Idaho's Chalich, Linehan embracing the QB battle

Sophomore, redshirt freshman fighting for Vandals' starting job

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comApril 24, 2014 

Last spring, Chad Chalich used 15 practices to get separation in the Idaho quarterback derby.

This spring, he is in the same position.

Chalich started seven games last season as a redshirt freshman, but a shoulder injury ended his season early. During the 1-11 campaign, Matt Linehan redshirted and turned heads with his quick grasp of the offense.

The two have competed as Idaho's lone quarterbacks through 14 spring practices thus far, culminating with Friday's Silver and Gold game. Both have welcomed it, even last year's primary starter.

"It's been awesome," Chalich said. "It's honestly been fun. Matt's been impressive, so it just reinforces the fact that if I want the job, I have to be at my best every day to get it."

Idaho will add freshman Jake Luton this summer, and he in all likelihood will redshirt.

"It's helped them stay even more focused, and they both understand the system so much better than even last summer," coach Paul Petrino said. "If the competition makes both better, you won't be hurt if one of them has to come out for whatever reason."

Linehan frequently was praised by Petrino last fall for his play in Sunday scrimmages that often featured newcomers and backups. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Linehan took more than 1,200 snaps last fall, according to Petrino.

"It got me really comfortable with the offense, and I think spring ball so far has reflected that," Linehan said. "All that work, those scrimmages, I got a lot of confidence, which has helped so far."

In three scrimmages this spring, Linehan has completed 100-of-157 passes for 1,294 yards and 17 touchdowns with five interceptions, while Chalich has 53-of-95 passes for 893 yards with 11 touchdowns to two interceptions.

Chalich said his shoulder has been tired "here and there," which Petrino expected when he spoke before spring practices. With the spring winding down, he says there is no leader.

"I feel we're in a good place with those guys," Petrino said. "It's been a great battle and it's probably one that will go on for a while.''

Last season, Chalich threw for 1,224 yards with five touchdowns to three interceptions, completing 61.4 percent of his passes. He also ran for 204 yards.

Petrino said if he had been healthy all year, he likely would have entered the spring the starter, but the injury sidetracked the Coeur d'Alene High graduate.

"It was really a bummer, but it happens," Chalich said. "It's just another chance for me to be pushed, improve each day and continue to know the offense front and back.

Linehan, the son of former Idaho quarterback Scott Linehan, now an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys, hopes to continue a legacy whether it's as the starter or the backup.

"To be among the names of those that came before me like my dad, John Friesz, Doug Nussmeier, that would be an absolute honor," Linehan said. "But I've got a long way to go, the numbers aren't important right now - I just want to help us win games however I can."

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