm confident that's going to get cleaned up as we get into fall camp.”
NOTES -- Akey praised the work of Komar (two catches for 65 yards) and Greenwood (37 yards on four catches). He also mentioned Washington State transfer De'Maundray Woolridge, a squatty 220-pound running back who carried the ball four consecutive times for 20 yards and a touchdown. ... The Vandals' special teams, particularly place-kicker Trey Farquhar, had a solid final showing. Farquhar boomed two 47-yard field goals and barely missed a 52-yarder.