Petrino makes changes for more speed on field
Speed kills — a motto that has become more and more popular in the game of college football and one Idaho coach Paul Petrino has tried to implement with the Vandal football program.
However, Idaho has been on the wrong end of the speed spectrum in Petrino’s first two seasons. Whether it was a player from the opposing teams’ offense running away, untouched to the end zone, or Vandal receivers not separating from the defense, the Vandals have usually been the slower team on the field, and it’s resulted in many losses.
Petrino has been vocal and has made it no secret that the team lacks speed. So, during the offseason the head coach took action and made some changes to improve the teams’ overall speed.
He not only recruited players with more speed — defensive backs Kendrick Trotter, Isaiah Taylor and DJ Hampton, to name a few — but Petrino also made some position changes to help as well.
First up is Chris Edwards, who started at safety last season for the Vandals before leaving the program five games into the season for unknown reasons. The Detroit native won’t be playing the position where he nabbed two interceptions in the short time he patrolled the secondary last season. Instead, Edwards will look to cause havoc closer to the line of scrimmage at linebacker.
At 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, Edwards already has the size for his new position. Also, to make the transition easier, the former safety won’t have to change his style of play too much as he’ll be playing what linebackers coach Eric Brown describes as a hybrid role in the Vandals’ new 3-4 defense.
“The way the defense is built, that position is kind of that hybrid safety, and he’s perfect for it,” Brown said of Edwards’ new linebacker position.
While senior linebacker Marc Millan will play closer to the line of scrimmage and look to stop the running game, Edwards will mostly be dropping back in coverage.
Throughout the spring so far, Edwards appears to already have a grasp of his new position and has made some outstanding plays — breaking up multiple passes in an impressive fashion.
The other notable change comes on the other side of the ball on offense.
Former wide receiver Deon Watson spent time in the spring learning his new position of tight end. At 6-foot-4, the sophomore from Coeur d’Alene is already tall enough to fill in at tight end, a position in which the Vandals were fairly thin at after the departures of Justin Podrabsky, who graduated, and Jared Klingenberg, who left the program for unknown reasons.
Watson said he weighed around 210 pounds last season and has already managed to get his weight up to 220 pounds this spring. His position coach, Al Pupunu, said he wants his new tight end to get up to 240-plus pounds.
Despite being light for the position, Pupunu likes the potential of his new player.
“I was excited,” Pupunu said when he heard the news of Watson’s position change. “He was not quite as fast at receiver, but he’s a fast tight end.”
The speed Watson brings to the tight end position has already made a difference for an offense that lost its three leading receivers from last season — Joshua McCain, Richard Montgomery and Podrabsky.
His speed is also something Podrabsky wasn’t known for, and will surely offer a new dynamic to an offense that sometimes lacked playmakers a year ago.
There is a lot of unknown with how Vandals’ new look will perform this season, but one thing is for certain — the team does look bigger, stronger and faster.
Speed kills. Let’s hope the Vandals have enough of it to run over their opponents en route to more wins.
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KorbinMcD_VN