MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho’s first experience with the new NCAA early signing period for football had coaches “pressing a little bit harder earlier” to get players signed.
The coaches’ goal was to have an idea where the program stands with regard to recruiting before the traditional signing day in February, Vandals head coach Paul Petrino said.
But at the end of the day, Idaho was able to address its biggest need and sign 12 players overall whom Petrino calls “a great class for us.”
The new Vandals include six from junior college players and six from high schools. Five are offensive linemen, including three from junior colleges. “Getting bigger on the offensive line” was a key priority for Petrino. The three junior college players “can come in and play right away.” A young Vandals line was too often overmatched last season, and the junior college additions should enable the Vandals to “be physical and not get knocked back,” Petrino said.
Bruce Burns, 6-foot-2, 345 pounds, is a California Community College Athletic Association first-team All-American, and his Laney College teammate, Brian Robinson, 6-4, 346, an all-league performer, are not likely to get pushed around by anyone. Idaho also signed Edwin Grande, 6-5, 291, all-league as a sophomore at Monterey Peninsula College.
The Vandals added two freshmen linemen, Matthew Faupusa 6-3, 310, of Los Alamitos High School in Cypress, California., and Logan Floyd, 6-4, 289, from Kearns High School in Utah. Faupusa is also a standout high school rugby prop, and Floyd is an honorable mention all-state selection.
Idaho went back to the productive well of East Mississippi Community College for defensive end Aarron Boatright, 6-5, 241. Aikeem Coleman, All-Sun Belt League as a senior for the Vandals, and D.J. Henderson, who will be a senior next year, are defensive linemen who came from the school. Boatright ranked second on the team with five sacks. He is an All-NJCAA Region 23 player, and he helped lead East Mississippi to the NJCAA national championship.
Ariyon Huff, 5-8, 191, from Yuba College in Sacramento, is expected to be a playmaker at wide receiver. He was All-California Region II and All-Pacific 7 League as a sophomore. Huff made 67 catches for 805 yards and six touchdowns, rushed for 79 yards and threw for a touchdown.
Idaho rounded out its junior college recruiting with defensive lineman Cameron Townsend, 6-1, 277, of Moorpark College in West Hills, California. Townsend was a second-team-all-league selection as a sophomore. He made 40 tackles last year, including three sacks among his seven tackles for loss.
The Vandals signed a freshman linebacker from New Orleans, James Jones, 6-1, 243, of George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy. Jones was first-team all-district and helped his team advance to the second round of state playoffs. He averaged 6.6 tackles per game.
Another new Vandal from Louisiana is Tyrese Walker, 5-6, 165. He played both running back and cornerback for Madison Prep Academy in Baton Rouge. He was named the 2A Louisiana Offensive Player of the Year as a junior and second-team All-USA Louisiana by USA Today. He rushed for 2,462 yards and 40 touchdowns and led his team to the state championship game.
Idaho recruited two freshmen from the region. Michael Noll, 5-8, 152, is a cornerback from Madison High School in Portland. He was named first-team All-Portland Interscholastic League as a senior. He played cornerback, wide receiver and kick returner.
Connor Whitney, 6-3, 200, from West Valley High School, led his team to a 12-1 record and the State 2A semi-finals as a senior. He is a former Great Northern League Defensive Player of the Year. Whitney has long caught Idaho coaches’ eyes as a participant at Vandals camps. Petrino says he originally projected Whitney as a safety, but he had such an outstanding camp as a receiver last year he is likely to break in with the Vandals on offense. Petrino added Whitney may ultimately grow into the role of Idaho’s former outstanding tight end, Trent Cowan.
Idaho plans to sign eight more players by February, virtually all of them freshmen, according to Petrino.
An initial thought about the early signing period is that it gives the Vandals clarity with regard to signing freshmen. “Some guys commit early, but they’re still shopping. This year, at the midpoint, you know. That part of it’s nice. It lets us know who we’re getting and who we’re not,” said Petrino.
The early signing adds to the workload of coaches who are preparing teams for bowls or playoffs, but Petrino added “there’s never anything wrong with still playing. Anytime you are winning and playing, it helps your recruiting.With early signing, the rhythm of the recruiting year has also shifted a bit, he said. Now, Vandals coaches may take time in late January to comb Idaho and Washington for potential walk-ons, and they will be able to spend more time during winter conditioning with players who are already on the team.