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Sports >  Idaho football

Idaho set for spring game this Saturday in Eagle

UPDATED: Tue., April 26, 2022

By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

It seems the entire tribe from the north brave and bold – to quote from the fight song – will invade southern Idaho when the Idaho Vandals play their spring game at Eagle High School’s Thunder Stadium Saturday.

Ninety-five players are going.

“We’re taking everybody. It’s going to be an expensive trip,” coach Jason Eck said ruefully.

Unfortunately, not all are going to play. With one final practice Thursday, “we’re down to nine offensive linemen,” according to Eck. Injuries have shortened the roster everywhere. Tight end Alex Moore, who caught two touchdown passes in a scrimmage last Saturday, was present but not in pads Tuesday. During practice, two more players were hurt, sophomore defensive lineman Kemari Bailey, who earned a plaudit as the special teams most valuable player for one of the spring workouts, and junior linebacker Hogan Hatten, who made 53 tackles and had a pair of sacks last season.

“We’re not as healthy as we’d like to be,” Eck acknowledged. Because of the ravaged depth chart, the Vandals will not be splitting up into two complete teams for the spring game. Instead, “it’s going to be offense versus defense,” Eck said. The quarters will probably feature a 20-minute running clock. However, game statistics will be kept.

From the players who do participate, Eck wants to see crispness “not a lot of penalties,” and because the game is expected to draw a notable number of fans, Eck will also be watching for how individual players are affected by a crowd. “Is the moment too big for them?”

Offensive and defensive coordinators Luke Schleusner and Rob Aurich, respectively, will call the plays and defenses, with Eck overseeing the overall operation of the scrimmage and providing occasional input to the coaches.

Most of the player evaluation by coaches took place over the course of spring practices and is already complete. But a big performance Saturday might allow a player to improve his standing by as much as 10% , Eck said. He pointed out for most of the fans Saturday, it will be the first time they have seen the Vandals this spring. Because of that any player heroics will loom larger in the eyes of fans than of coaches, who see the spring game as one data point among the 15 spring practices.

With the spring all but behind them, Eck said he is generally pleased with his initial Vandals team. When he was hired to lead Idaho last December, Eck acknowledged “I did not have a ton of expectations.” He had seen game film of a pair of Idaho’s narrow losses to playoff teams, 27-20 to UC Davis, and 20-13 to Montana State, which reached the title game of the Football Championship Subdivision before falling to North Dakota State.

“I thought they competed,” he said somewhat generally of Idaho.

After having an opportunity now to coach many of those players “I’m pleased with the attitude and energy,” said Eck. “Everybody is competing hard, and they are doing what we ask of them.”

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