Quarterback one of several fresh starting spots for Vandals

First fall camp under Paul Petrino starts Monday in Moscow

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comAugust 4, 2013 

Chad Chalich's last game to date was the 2011 5A state championship game at Bronco Stadium. The former Coeur d'Alene High standout and current redshirt freshman is the frontrunner to start at quarterback for the Idaho Vandals in 2013.

IDAHO STATESMAN FILE

  • Idaho key dates

    Monday: First practice of fall camp

    Aug. 10: First scrimmage, 10 a.m. PST

    Aug. 17: Second scrimmage, 10 a.m.

    Aug. 23: Mock game, 2 p.m.

    Aug. 31: Season opener at North Texas, 5 p.m.

The Idaho Vandals will begin their first fall camp of the Paul Petrino era Monday in Moscow with a whole lot of new, and not much of the old. That could be a good thing for Idaho, which has won five of its past 30 games.

Here are five things to watch as the Vandals prepare for their opener Aug. 31 at North Texas:

A RUNAWAY QB LEADER?

Petrino said earlier this week that redshirt freshman Chad Chalich, a former Coeur d’Alene standout, was “the leading quarterback” going into fall camp. Chalich had an excellent spring, capping it with 302 passing and 102 rushing yards in the spring game.

Chalich’s main competition will come from senior Taylor Davis and junior college transfer Joshua McCain, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season at De Anza (Calif.) College. Petrino has made it clear he wants his starter tough and able to use his legs — the Vandals ran quite a bit of option in the spring, and it will be part of the offense this season.

“(McCain) ran around and made all kinds of plays … it’s something Chad did real well; it’s one of his strengths,” Petrino said.

STRENGTH UP FRONT

If the old football cliché is true, then Petrino should have some help “where it all starts.” Junior center Mike Marboe anchors the offensive line, which returns two other starters in sophomores Dallas Sandberg (guard) and Cody Elenz (tackle).

On the other side, the defensive line returns Maxx Forde, who tied for the team lead with four sacks last season. Jesse Davis (12 starts, three tackles for loss) is expected to move over to offensive line.

“I think where you want to be real strong, and where I hope our biggest strengths are is up front — I think on the defensive side, our line is definitely a strength,” Petrino said.

EARLY YOUTH MOVEMENT

Petrino said he expects most of the 20 players he signed in February to be in fall camp (one may grayshirt). Some true freshmen from that group, along with the junior college signees who joined in January, are expected to make an impact right away.

“Your first year, more of them will play than as you build,” Petrino said.

BACKS BEST STEP UP

Any position group with the word “back” in it has plenty of question marks — starting with a battle for quarterback. The Vandals scored three rushing touchdowns all of last season, so running back is a point of emphasis with two junior college transfers (Kris Olugbode and Jerrel Brown) leading the way.

All starting linebackers are gone. Petrino recruited four junior college transfers to compete for time and linebackers coach Mike Anderson left coaching altogether in May. Three defensive backs who made at least eight starts apiece are gone from a defense that was 106th nationally against the pass last season.

“We improved ourselves a lot with the linebackers, getting the junior college guys here in the spring, and werecruited some good talent that’s been here all summer and that I’m excited to see in our secondary,” Petrino said.

A NEW PAIR OF KICKS

The Vandals lost a talented pair of specialists in punter Bobby Cowan and kicker Trey Farquhar — Cowan was 24th in the nation in net punting last season, and Farquhar’s 1.6 field goals per game were 14th.

Cowan’s brother, Trent, could punt, though he’ll focus mainly on receiver. Instead, a fellow true freshman may handle both duties this fall. Spokane’s Austin Rehkow, who hit a 67-yard field goal last season that got some ESPN airtime, may be the answer.

“Initially, he’ll do both,” Petrino said. “We’re expecting Austin to come in and really be the starting punter and kicker.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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