Idaho Vandals' Chalich, Linehan to get fair shake at QB

Idaho begins spring practices Friday with battles at multiple spots, including quarterback.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMarch 28, 2014 

Idaho Mississippi Football

Idaho head coach Paul Petrino, right, during a game at Mississippi last season.

BRUCE NEWMAN — AP

No job is safe this spring in Moscow, and look no further than quarterback for proof.

Idaho begins spring practices Friday for the second time under coach Paul Petrino. Now with a full year under his belt and depth issues beginning to be shored up, there will be battles aplenty to earn more playing time before the Aug. 30 season opener at Florida.

"The biggest thing I'm excited about is that we actually have competition across the board now," Petrino said Thursday. "There were some positions last year where there was probably one guy who was the starter, knew he was the starter and there probably wasn't anybody that had a chance to beat him out."

Petrino said he's anxious to see plenty of contenders for spots on the offensive and defensive lines, linebacker, safety — and quarterback.

Last spring, redshirt freshman Chad Chalich lit up the Vandals defense and got some distance on his way to opening the 2013 season as the starter. He started the first seven games, throwing for 1,224 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions while adding 204 rushing yards before a shoulder injury ended his season.

Meanwhile, freshman Matt Linehan redshirted and took more than 1,000 snaps in practice over the course of fall camp and during the season. Both will vie for the top job this spring.

"If Chad wouldn't have been hurt and played the whole year, then he probably would've come back as definitely the starter," Petrino said. "He'll take the very first snap of the spring, he'll be in there first, but we're going to split it right down the middle."

Noting the 6-foot Chalich and 6-3 Linehan offer "different skill sets," Petrino said "it's going to be a great competition." Chalich's shoulder is nearly completely healed, Petrino said.

"He's healthy, he's been throwing," Petrino said. "… From what he's told me, it does get tired at times, so we will have to watch how many throws he gets in practice."

Petrino praised Linehan's football knowledge, not a surprise since his father, Scott, has been a head coach and offensive coordinator in the NFL. Even during his weekly media sessions during last season, Petrino was excited about Linehan after seeing him throw during the team's newcomers' scrimmages on Sundays.

With only two quarterbacks in competition (senior Josh McCain is moving to receiver), Petrino is making one big change. He made most sessions live to gauge his quarterbacks' toughness, but after a year, he has a good idea now.

"We're not going to hit the quarterback this spring, that'll be a big difference," Petrino said.

HARDCOURT TO GRIDIRON

Roberto Asencio, a 6-foot-9 center on Idaho's basketball team, will try his hand at football. Petrino said the native of the Dominican Republic, who has never played football, will be on what equates to a "14-day tryout.'' Asencio is expected to start at receiver, but could transition to tight end.

"You don't see too many 6-9 guys walking around that can run and catch," Petrino said.

IMPORTANT DATES

The Vandals will hold 15 practices and scrimmages over the next four weeks, culminating in the spring game at 8:30 p.m. MT on April 25. There will be scrimmages on April 5, 11 and 19.

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