Three wins the last two seasons, questions about whether the team should drop down to the FCS level and coaching staff upheaval are behind the Idaho Vandals.
Now, dare we say, is there optimism in Moscow?
First-year head coach Paul Petrino believes so, and said a challenge for him is keeping that going as fall camp, which begins Monday, marches on toward the Aug. 31 opener.
I think theres all kinds of excitement, Petrino said Tuesday. (The question) is how much there is on day 14 in fall camp. Thats when weve got to keep the passion, keep each other excited with great attitudes, great effort thats the key.
Petrinos team will have to navigate an independent schedule in 2013 that includes last years Orange Bowl teams Florida State and Northern Illinois before moving to the Sun Belt in 2014. Taking over a team that was outscored by nearly 27 points per game in a 1-11 season, Petrino understands improvement will be gradual, but starts with the efforts the team puts in now.
Every day were going to continue to improve, continue to battle, Petrino said. theres probably going to be a couple games where we take some lumps. You get up, fight again. Its kind of like they say in Montana if youve never had your butt kicked, you probably dont fight very much.
Though he addressed every position group Tuesday, naturally the first one to be brought up was quarterback.
Redshirt freshman Chad Chalich, who threw for 302 yards and ran for 102 in the teams final spring scrimmage, has a strong lead entering fall camp, though Petrino wants to see senior Taylor Davis and junior college transfer Joshua McCain to compete.
Out of spring ball, Chad came out as the leading quarterback hell start out as the guy that people (need to) beat out, Petrino said.
Petrinos team had the spring to begin learning the new schemes, and players were left to their own devices this summer to let the knowledge sink in further. Petrino is anxious to get his first fall camp under way and see the difference since the teams last set of practice.
Im excited to see next week how big those improvements are, hopefully its a great improvement in understanding of the offense and defense, Petrino said.
ROSTER NOTES: Petrino said senior offensive lineman Jordan Johnson (11 starts last season at tackle), likely wont play this season because of a back injury. Isaiah Saunders, a running back signee, may grayshirt because of an injury. Incoming quarterback Matt Linehan will compete for playing time, Petrino said, but is a likely redshirt candidate.