Wide receivers, defensive newcomers stand out in first scrimmage
Saturday, the Vandal football team took to the SprinTurf for the first scrimmage of the spring.
Idaho coach Paul Petrino, who is in his third year with the program, was pleased with both how the offense and defense looked in the 148-play scrimmage. He said the scrimmage was by far the best the Vandals have been in his time as head coach.
“I think when we watch the tape, there’s going to be a whole bunch of great things,” Petrino said. “But lets expect more. We’re not going to compare ourselves to what we were in the past, ever. We’re going to compare ourselves to what we need to be to beat everybody in our conference.”
A concern for the Vandals prior to the spring was the wide receiver depth. Despite losing the top three receivers from last season, Petrino said he thinks the top three receivers on the current team are better than the receivers from last season.
Petrino said the starters right now would be senior Dezmon Epps at the No. 1 wide receiver, Jacob Sannon at No. 2 and sophomore David Ungerer at the No. 3 spot.
“Those three have played well,” Petrino said. “Our top three are probably playing better right now than our top three played last year — no question, in my opinion.”
Sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan praised Sannon, who finished the scrimmage with six receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown, and said his new nickname is Optimus Prime.
“You got Megatron in Detroit (Calvin Johnson), but I call (Sannon) Optimus Prime,” Linehan said of Sannon. “That dude is unreal … Kid is so strong. People don’t know this, but he probably has the most relative strength on the team … I think he’s probably one of the strongest players on our team, and it shows because he’s constantly making plays.”
As for the defense, freshman linebacker Kaden Ellis made a statement Saturday as he racked up team-high 19 tackles.
Ellis’ performance got the attention of senior leader Marc Millan.
“I’m excited,” Millan said. “He finally stopped overthinking things, like he does in practice, and now he just let it loose. That’s what you gotta do on defense, just fly around. When you think too much, that’s when you start making mistakes, but when you just don’t think and just react — it’s a lot more fun.”
Along with all Ellis’ tackles, Petrino said junior safety Jordan Grabski provided two of the “special plays” of the day.
One of them came as an interception on a Linehan pass attempt to freshman wide receiver Michael Garner.
“I saw Michael Garner kinda scramble with the quarterback, and then I saw Matt’s eyes light up,” Grabski said. “So I made a play on the ball as best I could.”
The defense as a whole had eight sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble, while the offense racked up 773 total yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
“It was an up and down day, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives in this situation,” said Linehan, who was 19-of-35 for 239 yards and four touchdowns through the air. “I think right now, as an offense, we’re head and shoulders better than we were last year.”
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org