2015 CFB Preview – Idaho

    Idaho VandalsGo to Team Page VandalsGo to Selection Page           Really, can Idaho ever be good? By Pete Fiutak | @PeteFiutak

    July 1, 2015

     
       

    Really, can Idaho ever be good?

    By Pete Fiutak | @PeteFiutak

    Can it ever start to consistently win in a state that’s not exactly loaded with football talent, but is completely and totally owned by Boise State?

    How rough has it been for Vandal football? To put it into perspective, Boise State won more games last year than Idaho has won over the last five seasons combined. Since 2000, Idaho has won 42 games. Boise State has won 167 times.

    There really was a time 15 years ago when Idaho won on a consistent basis and was a strong Big West program. Fast forward to now, and third year head coach Paul Petrino simply has to give the program a sign of life.

    It’s going to be a work in progress, but to give Petrino and the program a break, Idaho finally became settled. Remember, it was on its own in the wilderness after the WAC imploded as a football conference, and now that it has its home in the Sun Belt it’s being established after the first season in the league. Petrino’s job is to build and keep building it all up, even if it’s going to take a while.

    First, the Vandals need an identity – other than losing. The defense hasn’t shown up in years, and while the passing game was dangerous last year at times, and the team was more competitive, it didn’t lead to victories.

    The punting game has been phenomenal at times – it gets plenty of practice – and there’s an interesting youth movement in place, and most importantly, it’s the Sun Belt. It doesn’t take too much to make a quick dent and turnaround, and with geography always an interesting factor – it’s 2,000 miles from Atlanta, Georgia to Mobile, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. Idaho has to own home field and the long road trips for most of the conference foes.

    Idaho needs SOMETHING. Can this be the season that there’s at least a few wins of a move forward?

    Three starters are back on the offensive line and Matt Linehan is looking more and more like a keeper at quarterback – the passing game should be even stronger. The defense still needs to go 100 miles before it’s even remotely decent, but six of the top eight tacklers return the line appears ready to be far better at getting into the backfield.

    Just a few wins. Even a four-win season would be a major step forward. Vandal fans deserve it.

    What You Need To Know About The Offense: The offense has the promise and potential to be far better. It starts with a veteran line that was porous in pass protection and didn’t do enough for the run, but has the pieces to quickly be far better. Matt Linehan is a promising young quarterback who should put up huge yards, but he has to cut down on his interceptions. The receiving corps could be one of the team’s biggest strengths with several options – the passing game will roll. It’ll have to with a defense that will continue to give up points in bunches.

    What You Need To Know About The Defense: A disaster over the last several years, there’s hope to be far more disruptive with a move to the 3-4. The Vandals got destroyed for 34 points or more in every game but one – the win over New Mexico State – but at least they’ll be more dangerous this season. The line is bent on getting to the quarterback on a more regular basis, and the secondary has to do something, anything, to stop getting bombed on deep. There’s experience, but now the production has to come.

    What to watch for on offense: The passing game should be deadly. Idaho has had to throw to try to make up for all the yards and all the points given up in bunches by the defense. The air show hasn’t been efficient, but at the very least, Idaho has been able to get things moving under Petrino. This year, the receiving corps has Dezmon Epps back after being out all of last year, and other key targets were terrific in spring ball. Assuming Matt Linehan is the starting quarterback, and he looks as strong as he did at times throughout the offseason, the explosion should come.

    What to watch for on defense: A pass rush coming from the change to a 3-4 defense. Absolutely awful last year, Idaho came up with just 17 sacks. The line got into the backfield, but it failed time and again getting to the quarterback, binging with ten of the sacks coming in three games. This spring, the attention has been paid to being more aggressive and selling out even more to do big things behind the line. It’s not a crazy thought to hope for the Vandals to double their sack total.

    The team will be far better if … the secondary can come up with a stop here and there. Quarterbacks were able to do just about anything they wanted to, with the one exception being the New Mexico State game. Idaho came up with three picks and didn’t allow a touchdown pass – and it was the only win of the season. Teams were able to bomb away at will with the Vandals allowing five teams to come up with a whopping 11 yards per pass attempt or more. The hope is for the improve pass rush to help change all of that.

