Brian Jensen (left) is in his first season as Idaho State's offensive coordinator, after serving as quarterbacks coach in the first two seasons of the John Zamberlin era at ISU. Jensen inherits the task of reviving the Bengals' running game after ISU finished second from the bottom in the Big Sky with an average of 2.6 yards per carry. He also has the responsibility of grooming Kyle Blum as the starter at quarterback.
On Saturday, Jensen's offense got off to a good start in the team's first scrimmage of the fall. Running backs Stew Tracy, Clint Knickrehm, and Ben LaPorta were particularly sharp carrying the football, and Blum and backup QB Russell Hill threw the ball well -- although Blum did cough up a couple of interceptions. Towering wide-out Kelvin Krosch made a couple of great catches in traffic, and freshman wideout Andrew Benavides served notice that he will be a factor in the offense. Here's my conversation with Jensen:
1. You've had a chance, spring football, and now all summer to prepare for fall, to develop your philosophy. What kind of changes have you made?
Jensen: That's a great question, and it's a fair question. I'll tell you what, you're going to see and I've said it before, and I know it's cliche, but we want to be as balanced as we can. If you watched the scrimmage today...as far as coming off the field, I felt like we were fairly balanced. We 've got some good backs, we've got a healthy Clint Knickhrem, we've got a lot of our offensive line back, so we ought to be able, and we have to be able to run the football. Easier said then done, I know, but that's going to be a point of emphasis is that we stay on the ground and run the football and then we can use our play action and other stuff off of that.
2.Obviously, you didn't have any depth at running back in the spring, but it looks like now you've got four or five kids who can carry the football for you. Who do you like in that role?
Jensen: I'll tell you what, you can't pinpoint a guy, obviously Clint Knickhrehm's kind of the mainstay there, but I'll tell you what, Coach Whit (ISU running backs coach Nick Whitworth) has done a great job with the backs and with recruiting some running backs, and we've got different styles of guys....you probably noticed that today where we can change pace with some kids and not miss a beat. And I'm not saying it's going to be running back by committee. We know it's Clint's job to lose. We know how hard a worker he is. But we've got a good complement of backs to go with Clint.
3. Give me your assessment of your quarterback play today.
Jensen: You know I thought overall it was good. We're probably at about a 60 percent clip today, which is good. We need to continue to be smarter with the ball. I just talked to the kids about if it's not there, we throw it away, we burn the down and you get the call from Coach (Drew) Miller on the sideline and we go again. It's playing a mature style of football. But overall I was really pleased, and I want to note I was really pleased with the two freshmen kids -- Kyle Morris and Jake Lammers -- they did a real good job too.
4. Talk about the new kids that we're seeing, the Benavides kid (wideout Andrew) certainly impresses you off the top. Is he going to play this year?
Jensen: Well, I'll tell you what he's got a great role model in (J.D.) Ponciano. Ponce has done a great job taking him under his wing. Benavides, to his credit, has been a sponge and has accepted that and learned from Ponce. Benavides is an explosive kid and you saw it today. We saw it on film and I know Coach Miller is really excited about him and if the role presents itself and he needs to contribute, he'll be ready.
5. I don't want to start a quarterback controversy, but is it set -- is Kyle your No. 1 guy?
Jensen: Well, yeah, as of right now he is. They all have things to work on. Kyle was sharp today at times, and Russell was sharp, and that's a great thing...that's a good thing. There's no controversy there. We're just so fortunate to have both of those guys and you know when quarterbacks go down around the league, and in the NFL and in high school, boy some teams are scrambling and we hope that doesn't happen, but if it does we're in real good shape.
Farewell to a True Bengal Fan
My best wishes and prayers go out to the family of Bernie Schroeder, a true Bengal fan in every sense of the word, who passed away on Friday, Aug. 14. Bernie, games at Holt Arena just won't be the same without you.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.