[Vandal] Idaho Has Benefited From Conducting A Fall Camp

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Sun Nov 1 08:15:01 PST 2020

{Compiler's Note: first Vandal football story in approximately two weeks.  Cougars have been in the paper about every other day}
>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoSunday, November 1, 2020
Idaho Has Benefited From Conducting A Fall Camp
Vandals look to tote added knowledge into spring Big Sky season
By Colton Clark
Spring camp went out the window for the University of Idaho’s football team, as did any nonconference fall games the Vandals hoped to tune up with. The coronavirus had other plans.
Even so, Idaho’s players and staff should feel and look plenty prepared when — or if — they get the chance to show out early in 2021.
“It’s the most we’ve ever went over the install (of plays),” eighth-year Vandals coach Paul Petrino said during a Zoom news conference with media members last week. “It seems like we’ve gone over and over and over and over it.”
As college football’s top-level chugs along this fall, and Idaho awaits an official Big Sky Conference — and Football Championship Subdivision — start in the spring, the Vandals have been nailing down their schemes and soaking in the intricacies of their sport.
They made good use of online Zoom coaching sessions during the summer months, and in August, were granted time for walk-throughs ahead of a planned away game with Temple, which was scrapped just like the rest of the Big Sky’s 2020 schedule.
Now, UI is nearing the end of its allotted 15 fall practices, which include situational scrimmages. The Vandals have treated the time as though it were a spring camp — working out the kinks, testing a few new wrinkles and sorting out some depth-chart questions.
“Guys have had real good energy,” Petrino said of the recent live practices at the Kibbie Dome. “I think we’re improving all the time, and it’s just been great to be out there and playing some football.”
While effectively performing the installed systems is a task that remains, the cerebral preparation has been key to quick development, particularly for newcomers.
“Definitely, mentally-wise, it’s helped a ton,” the coach said. “All that extra work, and all those extra Zoom meetings have let them understand the game of football better too.
“Now we just need the reps to make sure that we can execute it way better.”
Petrino touched on several other matters, including COVID-19 protocols, practice standouts and the spring season.After a few positive cases in the summer, it’s now been “a long time” since anyone connected to the team has contracted the virus.
For practices to continue, Idaho’s players must make sacrifices and maintain discipline.
Petrino repeated a sentiment he’s shared with his Vandals: “You’re not a typical college student anymore.
“You gotta really stick to the guys you live with, wear a mask everywhere you go, keep social distance, wash your hands. Do everything in your power to be as careful as you can, and keep yourself and your teammates healthy.
“Being disciplined, I think that’s the biggest thing. I’ve been really proud of the guys. They’ve done a great job working at it.”
Petrino again lauded the work of Chris Walsh, Idaho’s director of athletic training services, and pointed to the school’s coronavirus protocols as some of the nation’s best in mitigating the potential spread of the virus.
“I think really, across the country, people can come look and see what we’re doing,” he said. “Our protocol is very strict, very tough, and our guys have done a good job.”
He thinks two factors might contribute to having a successful spring Big Sky season, which reportedly will feature six to-be-determined games per team: Who avoids the coronavirus during the holiday break, and who stays in shape.
Utilizing the dome for winter practices likely will prove to be an advantage for Idaho, as will the fact that some conference foes haven’t been able to stage any workouts yet because of local restrictions.
“We’ve had a couple coaches’ meetings where we’ve talked about different things, so you kinda hear how they’re doing,” Petrino said.As for the football? It’s apparently been balanced, and decently crisp.
“We’ve got that front seven defensively — we’ve got a lot of guys back — so there’s been times when they’ve played really well, and there’s been times offensively where we’ve executed really well,” he said.
“So far, it’s made you feel pretty confident, pretty optimistic that we can have a good season.”
Asked of practice standouts, Petrino quickly spotlighted his three star linebackers: strongside senior Christian Elliss, junior middle linebacker Tre Walker and senior edge rusher Charles Akanno.
Elliss and Walker are STATS FCS preseason All-Americans, and Akanno might have been one too had he not sustained an Achilles injury eight games into a lights-out 2019 campaign.
Junior tackle Nate DeGraw, from Post Falls, also received a shout-out as one of UI’s top-performing defenders.
In an interview shared by Idaho’s media department last week, Elliss included Washington State transfer linebacker Fa’Avae Fa’Avae as a notable addition.
“And then, you know, Tre’s just a monster, so I’m excited to see him and play alongside him,” the 2019 first-team All-Big Sky pick said of Walker, who’s gotten time at running back.
“He’s very natural. He’s got great vision, speed,” Petrino said of Walker’s ball-carrying aptitudes. “You forget he’s 235-238 pounds back there.”
Petrino has some big shoes to fill on offense, considering departures of graduated quarterback Mason Petrino, four-year-starting guard Noah Johnson and All-American receiver Jeff Cotton. Plus, stout sophomore running back Aundre Carter no longer is with the program, and Lewiston quarterback Colton Richardson elected to take the year off to focus on his health.
UConn graduate transfer Mike Beaudry (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) “has done a really good job at quarterback,” and rookie CJ Jordan, from Union High School in Vancouver, Wash., “has a great future here.”
Speedster receiver Jermaine Jackson, a transfer from juco power San Mateo (Calif.), was recognized for the umpteenth time, and Petrino noted former tight end Hayden Hatten, a sophomore from Scottsdale, Ariz., “is gonna take a lot bigger role” at receiver.
Bruising junior fullback/tight end Logan Kendall is “kinda dominating there,” and Californian true freshmen Nate Azzopardi and Elijah Sanchez — from Pacifica and Palm Springs, respectively — are vying for minutes on the offensive line. Sophomore Idaho native Nick Romano has looked solid at running back.
The Vandals will be back for two weeks of preseason walk-throughs in January, then start their “camp” afterward to gear up for the season.
“Everybody was itching to play this fall, but sadly, things happen,” Elliss said. “Other than that, we’ve been responding well.”
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