MOSCOW, Idaho – Paul Petrino has one very clear objective – and, when accomplished, it will serve as the cornerstone for his goal of a return to the glory days for Vandal football.
“One of the things from day one I tried to build, and we still want to build,” said the first-year University of Idaho head football coach, “is just having a love for the game, having a passion for the game. Every day that we come into this building, every day that we step onto this field, is to have a love and passion for this game and get better every day.”
With that passion an ingrained value in the Vandals, Petrino said the road to getting better every day – day after day, will become a part of who they are as well.
“Every game when we go out there, we’re going to compete, to out-hit, out-hustle, punish the opponent,” he said as he addressed the media just days before Monday’s opening of fall camp. “Every team when they walk off the field and they played us, they’re going to be sore. They’re going to know they just had to work their tails off. They had to compete the whole game.”
Petrino’s mission is to take the returning players and blend them with a mix of junior college transfers and incoming freshmen. He likes the nucleus that is building.
“I’m real excited about the recruiting class,” said Petrino, adding freshmen will be have the same footing as they compete for playing time with the veterans. “They’re all here. They’re all in (summer) school. They’re working real hard.”
Fans everywhere relish speculation about the starting quarterback. Petrino said Coeur d’Alene native Chad Chalich, a redshirt freshman, came out on top after spring ball but senior Taylor Davis continually improves and junior college transfer Josh McCain is learning the ins-and-outs of the offense. While redshirting Matt Linehan, son of Vandal great and Detroit Lions assistant coach Scott Linehan, would be preferable, Petrino didn’t rule out action by the freshman from Michigan.
Petrino said strengths of the team at this point are in the lines. Former defensive tackle Jesse Davis (Asotin, Wash.) has found a home on the other side of the ball at strong tackle, while Mike Marboe (a Rimington Award Watch List member from Wenatchee, Wash.) is a mainstay having started every game for the past two seasons at center. Sophomores Dallas Sandberg (quick guard) and Cody Elenz (quick tackle) have a year’s worth of starts and look to return to their roles.
The defensive line core also is composed of veterans, although, for the most part, it is a youthful group. Vince Keener and QuayShawne Buckley are the lone seniors with integral roles expected from junior Maxx Forde and sophomores Ryan Edwards and Quinton Bradley.
An influx of players over the summer bolstered the secondary, with Petrino citing the linebacking group as a likely strength of the team as well. The arrival of Matt Millan, Juan Martinez and Eric Tuipuloto last spring added a savvy depth to a position depleted by graduation.
Running back, another position enhanced by last spring’s arrivals, could be another strength with veteran James Baker battling transfers Jerrel Brown and Kris Olugbode for time. Youth will dominate the receiving corps but the tight ends are a veteran unit with the return of seniors Clayton Homme, Mike LaGrone and Taylor Elmo.
Don’t be surprised to see true freshman kicker Austin Rehkow, a national sensation last fall when he booted a 67-yard field goal for Spokane’s Central Valley High School, also handling punting duties.
“Austin always wants to talk about punting,” Petrino said. “I say, ‘I don’t want to talk about punting. Let’s talk about kicking field goals and scoring some points. I don’t want you to punt too much.’ ”
The bottom line, though, is to improve daily.
“Every day we’re going to continue to improve, continue to battle,” he said. “We’re going to line up the next week and do it again; line up the next week and do it again.”
The Vandals report Aug. 4 with the first practice Aug. 5. Here is the first week’s practice schedule:
Aug. 5, 6, 7, 9 – 3 p.m.
Aug. 8 – 6 p.m.
Aug. 10 – 10 a.m. scrimmage
Idaho opens the 2013 season at North Texas on Aug. 31. The Vandals are on the road the following week, Sept. 7, at Wyoming before their home opener Sept. 14 against Northern Illinois.