Fall camp officially began this afternoon for the Idaho Vandals. And the first order of business for coach Robb Akey was announcing team captains -- guard Mike Iupati (offense), lineman Jonah Sataraka (defense) and Devon Sturdivant (special teams). Other than that bit of news, it was a pretty uneventful afternoon of practice. One highlight did come from backup QB Brian Reader, which you can read about it in my story for Sunday's S-R below.
MOSCOW, Idaho — For a split-second in Idaho’s scattershot first practice of fall camp, everyone’s attention zeroed in on Brian Reader.
The second-string quarterback, a transfer learning his third offense in three years, lobbed a deep strike down the left sideline to receiver Landon Weaver that was right on the mark. Once Weaver corralled the near-perfect pass, teammates rushed to congratulate Reader. A few fans let out a robust cheer, and coach Robb Akey even offered him a high-five.
All the while Nathan Enderle, the starting QB for two years, couldn’t help but smile and wait his turn. Bona fide competition has come to the Vandals’ quarterback spot — among several other positions — for the first time in Akey’s tenure, and Enderle seems to be relishing it more than anyone.
“It’s very healthy for a football team to have competition,” Enderle said after Saturday’s late afternoon practice at UI’s outdoor facility. “If you don’t have competition, it kind of allows you to be apathetic and lethargic. You’re not going to get everything out of practice you might. So I think it’s great for me, great for him, great for the team.”
Enderle is one of UI’s true veterans, a redshirt junior whom Akey has made clear is the No. 1 QB. On Saturday, even with Reader outshining him in brief spots, Enderle said he’s never felt so comfortable.
Part of that has to do with being in Moscow for four years.
“For the first time, I feel kind of old,” Enderle said. “I’m a junior now. I’ve been here the longest out of almost everybody; I think there are only two, three guys who have been here longer than me. I see everybody come in. So it’s definitely a different feeling.”
Another player familiar with how things work is lineman Mike Iupati. The senior from Anaheim, Calif., was named offensive captain during warm-up drills before practice. Defensive lineman Jonah Sataraka and running back Devon Sturdivant were picked as captains for defense and special teams, respectively.
Iupati is a menacing but soft-spoken 6-foot-6, 325-pound guard who’s developed a stronger leadership role since spring practice. “I just lead by example, so hopefully they’ll just follow (in) my footsteps. If not, I’ll say something,” he said.
“He wants you to do stuff right,” Enderle added. “He’s going to ask you do it and he’s going to say so. And he’s a large man, so no one really says no.”
Akey was generally pleased with the first session of camp leading up to the Sept. 5 season opener at New Mexico State. The first hour of the 21/2-hour session in unseasonably cool conditions was spent on individual position drills that focused on technique, then the offense and defense came together in a light, no-pads run-through.
“It’s hard for anyone to stand out in an underwear practice,” Akey cracked. “But what did stand out to me was the spirit and the way they were getting around, doing things, and they want things to be right. We had a productive first day.”
The high energy level, Enderle said, can be attributed to a very fruitful summer. Much of the team stayed in Moscow and went through an organized workout regimen, which got them jazzed for fall practice to start.
Iupati also noticed more devotion from players through the summer and said the work should pay off.
“Players sacrificing their summers, that’s a good sign,” Iupati said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of people this year.”