After getting lit-up by a wicked Hawaii team on the islands, then following it up with a brutal home loss to a strong Nevada team, Idaho stumbled into the bye-week last weekend. The Vandals jumped out to an impressive 3-0 conference start in just their second season of WAC competition (including road victories over Louisiana Tech and Utah State, and a home win over New Mexico State). But injuries eventually took their toll on a Vandal team that is still building depth at numerous positions. Several Vandals played through the pain, but the week off had to be a welcome sight (to recover...and regroup).
This afternoon's practice appeared to be one of the better practices the team has had in a couple weeks. We'll see how things translate to Saturday's matchup with a Fresno State team that is absolutely loaded with talent, but Idaho's practice outside on the SprinTurf practice fields was sharp and crisp.
Below is a quick rundown of many of the players who have been slowed in recent weeks.
- Slowed by an injury a couple weeks ago, Alexander appeared to be operating at full-go this afternoon. Idaho's No. 7 tackler on the season while playing in nine games, Alexander has 30 tackles on the season (22 solo), four tackles for loss, 1 sack, a pass breakup and three quarterback hurries while splitting time with senior Charles Campbell as Idaho's top rush end. A native of Lawndale in southern California, this weekend will undoubtedly be a chance for Alexander to show-case his ability close to home.
- One of Idaho's top three cornerbacks going into this season, Jones has been battling injuries all year long. He has played in just five games on the season, but this afternoon appeared to be practicing full tilt. Look for Reggie in the cornerback rotation Saturday, and on special teams.
- A former walkon, redshirt sophomore Smith earned a scholarship this past spring and was off to a solid start earlier this season before an injury derailed him this fall. In total Smith has played in five games this season and has seven receptions for 139 yards, is averaging 19.9 yards per catch, has one TD and a long of 33 yards. Tuesday afternoon he appeared to be running full speed in Idaho's wide receiver rotation. Getting Smith back at full speed Saturday would be a significant boost to the wide receiver rotation.
- Idaho's lone senior on the interior defensive line, Davis suffered a shoulder injury a few weeks ago and has been slowed since, although he's admirably played in all ten games so far this season. This afternoon the native of Anaheim played with his usual "pop", and appeared to be practicing without restrictions. On the season Davis has 14 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, and a memorable blocked kick against Boise State in the Dome. We expect Ryan to leave it all on the field Saturday as Idaho tries to knock off a talent-laden Fresno State team.
- One of Idaho's top two tightends this season, Greer has been on and off the injury list for much of 2006 (he has played in six games this fall), but Tuesday was getting serious reps again with the top O. This season is the last hurrah in a Vandal uniform for Greer, another California native, this time from Santa Ana and a graduate of Mater Dei High School. It's also his last chance to play in front of a California crowd. We expect that if Greer gets the green light Saturday, he will leave everything on the field.
- The shifty speedster out of Inglewood (CA) has been slowed the last few weeks with an injury (though he has continued to appear in all 10 games this season). However, this afternoon Flowers appeared to be running full-tilt with the number one offense. It's been a solid inaugural season for the JC Gridwire All American, as he has split runningback duties all season, is No. 2 on the team with 408 yards rushing, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, has 4 TDs, and boasts a team-best 36 yard burst on the season. He also in No. 5 on the team in receiving with 14 receptions for 138 yards (9.9 yards average), and a long of 47 yards on the season.
- A native of Idaho, last week Bird was just one of eight WAC football players this year to earn All-Academic Team honors (District 8) with a 3.7 GPA in Biology. He has battled bumps and bruises all season (had just one carry against Nevada...a one yard touchdown plunge), and Tuesday night Bird was running full tilt. Referred to as "a Warrior" by head coach Dennis Erickson
throughout the season, Bird has gained a team-best 410 yards on the season, has scored 6 TDs, and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry...most often inside the red zone where yards are hard to come by.
QUESTIONABLE FOR SATURDAY'S GAME
- Walkon redshirt freshman Komar was Idaho's starting slot receiver earlier in the season opener at Michigan State before an injury cut his season short. However, Komar was seen practicing in a red jersey Tuesday and is questionable for Saturday.
Jo Artis Ratti
- The jury is out on whether Ratti, nicknamed "Sledge" by the Vandal faithful on our message board, will be back in a Vandal uniform Saturday. There is absolutely no doubt that he WANTS to be on the gridiron. Whether the hard-hitting junior out of Los Angeles will be medically released for duty Saturday is still uncertain. Although he's played in just five games this season, he still ranks 9th on the team in total tackles (28), he has four tackles for loss, is tied for a team-best three sacks (tied with senior DE Charles Campbell), and has one fumble recovery returned 74 yards for a TD. He was impressive at middle linebacker this season, but his loss on special teams was significant.
Tuesday afternoon's practice was one of the best for Idaho in weeks, as a number of Vandals who had been recovering from injuries earlier in the season made their way back to the gridiron. Among the group seeing significant action was redshirt sophomore wide receiver LEE SMITH.
Idaho looks to get several players back this week.