After two scrimmages and 10 days of fall camp, things are coming into focus for the Idaho Vandals. Most notably, the quarterback competition -- which heated up in the spring -- seems to have titled in Dominique Blackman's favor. That was abundantly clear today at the Kibbie Dome. More after the jump.
We've got our scrimmage recap for tomorrow's paper below. First, here are a few notes, some of which will be repeated in the story:
- As mentioned in the story, DE Benson Mayowa and RB Ryan Bass did not participate today. In fact, both sat very high in the stands at the Dome and watched the scrimmage before coming down to the field. Asked about both players, Akey said, "They’re finishing some academic requirements, and I kind of just want to leave it at that."
- Freshman safety Ma'ne Manaea will likely redshirt after breaking his ankle. He had surgery on Friday. Said Akey, "I’m going to anticipate having him out all year, and it’s disappointing because he was really flying around. … He was one I was thinking might do some special teams stuff."
- The Vandals showcased several four- and five-wideout sets on offense, something Akey said will happen more with UI's improved depth at receiver. "Hopefully we’ll have a few bodies we can get in and out of there. And you’ve seen the things we’re doing: different personnel groupings where we’re getting more wideouts out there."
- Linebacker Homer Mauga has changed his number from 19 to 55 in honor of his first cousin Junior Seau, a former NFL star who killed himself earlier this year. Mauga said he's playing this year for Seau and Ken McRoyal, the Vandals' wideout who was shot and killed in early May, just days after Seau's death.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – The men who will make the decision declined to give definitive statements Saturday afternoon on the University of Idaho’s drawn-out quarterback race.
But an end to the competition for the No. 1 job appears to be in sight.
Dominique Blackman, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Los Angeles Harbor, was again the sharpest QB in the Vandals’ preseason scrimmage Saturday afternoon in the Kibbie Dome. The left-handed junior took the most reps with the first-team offense, passing for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile incumbent Taylor Davis, who started three games last year, took a backseat to senior Logan Bushnell, the Vandals’ third-stringer in 2011. Bushnell got a long look Saturday – a reward for his strong play in fall camp, coach Robb Akey said – and went 6 of 17 with two interceptions.
Davis attempted just six passes, completing half of them – including one to Mike Scott over the middle for a 67-yard TD. Most of the junior’s snaps, however, were with the second and third units.
“Logan has kind of (come) on here,” offensive coordinator Jason Gesser said. “(He’s) had a pretty decent camp. And Taylor … he’s been up and down, up and down, up and down – kind of like he was in the spring. He’ll have a real good day. Then one of those days, you’re like, ‘What are you doing?’ ”
Gesser followed Akey’s lead in not saying if there’s a favorite to start UI’s opener on Aug. 30 against Eastern Washington. But Blackman has progressed enough that the choice might not be difficult to make.
He’s connected on 25 of 35 passes in two scrimmages with no interceptions. Although he overshot several targets Saturday, he’s been more accurate than Davis and increasingly received more time with the first unit.
Akey told reporters he’s “very anxious to digest today and add that into the equation, but it’s coming along well and I think we’re starting to see some things. And I’m going to leave it at that at this point in time.”
Neither Blackman nor Davis has been made available to the media through spring and fall camps. That will change when a starter is named, Akey said last week.
Mayowa and Bass sit out
Defensive end Benson Mayowa and running back Ryan Bass, two presumptive starters, sat in the bleachers Saturday while they sort out academic issues. The seniors have not played in either scrimmage and won’t be back “until they get everything taken care of,” Akey said.
Without Bass, the Vandals had minus-20 yards on the ground Saturday. Their next-best tailbacks, Todd Handley and James Baker, each ran for 12 yards.
Vince Keener replaced Mayowa with the first unit for most of the scrimmage at defensive end, while sophomore Maxx Forde and redshirt freshman Quinton Bradley were also productive.
Freshman safety Ma’ne Manaea had surgery Friday to repair a broken ankle and will likely miss the season, Akey said. … WR Justin Veltung continues to be held out of scrimmages and all contact drills, but Akey said he’s “moving very well” and should be cleared for contact soon. In Veltung’s absence, Akey and Gesser both praised freshman Camryn Harris and summer pickups Javrie Level and Roman Runner. Harris juked two defenders during a 39-yard touchdown catch and run Saturday, and Runner had four catches. Both Runner and Level will be on scholarship this fall, Akey said.