As it begins the Jason Eck era, Idaho’s football team is coming out of the blocks like an Olympic sprinter.
The Vandals begin preseason camp Wednesday. By noon, the first practice will be in the books.
“I just like that model of practicing in the morning,” says Eck.
“Get your work done early. At 9 a.m. it’s also a little cooler.”
It leaves the afternoons available for meetings, watching film, “and at night you can install a walk through for the next day,” he says.
Efficiency is a watchword for Idaho under Eck. The Vandals will split up and work at both ends of the Kibbie Dome according to Eck.
“We’ll do double reps as long as our depth allows, just to get in a lot of reps,” he said.
Idaho’s base schemes of three down defensive linemen and a defensive end in a flex position in front of a zone secondary, and a two-back offense that also looks to spotlight abundant tight ends and several returning wide receivers, like Hayden Hatten and Terez Traynor, was installed last spring. So, the first week or so of the preseason will be devoted to “evaluating guys who were out in the spring, as well as transfers. Is this a guy who can help us this fall? Also, we’ll be looking to see if there are any returners who made a big jump and improved over the summer,” Eck said.
“We don’t want to make things too complicated right away. We want to evaluate guys when they are playing fast. We don’t want to overload them.”The offense has also been simplified a bit for quarterbacks. After throwing a touchdown in a scrimmage last spring, C.J. Jordan said the quarterback reads in Eck’s offense are more straightforward. Eck said, in an effort to get the ball moving quickly, he doesn’t want quarterbacks to have to make a pre-snap read.
“We want their eyes to start in the same place all the time and go through their progressions.”
Three quarterbacks, Jordan, a redshirt freshman; Gevani McCoy, a sophomore; and J’Bore Gibbs, a redshirt junior who transferred from South Dakota State, are competing to start. Jordan and McCoy saw game action with the Vandals last year.
Eck plans to identify a starting quarterback in camp, before the Vandals begin preparing for their season opener Sept. 3 against Washington State. Idaho will start focusing on that game sometime after Aug. 22, when classes begin.
Working out an offensive line rotation will also be a priority in August. Injuries last spring left the Vandals thin there. Now, Idaho expects to be able to look at 17 linemen, “and we’d like to build that to 20,” Eck said.
He would also like to see more size among defensive linemen, “but you can’t grow those guys overnight,” he acknowledges.
Going into the preseason, only four players are still rehabbing injuries and won’t be immediately available: defensive end Malakai Williams, linebacker Sully Shannon, offensive lineman Connor Wood, and defensive lineman Zach Krotzer.
As he was last spring, Eck plans to roam the field during practices. “I’ll be moving around, on both sides of the ball and special teams.” Focusing too much on one aspect, like offense, he says, can be a trap.
“I don’t want to get wrapped up in one side. If the offense has a bad practice, it puts you in a bad mood when you are talking to the whole team.”
Mostly, though, Eck is eager to get a regimen of 25 practices under way that will lead to an actual football game next month against the Cougars.
“I’m very excited,” he says. “I’ve been here since I was hired at the end of December. We’ve had 15 practices since I’ve been here,” last spring.
“I am excited to get to camp.”
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