Brian Murphy: Brand new, but still football at the College of Idaho

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMarch 16, 2014 Updated 16 hours ago

CALDWELL — Like most of the 50 or so observers standing around the field watching a practice 37 years in the making, College of Idaho football coach Mike Moroski wasn't sure how to measure the Coyotes' progress after the first live full-pad practice since the program disbanded in 1977.

There is nothing to measure against - at least not until Sept. 6, when the new era of Yotes football begins to count.

"No idea, no idea," Moroski said Saturday at the end of practice. "We're just working. We're just trying to get a little bit better every day."

This is just the beginning.

But, as evidenced by the new football building rising an errant punt away from the field, this is the beginning of something very important for the school.

"I have been shocked, to be honest with you, in the best possible way. The interest, the support, the coverage. I knew it was going to be big, but I think it's even bigger than I would have thought and really it's not even close," said Moroski, who played quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and spent three decades at UC Davis. "Even the spring game will be an event."

There is much work to be done, that much everyone knows.

It's new and unusual and exciting, and the Yotes are practicing with about 40 players right now.

But it's still football, and that means there is still yelling. Special teams coach Chris Petrilli, who also handles the defensive secondary, is doing the yelling today. When the defense forces a fumble, but fails to recover it, it's Petrilli who admonishes players for not getting on the ground.

When the Yotes' safety gets beaten deep by tight end Andy Forse for the practice's biggest highlight, Petrilli is not happy. He calls for a new safety, repeatedly. One of the few defensive reserves buckles his chinstrap and hits the field.

Moroski's voice does not rise. Ever. He tells his team in the post-practice huddle that they will evaluate everything on film and go from there.

"I know the coaches were upset with the safety," he said, "but the safety is in a pickle. It all looks the same. That's our design. Hopefully with that we get the defense more disciplined and more fundamental and we keep getting sharper and sharper as well."

The numbers will improve. Moroski expects to add 50 players in the fall, plus get back some players who missed Saturday's practice to compete on the Yotes' track team.

The execution should, too. The Yotes have installed their base offense - the zone read with plenty of quarterback runs - and basic defense principles. Adding defensive adjustments is a priority. There were few mental errors Saturday. Players knew their assignments.

"Everyone seems to know what they're doing. We've just got to work on executing," said Forse, a Caldwell High graduate who played two seasons at Santa Barbara City College.

Success will be measured in how far the Yotes go from here.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the progress from the first spring practice to the last spring ball. We started working out the day after I got here," said quarterback Teejay Gordon, a transfer from Modesto Community College who arrived in early February. "They go hard in the weight room. That's definitely carrying out here on the field."

Despite the new buildings and new jerseys and new, well, everything, it's still small-college football.

There was no loud music, no sound system. And no cadre of water boys and student managers to take care of every detail. So the players carried the tackling pads to the storage shed.

And the only post-game sprints were run by Riley and Monkey - Moroski's dogs who chased tennis balls across the field as soon as players departed.

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