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Idaho Football

Idaho fills the gaps in its offensive line ahead of season-opener against Washington State

The Idaho offensive line is put to the test by linebacker Fa’Avae Fa’Avae, center, during an Aug. 11 scrimmage at the Kibbie Dome.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Trevan Pixley Lewiston Tribune

MOSCOW, Idaho – Football games are won in the trenches, but you don’t have to remind University of Idaho offensive line coach Cody Booth of that fact.

Booth comes to Idaho following a successful tenure as the tight ends coach at Colorado State.

Now, he’s tasked with developing the Vandals’ offensive line.

Idaho does have some experience up front, including seniors Logan Floyd, Beau St. John and graduate transfer Jason Hahlbeck of Morningside (Iowa) University.

The depth behind the three seniors, however, is made up almost entirely of underclassmen. It was evident in practice earlier this week that Booth has taken the time to develop these young players to be ready if their number is called.

“They’re a very coachable group,” Booth said. “They make it fun to come to work every day. They listen to what you have to say and they listen to hard coaching.”

During the individual portion of practice Tuesday, Booth took the time to address each big man one-on-one.

“I can’t express it enough, when I’m addressing someone in the room, I’m talking to everyone,” he said. “I’m making sure everyone is listening to that critique because everyone can’t come in and get a rep. We make that a high priority.”

Leading the line up front is Floyd. The senior remained healthy for all 11 games last year and anchored the UI offensive line.

For his efforts on the field, he earned third-team All-Big Sky honors. When watching Floyd practice, it might not appear that he’s leading the unit. When you take a closer look, however, the offensive line is following Floyd’s example.

“I’m not a very vocal leader,” Floyd said. “When things go badly, I try to pick everybody up. I just want the best out of this team and I think they expect that out of me and I expect that out of them.”

Before Idaho began its team period, the defensive line joined the offensive line for some one-on-one pass rush.

The two groups went five rounds. The losing side of the battle owed five pushups.

In the first round, the defensive line etched out the offensive line 3-2 with the final battle being between Elijah Sanchez and Leo Tamba.

Tamba took an inside step, swatted Tamba’s hands and bent his hips to get to the quarterback.

“It’s been fun to watch these guys work,” Booth said. “They compete and talk trash, but they also encourage each other. We want to see everyone do well. There’s always going to be a winner and a loser, but these guys come out and compete with each other every day.”

With 5 minutes left in the period, the groups decided to go one more round; this time, the offensive line won 3-2.

Tuesday’s practice also served as the first practice in preparation for Idaho’s season-opening matchup at Washington State.

The Vandals’ offensive front is going to be tasked with a stout Cougars defensive line that includes Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson.

“They’re very talented up front; that’s where their leadership is,” Booth said. “Their two defensive ends are really good players. They’re long and athletic. We’re just going to have to come out and match their intensity and play our game.”

It’ll be a battle to keep whoever is under center for the Vandals clean against Washington State’s front. If their skill players are able to get in space, however, they should be able to get some yards after the catch.

In Tuesday’s practice, the offensive line displayed a unique ability to get to the second level and block in space.

Aundre Carter rushed for two touchdowns during the Vandals’ team period and wide receiver Jermaine Johnson added two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air.

“We have some serious depth there,” Idaho coach Jason Eck said. “A lot of these guys have had a great camp so far. It’s a really good group.”