    The schedule: The Vandals have some early chances to come up with a few wins. Ohio starts out the season in the Kibbie Dome on a Thursday night, and dealing with the Wofford running game should prep the defense for the Sun Belt season. Forget about the payday road games at USC and Auburn.
    – The Sun Belt season starts out with Georgia Southern making the 2,000-mile trip up to Moscow. The Vandals need it with only one home game in all of October.
    – It’s going to be a rough, rough run after Georgia Southern with four road games in the next five. The Vandals will be on the plane an awful lot going to Las Cruces, New Mexico on Halloween and following it up with a long trip to South Alabama.
    – There’s no Louisiana-Lafayette to deal with in Sun Belt play, but it’s a horrible break not getting to play Georgia State – one of the Sun Belt programs at Idaho’s level over the last few years.
    – WATCH OUT FOR … Wofford. The Terriers gave Georgia Tech a difficult time to start out last season, and the run first, run only attack will provide a massive test for the Vandal run defense. Idaho has to win this game, and even more importantly, it has to use this game to get ready for Georgia Southern the week after.

    Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Matt Linehan. He did what you’d expect as a redshirt freshman with a world of upside. He’s a tall, thin passer with a good enough arm to get the ball all over the field, but he made a ton of mistakes giving up 18 picks with two interceptions or more in six of the ten games. He isn’t absolutely, positively the starting quarterback this year quite yet, but he appears to be poised and ready to make a big jump forward.

    Best defensive player: Senior LB Marc Millan. How will he fit in and translate to the new 3-4 defense? The former JUCO transfer became a starter from Day One after joining the program two years ago, coming up with 90 tackles with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss in his first season, and following it up with 102 stops last year. Only 218 pounds, he’s not built to come up with huge plays on the inside, but he holds up well. With his athleticism and hitting ability, he has the potential to shine and do even more in the new scheme.

    Key player to a successful season: Junior OT Mason Woods. The Idaho offensive line has been awful, giving up way too many sacks and not doing nearly enough for the ground game. With a battle still happening going into the fall at one tackle spot, the 6-9, 355-pound Woods needs to become more of a rock. The guards are set with Jordan Rose and Dallas Sandberg, so Woods isn’t going to move to a more natural spot inside – he’s the man outside.

    The season will be a success if … the Vandals win four games. There weren’t many close losses – just two by a touchdown or less – but the offense started to work and there was a little bit of hope. This year, Idaho has to not only come up with more wins than it has since 2010, but it has to come up with more than it did over the last three years combined. It’s not going to be easy, but the Vandals are going to be strong enough to beat New Mexico State, Troy and Wofford. They won’t beat all three, but they could be good enough to come up with two of the wins and throw in a few upsets into the mix.

    Key game: Sept. 3 vs. Ohio. The Bobcats are going to be solid and should be in the mix for the MAC title. Even so, it’s the opener and it’s a Thursday night home game. After winning just one game in each of the last three seasons, it would be a huge exhale moment to come up with a victory to start the season. Just one more win at any point during the year doubles the total.

    2014 Fun Stats:
    – Sacks: Opponents 41 for 282 yards – Idaho 18 for 107 yards
    – First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 124 – Idaho 53
    – Rushing Yards: Opponents 2,708 – Idaho 1,560

    Players You Need To Know

    1. P/PK Austin Rehkow, Jr.
    The First Team All-Sun Belt performer is a blaster and one of the nation’s most consistent punters over the last few seasons. It’s never a positive when the team’s best player is a kicker, but Rehkow could be the best punter in America. He did a nice job on field goals – hitting 11-of-19 with all of his misses but one from beyond 40 yards, but he dominated as a punter averaging 47.8 yards per try with 17 put inside the 20 and with just three touchbacks. He might play in favorable home conditions, but he still did his part outside, too. Expect him to be even better now that he’s past a back injury that limited him as a kicker.

    2. LB Marc Millan, Sr.
    The team’s leading tackler came up with all-star honors making 102 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 218 pounds, he’s not all that big to make so many tough tackles, but he held up on the strongside coming up with 18 stops against Arkansas State with five tackles for loss, 14 against ULM, and ten or more in five games throughout the year. What he doesn’t have in bulk he makes up for in quickness, showing tremendous timing at times. Can he last against the power teams? He took a ton of shots last year, but he gets in on just about everything.

