MOSCOW, Idaho - It's a good day when the offense is happy, the defense is happy and the head coach is happy.
And that was exactly the feeling Saturday at the Kibbie Dome after the University of Idaho's first football scrimmage of the spring.
"The defense flew around and hit hard," coach Paul Petrino said. "The offense was running hard and blocking hard. We broke a lot more tackles than we did the last couple times we were live. You heard big collisions. That's always a good thing.
"I was happy with the first day."
Petrino said he is seeing particularly big strides in the offensive line where the Vandals are replacing three starters from the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Championship team. Back are senior Jordan Rose and sophomore Noah Johnson. Sophomore Zion Dixon saw considerable action and had a start in 2016, and redshirt freshman Connor Vrba has made his way into the lineup. Drawing praise Saturday, though, was grayshirt Carlos Collado, who has been making his presence felt.
"Carlos is doing a great job," Petrino said. "I'm really happy with our O-line and our running backs."
The running back corps remains a three-pronged weapon but instead of Denzal Brantley mixing it up with senior Aaron Duckworth and junior Isaiah Saunders, redshirt freshman Dylan Thigpen (18 carries for 76 yards) is making his mark.
"He brings more speed, more quickness," said Saunders, who had 11 carries for 51 yards. "He's a little bit more shifty."
As for Brantley, he's found a new home at safety where he dealt out some punishing tackles - just what the coaches wanted to see with his 6-0, 212-pound frame.
"I'm still trying to get comfortable with it," said Brantley, one of six players to record seven tackles. "But it's been going good. I enjoy it."
Another player enjoying the day was senior quarterback Matt Linehan, who missed spring 2016 with injury. Those extra film sessions, he said, put him on track to his FIPB MVP junior season and are launching him into his senior year with a thorough knowledge and understanding of Petrino's offense.
"I feel way more efficient," said Linehan, who threw for 281 yards on 29-of-41 passing. "Compared to my last couple years, this is the most comfortable I've felt with this offense. I feel I understand the concepts as good as anybody that's been in his offense."
The Vandals' next scrimmage is Friday, April 21, at Lewiston's Bengal Field at 5:30 p.m. Their final spring session is the Silver and Gold Game on April 28 (6 p.m). They open the 2017 campaign on Thursday, Aug. 31, against Sacramento State.
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