Searching for a new starting quarterback, still looking for two more assistant coaches — and trying to erase the taste of last year’s 2-10 season — the Idaho Vandals begin spring football practice today.
“We’ve got a lot of work to get done in a short period of time,” said Idaho coach Robb Akey, beginning his sixth season.
The Vandals will practice today, Friday and Saturday, as well as March 27, 29 and 31, and April 3,5,7,10, 12, 14, 17, 19 and 20. Weekday practices are at 3 p.m., with Saturday practices at 10 a.m. Scrimmages are March 31 and April 7 and 14. The spring game is scheduled for April 20 at 6 p.m.
One of the big focuses for Akey and his staff in the spring is to decide on a starting quarterback — either junior Dominique Blackman, who played one season of junior college ball before sitting out the past two seasons at Old Dominion and Idaho, respectively, and junior Taylor Davis, who started three games last season for the Vandals.
“No guy is in the lead right now,” Akey said. “Both are coming in with an equal opportunity. Obviously Davis has some game experience that Dominique doesn’t have. If it’s landslide clear at the end of spring, we’ll have a starter. If it’s not, there’s a lot of time over the summer and fall camp to make sure we have the starting quarterback defined.”
Either way, whoever emerges as the starter will be asked to improve on a passing game that struggled last year. The Vandals passed for just 188.2 yards per game last season, totaling 11 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
With former Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser taking over as offensive coordinator, Akey said the Vandal offense shouldn’t change much — other than hopefully become more efficient, and make better use of bootlegs and screen passes.
“The difference I hope to see from our offense is more completions and more touchdowns,” Akey said.
A few Vandals will be held out of spring drills because of injury, including wide receiver Justin Veltung, still recovering from a turf toe injury he was slowed by last season. Veltung, who has also returned kicks, had just 20 catches last season. Marsel Posey, another receiver, will be limited following a broken wrist. A couple of offensive linemen, including Lewiston High product Spencer Beale, will miss spring drills following shoulder surgery.
Two previous starters who missed last season with injuries — linebacker Robert Siavii and defensive back Thaad Thompson — are back for spring practice.
Ryan Bass, slowed by injury last year, is the lone returning back for the Vandals. But Akey said he expects JC transfer James Baker to “play a strong role” in the running game, and is interested to see what freshmen Todd Handley and Justin Parkins, who both redshirted last year, can bring.
The offensive line was an area of concern last year. Sophomore center Guy Marboe and senior guard A.J. Jones return. Among those in the mix for the other spots are junior Guy Reynolds, junior Jordan Johnson, senior Brady Lisoski, JC transfer Nick von Rotz and sophomore Dallas Sandberg.
Akey said he hopes to hire one assistant coach “pretty soon,” while the other hire “is probably not going to get done for quite a while.”
He said the existing coaches would absorb the vacant roles, and didn’t see it as an immediate issue in coaching the players.
With snow falling this week, Akey said practices would be inside if the weather was inclement, but “if it’s decent, I want to be outside,” he said.