Vibe seems different at Idaho fall practice

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Aug. 5—Idaho has conducted two football practices so far this fall, with the third one set to take place 9:30 a.m. today. With that, here are some way-too-early takeaways from fall camp:

Defensive front seven a clear strength

The front seven arguably has been a strength for the Vandals the past few seasons. The departures of Noah Elliss, Tre Walker, Charles Akanno, Kayode Rufai, Christian Blackburn and Jonah Kim left the linebacking and defensive line units thin, at least, on paper.

But so far in practice, the front seven has been making an argument to be Idaho's strongest position.

Nate DeGraw, Leo Tamba, preseason All-Big Sky selection Fa'avae Fa'avae, Juliano Falaniko, Paul Moala and Mujeeb Rufai all have gotten reps with the first-team defense in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s and have been winning their share of battles against the first-team offense, including strong showings against the running game.

Quarterback race razor-thin

J'Bore Gibbs, CJ Jordan and Gevani McCoy all have been splitting reps with the first-team offense and all are making a case to be the starting quarterback. Each has shown the ability to improvise and extend plays if need be.

Gibbs has familiarity with coach Jason Eck and offensive coordinator Luke Schleusner's scheme, and it shows in quick decision making while going through reads. McCoy and Jordan have more familiarity with the roster and have shown chemistry and timing with the receivers and tight ends.

Each quarterback has made mistakes, but all three have responded well after a bad rep. Idaho's scrimmage Thursday should provide a better idea about which quarterback has separated themselves from the pack. But it wouldn't be a shock if this competition goes to the 11th hour before Idaho's Sept. 3 season opener at Washington State.

Running back an embarrassment of riches

Eck said entering camp that Roshaun Johnson and Elisha Cummings were at the top of the running back depth chart, and Aundre Carter and Nick Romano were looking primed to push for an opportunity as well.

Carter came to camp leaner and has shown quicker cuts on his runs, retaining his signature srength from last season. Cummings has the top-end speed that can turn a 5-yard run into a touchdown and might be the crispest route runner of the group, giving him extra value as a potential third-down back.

Romano hasn't looked far behind Cummings in speed and has been making a case to get more first-team reps. Johnson might be the most complete athlete of the group and has arguably the best vision out of the whole room.

Eck previously has mentioned the possibility of offensive sets with two running backs, opening up the possibility for all four backs to get significant reps.

Cummings and freshman running back Anthony Woods also have been practicing with the kick return team, and Romano was the starting kick returner last season before suffering an injury.

Alex Moore cementing role

Sophomore Alex Moore looks to be a sure bet at tight end with senior Dalton Cash right behind.

Moore arguably was the breakout player of the spring and has continued his strong showing so far in practice.

Moore has gotten the most reps with the first team and has made contested catches in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. Cash also has made some plays, and his ability could mean Moore's spot isn't necessarily secure. But for now, it looks like the former receiver is TE1.

The old battle ax

Terez Traynor and Nate DeGraw have received the first two Battle Ax awards, which is given to the practice's most outstanding performer.

Traynor, who won Wednesday, has been all around the field for the Vandals, lining up on the outside and in the slot, making plays with all three quarterbacks throwing the ball.

DeGraw, who won Thursday, has been a leader in the front seven, being vocal and communicating with his fellow lineman between reps and on the sideline. He's also had strong showings stopping the running game.

Let's have fun

The overall vibe is more relaxed than in the past under previous coach Paul Petrino. The coaches are determined to get the players ready and the players are competiting and motivated, but everyone is having fun.

Practice has been accompanied by music playing from the Kibbie Dome speakers, quarterbacks are sprinting toward receivers in celebration after completing a deep pass, the defense is chirping and dapping each other up after a pass break-up or run stop. So far, it's been a high-energy atmosphere. The question is can it keep up through the grind of a four-month campaign?

Teren Kowatsch can be reached at tkowatsch@lmtribune.com, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @tkseahawk13.