MOSCOW - Football practice took on a whole new look, feel and sound Monday when the University of Idaho Vandals donned pads for the first time this fall.
For the players, it was the opportunity for full contact. For the coaches, it was the opportunity to better evaluate the progress to date and who might be filling which positions.
"I liked the way they got after it today," coach Robb Akey said. "From here on out, we get to play football. We were able to do a lot of teaching. Now they are going to be able to do a lot of performing and win some jobs."
Two areas - the offensive line and defensive unit, has garnered attention as keys to the Vandals continuing their successes of 2009. Veteran safety Shiloh Keo said the maturity and experience gained over the past couple of years are starting to pay benefits this fall.
"We're way ahead of where we've been," said Keo, who is part of a unit that returns six three-year lettermen and four two-year lettermen. "It just goes to show having a coaching staff that sticks around makes a difference. Instead of just learning your own position, now everybody understands what the other positions do and what the other 10 guys are going on the field. That's how you become great."
Monday's full-pad practice was a hit with the defense.
"You get a better sense of what the game speed is going to be," Keo said. "You understand where you're going to be fitting."
The Vandals' first two-a-day of fall is Tuesday with practices at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. with the first scrimmage Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.