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Idaho prepared for first-year grind

Coaches, players put in the hours as Vandals look for improvement in 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho quarterbacks coach Bryce Erickson says he’s never been on a coaching staff that works as hard. Offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich sees the same thing he witnessed at Arkansas coaching alongside Bobby and Paul Petrino, and what he noticed from a distance when the Petrinos were at Louisville. It’s a work ethic that traces back to Bob Petrino Sr., who coached his sons (and Cinkovich) at Carroll College in Montana. “We were a bunch of small-college kids,” Cinkovich said. “All undersized for the bigger schools. But he raised us to be tough and coached us to be tough and to work hard, and that you could always outwork the people that you’re competing against. “I like to think that it’s carried over to our coaching.” Cinkovich and Erickson, whose father Dennis was one of the most successful coaches in UI history, were in their Kibbie Dome offices late last week as they prepared for the Vandals’ fall camp. As they talked, both coaches had on the same green wristband with a one-word message in block letters: “GRIND.” With camp starting Monday, the next four weeks will be a grind. But so too has been the last eight months for rookie head coach Paul Petrino and his staff – and for the players. “We put a lot of time in, a lot of work in,” Erickson said. “But it’s all worth it, because we want to be great. We just don’t want to be mediocre.” The players, meanwhile, scarcely get a break either. After winter conditioning and spring ball, they were in Moscow this summer for classwork, voluntary workouts and time in the gym. “Really in college football anymore for the players, there is no offseason,” Petrino said. “They all go to summer school. They’re in the weight room four days a week. They go out and practice on their own three days a week. And that’s when you can make great improvement.” Petrino has seen signs of progress, but he also knows after UI went 2-10 and 1-11 the last two seasons, everyone needs to take big steps. He brought in five impact junior-college transfers for spring practice, an immediate infusion of talent, and his full recruiting class has qualified and is on campus. “I’m real excited about our freshman class,” Petrino said. “I think we’ve improved (our) speed big time. I think that class, from day one, is a bunch of workers, is a bunch of real good leaders and they’re real good for the program.” As the Vandals gear up for their Aug. 31 season opener at North Texas, here are a few positions to watch in camp:
  • Quarterback: Chad Chalich is at the top of the depth chart, but senior Taylor Davis has the most experience and JC transfer Josh McCain is the wildcard. Erickson said Chalich and Davis got tougher in spring. Chalich also showed a knack for running Petrino’s read-option offense.
  • Offensive line: Veteran Jordan Johnson (back) might not play this fall, which means converted D-lineman Jesse Davis has settled at offensive tackle. The anchor of the line is junior center Mike Marboe, and Dallas Sandberg and Cody Elenz are returning starters.
  • Linebacker: UI has talent here but little FBS experience. JC transfers Marc Millan, Juan Martinez and Eric Tuipulotu impressed in the spring, and Broc Westlake (another JC product) has been cleared after an injury. Redshirt freshman Russell Siavii, converted QB Austin DeCoud and returners James Randall and Matthew Willis are also in the mix.
  • Secondary: Cornerback and safety might be the thinnest positions on the team. Solomon Dixon and Jayshawn Jordan are talented corners. Bradley Njoku and Trey Williams have experience at safety. After that, UI will rely on new faces.
  • Defensive line: This is the strongest spot on Idaho’s defense, and maybe the whole team. Quinton Bradley and Maxx Forde are promising D-ends. Vince Keener and reinstated QuayShawne Buckley are key returners, while JC signee Anthony Rice should see time. “I feel really good about up front,” defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee said.
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