But this year is different. There are so many changes in the ISU football program, and a lot of intriguing subplots to spring football this year. Here are a few things I'll be paying attention to as spring drills begin tomorrow:
--At the top of the list, of course, is the quarterback competition between Kyle Blum, who was the starter at the end of last season, and Russel Hill, who held the title for most of the year. Even though both will be operating within a limited offense under new coordinator Brian Jensen (above), the first scrimmage, now scheduled for April 11, and the spring game, set for the following week, will be great stages for these two competitors.
--What will we learn about Jensen's vision for the Bengal offense in this, his first public appearance since he succeeded the deposed Mike Orthmann as offensive coordinator? We know that the limited time and reps usually result in the fans seeing 50 percent or less of a team's offense in the spring scrimmages. But hopefully Brian will give us some hints of what to expect based on the areas of emphasis this spring.--Whither the offensive line? The Bengals return four starters to the O-line, so under normal circumstances, you'd consider that to be an area of strength. But the one opening on the line is the key left tackle slot. Who will take over for Evan Dietrich-Smith, at least until junior college reinforcements arrive in the fall? And tutoring the line is Mike Havens, who inherits the coaching position from Orthmann who, despite the criticism of his play calling philosophy, did an admirable job building an offensive line. What will the former Bengal lineman Havens bring to this new assignment?
--What will new defensive line coach Joe Cullen, fresh from the National Football League, contribute to a position that was so over-matched last season? And what will touted redshirts Jake Rouser and Mykel Durr offer to the position?
--Will Keith Goins, who struggled in the defensive backfield, use his obvious athleticism to shine on the offensive side of the football, where he has moved to wide receiver?
--Who else will carry the football this spring, with returning starter Clint Knickrehm recovering from wrist surgery, and redshirt freshman Ben Laporta the only returning squad member at the position? Walk-on Ethan Monroe is the only other player listed at that position right now.
--A late addition to this post: another area that bears scrutiny is the kicking game. Both placekicker Mike Ramos, who was 9 of 11 in field goals after taking over for an erratic Jarret Huk; and long snapper Chris Kirkegaard have left the program. Finding reliable replacements for both will be a priority.
Former Idaho State defensive back Ernie James picked off a pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown and had six tackles for the Boise Burn, who won their opener over Tri-Cities, 48-15, in an Indoor Football League game last week. Ex-ISU defensive tackle Mark Weivoda had one tackle for the Burn.
Football Recruit Wins Basketball Honor
Colter Reeves, who signed a football letter of intent with Idaho State as a defensive end, gave us a look at his athleticism when he was named the State 2A basketball player of the year by the Idaho Statesman this weekend. Reeves, who led Firth to three straight state basketball championships, was the repeat player of the year after averaging 12 points and six rebounds a game for the Cougars. Kamiah coach Ryan Ball called the 6-3, 215-pounder "a physical menance. He dares you to stop him and most of the time, teams don't."
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.