    3. DE Quinton Bradley, Sr.
    The team needs more of a pass rush, but Bradley did his part last season after spending most of 2013 hurt. A 6-3, 252-pound athlete out of San Antonio, he has the quickness and size to hold up and be a factor on the outside, coming up with 52 tackles with six sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He spread out his sacks throughout the year, and came up with ten tackles against Georgia Southern and eight against Ohio. There’s all-star potential with a few more big plays.

    4. QB Matt Linehan, Soph.
    The starting quarterback job was a question mark going into last season, but the 6-3, 202-pound Michigan high school state champion grabbed the gig right away and put up massive numbers early, throwing for over 300 yards in each of his first three games with eight touchdowns. However, he also threw way, way too many picks, giving up 19 on the year and ten in the first five games. The mistakes became a big problem, throwing 18 interceptions on the year and just two touchdown passes after the first four games, but he’s a quarterback to grow with.

    5. OG Jordan Rose, Soph.
    The team’s most promising young lineman, he added some weight in his first year and turned into a 6-6, 323-pound blaster at the team’s Strong Guard spot. Tough enough to be considered a possible defensive tackle coming out of his school, he found his niche early on as a true freshman, and now he should turn into an anchor of an emerging line – he’s the one the team will work behind to power away.

    6. RB Elijhaa Penny, Sr.
    The former JUCO transfer is built like a defensive lineman more than a running back, but he’s able to use his 6-2, 254-pound frame to pound away a bit. There might not be much wiggle to his game, but he can catch, making 12 grabs for 107 yards and a score, and he has a knack for the end zone with 12 touchdowns to go along with his team-leading 590 yards. He’s got the body to be a workhorse, and now he needs to be fed the ball more after carrying it 20 times or more in just three games, and running for over 100 yards once in a 121-yard effort against Arkansas State. The potential is there to make him a main man to grind out drives.

    7. CB Jayshawn Jordan, Sr.
    On the plus side, for a 5-9, 184-pound corner, he’s a great-tackling making 62 stops. However, it’s not a plus that he had to make so many plays. A phenomenal kickoff returner, too, he averaged 29.7 yards per try, but now he has to use his speed and ability to make more plays when the ball is in the air. He came up with 11 tackles against Ohio, and seven or more in six games, but he only came up with three broken up passes and no picks.

    8. WR Richard Montgomery, Jr.
    Only 5-8 and 163 pounds, he’s not all that big, but he’s lightning quick as a running back – rushing for 56 yards and two scores – receiver and return man. The team’s second-leading receiver, Montgomery caught 50 passes for 543 yards and a score, but he did just as much damage on kickoff returns averaging close to 22 yards per pop. However, he’s more steady than sensational as a receiver, averaging just 10.9 yards per catch.

    9. LB Irving Steele, Sr.
    The Florida native came in from the JUCO ranks as a great tackler and with excellent upside. He didn’t do much in pass coverage, and he didn’t use his quickness to get behind the line, but he came up with 56 tackles with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. At 6-1 and 222 pounds, he’s built for the weakside making 14 tackles in the opener against ULM and ten against Georgia Southern, but he wasn’t consistent.

    10. S Russell Siavii, Jr.
    A decent all-around veteran, the 6-2, 200-pound Hawaii native came up with 52 tackles with two interceptions. He has decent size and good range, but he needs to do more against the pass. One of the last lines of defense, he came up with a season-high 11 tackles against Georgia Southern and its option offense. Making most of his plays in the open field, he’s a sure hitter when he gets his chance.

    Head Coach: Paul Petrino
    3rd year: 2-21
    Schedule
    Sept. 3 Ohio
    Sept. 12 at USC
    Sept. 19 Wofford
    Sept. 26 Georgia Southern
    Oct. 3 at Arkansas State
    Oct. 10 OPEN DATE
    Oct. 17 at Troy
    Oct. 24 ULM
    Oct. 31 at New Mexico State
    Nov. 7 at South Alabama
    Nov. 14 Appalachian State
    Nov. 21 at Auburn
    Nov. 28 Texas State
    Ten Best Idaho Players
    1. P/PK Austin Rehkow, Jr.
    2. LB Marc Millan, Sr.
    3. DE Quinton Bradley, Sr.
    4. QB Matt Linehan, Soph.
    5. OG Jordan Rose, Soph.
    6. RB Elijhaa Penny, Sr.
    7. CB Jayshawn Jordan, Sr.
    8. WR Richard Montgomery, Jr.
    9. LB Irving Steele, Sr.
    10. S Russell Siavii, Jr.

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