INSTALLING AN AERIAL ATTACK ... Without a doubt, it has been difficult this spring to tell who exactly is running with the top wide receiver unit from day-to-day, and there are a couple reasons why. First, the attack is a wee bit more complicated than what we've seen in the past. For starters, the team is breaking out in 4- and 5-receiver sets regularly, and the routes are dizzying. Progress is being made, and Coach Dennis Erickson and his staff appear to be installing more and more of the offense each week. But it is intense. There are dozens of routes being run from the exact same formation. One of our scouts summarized the offense as follows: “It is freaking amazing to see stuff like this. I mean, I've seen teams line up in trips formation -- the Vandals had a couple plays with 3 WRs bunched together under Nick Holt – but to see the different variations that Erickson programs into each play we run from every formation is mind boggling.” Another of our scouts simply said, “Receivers are running routes everywhere, on virtually every play.” Idaho started getting back to it’s passing offense under Nick Holt and former offensive coordinator Nate Kaczor, and the evolution appears to be well on its way with head coach Dennis Erickson and offensive coordinator Dan Cozzetto in charge.
The second issue with trying to nail down who sits atop the WR depth chart is that a lot of receivers are getting some serious looks this spring. Some new kids are getting looks, as well as athletes expected to be major contributors in the fall. At times the unit as a whole has looked great, and at times they’ve struggled a bit with dropped passes (which can be attributed, in part, to spending a lot of time simply making sure they’re in the right place at the right time, in heavy coverage, in full contact drills). However, in last night’s end-of-practice “scrimmage”, the offense started to move the ball well. Idaho’s DBs were not giving up much space, but the receivers were running crisp routes and the quarterbacks were delivering the ball in good locations.
From our vantage point, the first unit consisted most often of Wendell Octave (the senior is having a great spring), DeAngelo Ramsey (converted corner has had moments of greatness this spring), Lee Smith (former walkon saw extensive PT last year as a RS-Fr), Tracy Ford (double-duty at WR and RB, as expected), and invited walkon Max Komar who redshirted last season. With the second unit offense we’ve seen Desmond Belton, Matt Askew, newcomer Gavin Smith, grayshirt Miles Robbins, Tracy McCormick and Flip Kleffner. Keep in mind that there is a tremendous amount of rotation going on, with most of the #2s (in particular Belton and Askew) getting time with the first unit as well.
In last Saturday’s scrimmage, one of our scouts thought sophomore rocket Wesley Williams may have had the best day, overall, for the offense. He was in light dress yesterday (no report of an injury), but he will undoubtedly be a major factor this fall (as one of Idaho’s top kick and punt returners as well). This week aside, he has seen significant playing time with Idaho’s #1 O. Bottom line, though, is that the group is finally showing some depth this year…and this doesn’t even count the speedy kids joining the team later this fall.
This is an offense that is also not going to be afraid of using the tightend generously. Junior Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 255), an emerging team leader, hauled in a couple touchdown passes while fellow tightend Keith Greer (6-2, 255, senior) is also spending significant time with Idaho’s top offense, and he may be having the best spring camp of his career. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that the best individual effort of the day yesterday was submitted by Greer, a graduate of powerhouse Mater Dei High School in southern California. He had a couple big catches, plus one catch-and-run in which he gained about 15 yards after the catch, dragging what seemed like half the defense with him, shedding guys along the way. Again, in our humble opinion, Greer is having an unbelievable spring.
As with the wideouts, the tightend chart has some impressive depth as well. Sophomore Rick Harrison (6-5, 240) started much of last fall with Smith-Anderson sidelined by an injury, and is battling Luke and Greer for first-team playing time. Sophomore Eddie Williams is also in the hunt after an outstanding true freshman season last year as an H-Back (splitting playing time with Greer at the position, and scoring a TD in his first game against Wazzu). Both Harrison and Williams appear to be getting significant reps with the #2 offense. Factor in redshirt freshman Peter Bjorvik (6-4, 245) who is pushing both Harrison and Williams, and this TE depth chart may be the deepest platoon on the team.
PROPS TO THE QB FROM CALIFORNIA … Under normal circumstances, this phrase would undoubtedly go to senior Steve Wichman, Idaho’s #1 quarterback whose career includes being named WAC Player of the Week after the UNLV game and a junior college career that ended with him being named a JC Gridwire All-American. However, in this case, we are actually acknowledging redshirt sophomore Chris Joseph (6-4, 210), a graduate of San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno, CA. Chris signed with Idaho as part of former head coach Tom Cable’s 2003 recruiting class (Josh Bousman’s class). Rather than make the trek to Idaho for the fall, Chris grayshirted the 2003 season, then joined the program for 2004 (Nick Holt’s first year at Idaho). Chris redshirted the 2004 season, then began working with the team in 2005 primarily as a scout teamer. We didn’t hear much about Chris the last couple years, but under Erickson he is beginning to emerge a bit, having run the #2 offense the last couple weeks. He certainly has the background, having thrown for over 5,500 yards and 66 touchdowns in his high school career. He earned First-Team All-Central Sequoia League honors as a senior (2nd Team honors as a junior), and led the Panthers to the Championship Game and a final regular season record of 9-1 in 2002 (falling in the championship to Garces High 45-42).
The competition for Idaho’s #2 quarterback role will be fierce this fall with freshman Nathan Enderle (6-5, 223, Nebraska high school standout ranked #57 in America by Scout) already on campus and competing for the job, as well as sophomore T.J. Conley (6-3, 216) who was Idaho’s top punter last year and #3 QB after a high school career in which he threw for over 10,000 yards and a staggering 125 touchdowns (#2 all-time in the state of Washington). Competition will become especially tough when Arizona high school standout Jonathan Tobin (6-4, 215, offer from UTEP and leader of Class 4A State Championship team) joins the team this summer.
But for now, Joseph is having a great spring camp and we look forward to seeing him compete in the months and years ahead.