MOSCOW, Idaho – One of the truths of spring football is that what happens in April doesn’t always carry over to the fall. For Idaho, team scrimmages will give way to the season opener at Florida, and players who stood out in spring drills might not even make the trip to The Swamp.
Some trends that surface, though, are sustainable. Idaho coaches hope the depth and strength they saw from the defensive line on Saturday is one of them.
The defense headlined the Vandals’ third spring scrimmage at the Kibbie Dome, especially early when the defensive line pressured quarterbacks Chad Chalich and Matt Linehan and the secondary made a string of jarring hits and interceptions.
Quinton Bradley had three sacks and Maxx Forde two pass deflections. The two defensive ends were freed up by an occasionally dominant group in the middle – sophomore Tueni Luepamanu, senior QuayShawne Buckley and junior Ryan Edwards.
The defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage for the first portion of the two-hour, 143-play game-like session, like they have for glimpses throughout spring.
“That should be one of the strengths of our team, really,” Vandals coach Paul Petrino said.
If the line plays well, a natural byproduct should be a stronger secondary. Defensive backs Jayshawn Jordan, Desmond Banks and Bradley Njoku made nice plays Saturday, but the secondary struggled last year during a 1-11 season in which Idaho gave up an FBS-worst 46.8 points per game.
“It makes it a lot easier in the back end when you’ve got those guys like Tueni and Bradley and QuayShawne putting pressure on the quarterback,” defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee said.
After Idaho’s offense made most of the show-stopping plays in the first two scrimmages, Lee started Saturday’s session by calling different blitz packages, one after another. He wanted the defense to set the tone this time, and they did.
Over the course of nine plays in two series, Bradley burned past an offensive tackle for a sack and joined Buckley to toss running back Jerrel Brown to the ground. Then Edwards and Forde stuffed tailback Kris Olugbode on consecutive plays.
“I mean, we made the offense feel like they couldn’t do nothing,” Bradley said.
“Overall, I was happy with it because we needed a scrimmage where the defense came out (and played well),” Petrino said. “Early when they were blitzing all the time, they got after the offense.”
Although Bradley and Forde are known commodities on the edge, the Vandals could be more of a force on the inside of the defensive line.
Luepamanu played in 11 of 12 games in the interior as a true freshman. Buckley, who had one more year of eligibility than Idaho initially thought, registered team highs in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (seven). He and Edwards played in all 12 games.
They should be joined by 346-pound Alfonso Hampton, a junior college signee whom Petrino expects to qualify academically, and injured linemen Glen Antoine and Max Martial.
“Maxx Forde and Bradley have the opportunity to get a lot of one-on-one matchups,” Lee said. “QuayShawne and Ryan Edwards usually have the dirty work of getting the double teams and beating those blocks.”
The Vandals had 23 sacks in 2013, an improvement over their 14 in 2012. But Bradley, an athletic junior, managed just three sacks in the parts of eight games he played through injuries.
Petrino said his first impression was that neither Chalich nor Linehan separated from the other in the QB competition. Chalich, who said his recovering throwing shoulder was “a little sore,” was 13 of 29 for 195 yards. Linehan was a bit sharper, going 27 of 43 for 364 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. … Steven Matlock, Mike Marboe and Mason Woods have emerged on the offensive line, Petrino said. “But I don’t know if any have a spot for sure,” he added.
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