Idaho coach Paul Petrino is like any coach, he's full of mantras. Competition, getting better every day, do as you're coached. The film is your resume.
He's serious about that last one. Every time we ask him to assess a player, he wants to look at the film first. For him, it's helped set his depth chart the last two seasons when games roll around.
Saturday morning the Vandals will hit the practice field for their first scrimmage of the spring, which is estimated to encompass over three hours with about 180 plays if it's like Idaho's previous spring scrimmages.
Here are 10 things to look for when Idaho hits the field.
- Well, obviously. This will be an important morning for Matt Linehan and Jake Luton. Linehan has the opportunity to build a solid gap between him and the redshirt freshman if he can protect the football while continuing to make crisp, accurate throws. Luton will have an opportunity to stay neck-and-neck with Linehan if he can demonstrate an ability to read defenses, throw with touch and show a command of the offense. It's just one scrimmage, so no solidified decision will be made, but separation has to start somewhere.
- This might be the most chaotic position group on the team. Chaotic in the sense that there is very little decided in terms of who is playing where. What we know is that Steven Matlock, Mason Woods, Jordan Rose and Dallas Sandberg figure to start. Where exactly still has yet to be determined. Matlock has seen most snaps at center, with some at guard. Jordan Rose plays mostly inside, but has played some tackle. Dallas Sandberg figures to be the strong guard. Mason Woods is the the strong tackle. The competition for the fifth spot on the offensive line is hotly contested between Calvin White, Devin Wintz, the injured Kato Fawkes and Andrew Erbes. Erbes is mostly an inside player, Wintz can play inside and outside and White is an outside player. So, depending on who wins that fifth spot will shake things up even more. Petrino wants to find the five best players, regardless of spot.
- We don't need a scrimmage to tell us who the top wide receiver is. It's Dezmon Epps. Matt Linehan and Jake Luton both are addicted to throwing to Epps, for good reason. Epps is a speed demon who runs clean routes and catches everything. The scrimmages will help make clear the picture behind Epps. Sophomore and former Pullman Greyhound David Ungerer figures to feature prominently with the first team. Junior Jacob Sannon is also poised for a breakout season. Behind those two, senior Jermaine Johnson is a player who intrigues coaches. He has a tall frame and an ability to streak down the field, cleanly catching the ball seems to be his problem. Redshirt sophomore Rueben Mwehla is the speediest option in the receiving core and a player Petrino would like to step up in the spring.
- Deon Watson's time may finally be here. The junior made the move to tight end this spring because Petrino wants more speed across the board, and early returns seem to indicate it's a good fit. He had good feet, but always lacked separation speed at wide receiver. With more match-ups against safeties and linebackers at tight end, he should see more play in the passing game. The scrimmage will give us a good idea where he's at with his run blocking as well. Buck Cowan also made the move from wide receiver to tight end, with similar strengths in the passing game as a tight end. Junior Eric Lemke and sophomore Will Schmidt will compete here for depth.
- He's at 225 pounds and can spin, juke and change directions. These are things he wasn't able to do last season at 240 pounds. I'm intrigued to see this with live tackling for three hours.
Defensive line transitions to 3-4
- Quinton Bradly is making the transition to the three technique, hovering over the offensive guard instead of playing the outside of the offensive tackles. He'll be less of a pure pass rusher and more of a weapon to stop the run game and contain mobile quarterbacks. The pass rushing is going to come from Leonard Hazewood as the BUCK (pass rushing linebacker/stand-up defensive end) and WILL Marc Millan. Ryan Edwards, who Petrino said had the best offseason in the weight room, leads at the nose tackle. Junior Tueni Lupeamanu holds down the other three technique spot. Depth behind them seems to be Glen Antoine at nose guard with Kevin Shelton and Kevin White at the three technique.
- The senior returned to the Vandals this spring and was quickly moved to linebacker in an effort to make the group more athletic and quicker. Edwards tied for the team lead in interception last season with two, meaning he'll provide an element of coverage to the linebackers. The unit struggled to cover tight ends and slot receivers last season. The new defensive scheme also means Edwards will likely not be asked to cover slot receivers very often. This will be our first look at Edwards there with three hours of live tackling. He was a big hitting safety so the transition shouldn't be overly difficult.
- Giving up over nine yards per passing attempt is not good. That's what the Idaho Vandals' defense did last season. To attempt to fix that, Petrino signed three junior college cornerbacks to arrive in Moscow for spring ball. Kendrick Trotter has emerged as the top corner among the three so far. Sophomore Dorian Clark has recently emerged opposite of him with the first team. Isaiah Taylor and Jayshawn Jordan are fighting with the second team to get more reps, which is what scrimmages and practices will be important for. The cornerback spots could be a revolving door of competition even through fall practice.
- It's April and it's still freezing and windy. So we don't know if this will be in the Kibbie Dome or SprinTurf, yet.
- The competition at punter figures to be one of the more hotly contested battles this spring.
Just kidding. Rehkow continues to destroy footballs with his feet, regularly booming punts 45-plus yards and maintaining hang time on shorter punts.
The thing to watch will be his kicking. Rehkow was 9-of-10 last season with kicks 39 yards or shorter, while only connecting on 2-of-7 attempts from beyond 40 yards.