'We're the old hands': Defensive backs Tommy McCormick, Kyrin Beachem anchor young Idaho roster

Apr. 20—MOSCOW, Idaho — Only one position group for the exceptionally young Idaho Vandals enjoys the security of senior starters, coach Jason Eck points out.

A couple of years ago, when he was anchoring the defensive backfield as a sophomore safety, Tommy McCormick had four interceptions, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick. He collected nicknames like "Turnover Tommy" and, Eck's favorite, "Takeaway Tommy." Last season, if less dramatic, McCormick was still productive with 62 tackles, including 34 solo stops, a quarterback hurry and five pass breakups.

Now McCormick and Kyrin Beachem, who made the most of his opportunities with the Vandals last year with 26 tackles, including 19 solo hits, two interceptions and eight pass breakups, provide stability in the secondary as senior starting safeties.

"I'm proud of them both," Eck said.

"We're the old hands," McCormick added.

With two nonlive workouts to go before the spring game Friday, McCormick and Beachem have survived spring ball injury-free and, if anything, have only strengthened the seamless connection they forged last season, when Idaho finished 9-4 and reached the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.

"We're like yin and yang," Beachem said. "The chemistry is going to be high this fall."

"We're mixing together back there," McCormick added.

In Idaho's defensive scheme, McCormick is the boundary safety and Beachem plays to the wide field side.

McCormick, a sturdy 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, appears to have been born to the position . McCormick debuted in the COVID-19 spring season of 2021, where he recorded nine tackles against UC Davis.

"Tommy has really played a lot of football," Eck said. "He played a lot before we got here (for the 2022 season)."

Beachem, by contrast, started his Idaho career as a former high school quarterback who transitioned to wide receiver. He got onto the field during fall 2021, where he played in six games and made four catches. Because the Vandals had a deep receiver corps, Beachem moved to defense in 2022 and played on special teams and as a reserve at safety.

He got an opportunity to start last year in Idaho's second game, a 33-6 win against Nevada, and he has never let go of the role. He's a shade smaller than McCormick at 6-0, 190.

"He made the move over to defense and really bought into it," Eck said. "He worked hard to change his body, develop his game and take advantage of the position change."

Both safeties plan to spend the summer in Moscow.

"I'm going to try to get a job this summer," Beachem said.

McCormick, with an eye to bettering his chances to get into medical school after graduation, is working as an emergency medical technician and will shadow physicians at Gritman Medical Center. It is something of a change from former years, when the main feature of summer, in addition to football, was golf.

For both of them, summer workouts with teammates will allow them to exercise leadership roles as seniors.

"If something needs to be said and nobody is going to say it, I feel compelled to," McCormick said.

Beachem is also looking for his secondary partner to resume his thieving ways next season.

"I miss calling him 'Turnover Tommy,' " he said.

Coming off last season, Beachem and McCormick are anticipating big things from the Vandals next fall.

"We just have higher standards now," McCormick said.

Eck said every step forward is a bigger one. The Vandals went 7-5 in Eck's first season and made the first round of the FCS playoffs. Going from 9-4 and the FCS quarterfinals last year to, Eck hopes, 11 wins and a deeper playoff run will be even tougher.

"Every step up the ladder is incrementally harder," he said. "The two teams you have to beat to get to 11 wins are really good."

But Beachem said that going into their senior season, he, McCormick and their teammates are on a roll.

"This feels different," he said. "Eck changed everything. We've got a winning culture now."