Vandals' Chalich fits Petrino’s mold of tough quarterback

The Coeur d’Alene High grad looks like he’s ready to take the reins for Idaho.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanAugust 25, 2013 

Be it a broken foot or a defensive back in his way, Chad Chalich won’t allow much to block his path toward his biggest goals.

In his final high school game at Coeur d’Alene, Chalich threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns, plus ran for two more scores to claim a second straight 5A state championship in 2011 — with a hairline fracture in his right foot.

That sort of toughness is what Idaho Vandals coach Paul Petrino wants from his quarterbacks, and Chalich, a redshirt freshman, has a firm grasp on the No. 1 job, even if Petrino is being coy about announcing exactly who it is.

“Anyone who’s around, they know who the starter is,” Petrino said after Thursday’s practice.

Chalich has been outstanding in the Vandals’ scrimmages. Including the spring game, Chalich is 72-for-107 passing for 1,212 yards, 15 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns to go with only one interception in Idaho’s last four scrimmages (including a mock game Friday, his birthday).

In March, Petrino told the Idaho Statesman “you can’t win without a tough quarterback,” and whoever rebounds best from a hit might tip the scales in their favor. The 6-foot, 205-pound Chalich proved in high school, and now in Moscow, that he fits the bill for what Petrino seeks.

“What I love about him is that he’s not afraid to take a hit,” offensive tackle Jesse Davis said.

Chalich and the Vandal quarterbacks went live throughout the spring, though the contact has been reduced during fall camp. And while he doesn’t mind having fewer days getting hit, those live sessions made a big difference.

“That really got me ready, because I obviously haven’t played in a game in two years,” Chalich said. “I liked the full contact, live stuff. It gets you going, knowing it’s as close to a game as you’ll get.”

After battling junior college transfer Josh McCain and senior Taylor Davis for the starting job, Chalich has not only performed like a veteran, but has carried himself as such — Petrino said he has quickly grasped the first-year coach’s offense.

“He’s a freshman, but he sure doesn’t act like it,” senior receiver Najee Lovett said. “He’s a really good leader, he’s got a lot of knowledge and he’s really composed. He’s physical for a QB — I’ve seen him tuck the ball and run over defensive backs.”

Petrino’s offense will include a good amount of pistol formations and read option plays that will take advantage of Chalich’s mobility and his willingness to run.

“There’s definitely more running in this system, and I’ve always seen myself as a runner, so it’s a good fit,” Chalich said.

No Idaho native has led the Vandals in passing since fellow Coeur d’Alene grad John Friesz in 1989, and no Idahoan has thrown a touchdown pass since Rimrock’s Ed Dean in 2000. Chalich knows that there are plenty of high expectations for him, partially with a new era at Idaho, partially because of his potential, and also just due to geography.

“It really is an honor for me to be here,” said Chalich, whose only FBS offer was from Idaho, turning down the shot to walk on at Boise State or Utah. “There’s definitely a little pressure, because I’m from around here, the people in the area are pulling for me, but if I get the starting job or not, I’m going to work hard, hopefully make people proud.”

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