MOSCOW, Idaho – When Idaho football coach Paul Petrino surveyed the offensive line he inherited, it was immediately obvious. Some of the returning linemen were “just too heavy, just too fat,” as he put it.
So the Vandals coaching staff put six linemen through an intense cardio program over the winter. Mike Marboe ended up dropping 22 pounds and the five others lost at least 16 pounds each.
After Saturday’s 21/2-hour scrimmage with an injury-ravaged offensive line, Marboe was glad for the weight-loss program. But the grueling scrimmage had him thinking of shedding even more pounds.
“He came in and he trimmed all of us down,” the 296-pound junior center said of Petrino. “And it’s been really good for us. We’re moving better, especially with the intensity of these practices and these scrimmages, we needed every bit of it and maybe even some more.”
The Vandals steamed through 170 plays at the Kibbie Dome – more than twice as many as fast-paced Oregon averaged last season – in their second scrimmage of the spring. Workhorse tailbacks Kris Olugbode and Jerrel Brown combined for 381 yards on 67 carries, while Chad Chalich and Taylor Davis put up 76 passing attempts.
And Idaho did all this work with seven healthy offensive linemen.
“We don’t have many. There’s no one else,” said Petrino, who lost Jordan Johnson, Ben Westrum and Spencer Beale to injury. “They all have to play, and they all have to play different spots.”
Idaho has so few O-linemen that defensive lineman Jesse Davis filled in at both tackle spots for the first part of the scrimmage before going back to a defense that gave him a rousing ovation upon his return.
The short-handed line didn’t sidetrack the Vandals from getting through the offense that they wanted to roll out. They went through 27 offensive series, with the majority of the early action going to Chalich, who passed for 252 yards and had three interceptions.
To Petrino, long scrimmages and up-tempo practices serve a purpose. And he communicated that to his players before the spring started.
“He said, ‘I want you to run more plays in a scrimmage than you would in a game so you’re fresher for the game,’” said Marboe, the veteran of the O-line. “It’s a good mindset. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good for us. We need it.”
It helps that the Vandals have slimmed down in the trenches. Offensive line coach Jon Carvin, who was an assistant at Illinois last year, wants UI’s front to be athletic and quick enough to get to the perimeter on any given play.
Before winter conditioning started, he and Petrino made it clear to the returners that they needed to play at a lighter weight. Because of injuries, he noted several of them took 100 snaps last week in the first scrimmage.
“We’ve had guys lose 20-plus pounds, and it’s probably a good thing with how many plays they’ve had to play,” Carvin said. “I’m sure they’re thankful for it.”
Redshirt freshman place-kicker Jace Johnson has left the team, Petrino said. His departure means the Vandals have no kickers or punters on their spring roster, which Petrino said was a first for him in his coaching career. … Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin DeCoud played safety for the first time Saturday, but Petrino said he could move back to QB. … Starting receiver Najee Lovett missed most of the scrimmage after what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Petrino said he won’t discuss injuries with the media.
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