National signing day has come and gone, but below we revisit what first-year Idaho coach Paul Petrino had to say about developing players in general and quarterbacks in particular.
Read on for his revealing comments, and what they mean for the Vandals.
With the signing of junior college dual-threat QB Josh McCain and high school senior Matt Linehan as part of a 28-man class, the Vandals have six quarterbacks on scholarship. Taylor Davis is the most experienced — he'll be a senior in the fall. Chad Chalich and Austin DeCoud will be redshirt freshman, and Anthony Neyer was a mid-semester enrollee as a junior-college transfer.
Combined, Idaho's six quarterbacks have made four FBS starts. All came from Davis the last two years. So, yes, the Vandals have lots of QBs, but also lots of unknowns at the game's most important position.
Which brings us to Petrino's comments Wednesday on his quarterback situation. Did he add too many quarterbacks? In his mind, hardly.
“You watch basketball — if you don’t have a point guard, you’re going to lose games,” Petrino said. “You watch football and if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re going to lose games. So I just made the odds a little better. Instead of just taking one of them and missing, I took two of them. So my odds are better that one of them is going to be a great player. That’s just being flat-out honest. You’ve got to have a great quarterback.”
For Idaho fans who spent any time watching the team the last two years, Petrino's words must feel spot-on. Since Nate Enderle graduated after the 2010 season, the Vandals have been plagued with perhaps the most inconsistent quarterbacking in the FBS. Brian Reader, Davis, Logan Bushnell — they all failed to generate big plays (or many points) as they rotated snaps in 2011 and 2012. Dominique Blackman flashed a big arm and savvy in the pocket, but he had a penchant for tossing interceptions — among other poor decisions — before getting kicked off the team mid-season this past fall.
Petrino has watched the game film from last year (and probably 2011), and he realized all this of course. That's why he felt it necessary to go hard after McCain, and bring in Neyer beforehand as a precaution.
A few weeks after he was hired, Petrino told reporters that Idaho would sign one JC quarterback and one high school QB to develop. He ended up going with two JC products, and a lot of it had to do with timing.
“I was going after Josh from the get-go,” he said. “Josh was a guy we had film on and I was looking at when we were at Arkansas. There was a time when I wasn’t sure we were going to get him, so I made sure we were going to get Anthony.”
If there's a favorite to start come this fall out of the new QBs, it's probably McCain. Neyer spent time at USC as a preferred walk-on but didn't start at his JC this past fall. McCain, meanwhile, put up nice stats at DeAnza College (while also showing some accuracy issues). Petrino described him as the mobile quarterback “that is becoming the big thing this day in age.”
After Petrino's candid remarks on QBs, he was asked how much time he had spent on the road during recruiting season. He traveled a ton as you might expect, but he also mentioned how important he felt it was to be around the current players at least once a week. So at the start or finish of each week, he tried to be in the weight room and around the team's facilities, checking up on players in the program. “Because as important as recruiting it, developing the guys we already have on campus and then developing these guys we’re recruiting is important also,” Petrino said.
For a program trying to improve on 2-10 and 1-11 seasons, the more time Petrino and staff can focus on player development, the better.