We finally had the pleasure of meeting with Idaho coach Paul Petrino on Monday afternoon to discuss summer developments and fall prospects for his third season in charge of the Vandals program.
Read on below for more.
The most telling bit of news to start off the news conference was the weight of redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan. The son of former Idaho quarterback Scott Linehan arrived on campus in 2013 at a frail 185 pounds. He bulked up 17 to 20 pounds during his redshirt season and played just over the 200 bill last season.
Now, Petrino says, he's recently weighed in at 220 pounds.
"We’ll what he weighs in tomorrow. That’s a good weight for him," Petrino said.
Linehan will start fall as Idaho's starting quarterback, but don't count out redshirt freshman Jake Luton just yet.
"I'm very excited about (both quarterbacks). I think we have two guys who can really throw the ball, they’ve both improved themselves physically in the weight room this summer and gotten stronger, gotten faster, put on more weight," Petrino said.
"You always have to make sure you keep going," he later added about the competition. "I think Jake has an unbelievably high ceiling to be a very good player. In this day and age of college football you better have two or three guys ready to go, to be honest with you. I think Matt had a great spring, played great in the spring game, Jake had a really good spring too. All the positions you have to have good competition going and that’s what makes you better every day."
"(Linehan) is, he’s the starter right now. You still go out there and compete every day and see what happens."
Also bulking up was wide receiver turned tight end Deon Watson, who checks in at around 231 pounds as he prepares to potentially become the feature pass-catching tight end.
The conversation shifted to Idaho's opener one month from now on a Thursday night against Ohio. Petrino called the game an opportunity to turn the program around.
"I think the excitement of having the opening game at home on Thursday night against a team we think we’re going to beat, I think that’s going to be a big turnaround game for the program, to be honest with you," Petrino said. "They’re a very good team, well coached, been to a bowl game six of the last seven years, but that’s a game where we need to work hard all camp and believe we’re going to win and it’s going to be a big game to start turning things around here."
Petrino said the game being at night could be advantageous for Idaho, considering Ohio players will be playing past midnight in its time zone. The Vandals will also kickoff against Georgia Southern at 6 p.m.
"It’s awesome, I wish all our games were at night. I think it’s a huge advantage for us when people come all the way to travel this far to play us," Petrino said. "It’ll be midnight, one in the morning when they’re out there playing in the second half, that’s a big advantage. When we travel to play all those teams we have to play at night, so I think it’s great. Hopefully we get the dome packed, loud and get everybody going crazy for a great homefield advantage."
Playing more mid-week games could help recruiting as well, Petrino said. The Sun Belt has been notorious for Tuesday night football in recent seasons, but Idaho will play the rest of its games on Saturday after the Thursday night opener.
"It helps you in recruiting. When I was at Louisville and that program took off we played all kinds of games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, because you play on Saturday some people might watch it. But when you’re on those mid-week games, if they have an interest in you at all they’re going to be watching you because they’re all at home, watching football," Petrino said.
The Vandals will spend most practice days working scout team on Ohio's offense and defense. The defense will also get extra work preparing for the offenses of Wofford (wishbone) and Georgia Southern (triple option).
"A little bit of both, we’ll always have periods almost every day where it’ll be called crossover where we’re working Ohio’s offense and defense. For our defense we’re going to have periods during fall camp where they’re working the wishbone for Wofford, because that’s not something you get ready for in the week," Petrino said. "We did some Georgia Southern in the spring and we’ll do some of that in the fall too because that’s our home (conference) opener and best team in the conference, we’ll definitely work all three of those opponents through fall camp."
Lastly, Petrino talked about incoming freshman Jace Malek, who had his leg amputated as part of his fight against cancer. Malek, a fullback from West Valley who was recruiting by Idaho before he was diagnosed, still has a place at Idaho. The Vandals are honoring his scholarship and plan to use him as a student coach.
"I talked to him briefly (before his procedure), made him know that we’re always there for him. That we’re always thinking about him and praying for him and Jace is always upbeat and always feeling positive about life. Actually the day that he had his surgery I didn’t actually speak to him but I texted him real quick and he texted me back," Petrino said.
"Hopefully he’s going to be down here when school starts, that’s what we’re hoping right now."
- Idaho suffered a big loss in recruiting with incoming freshman safety Trenton McGhee instead opting to play baseball. Petrino didn't indicate any position movement to add depth to the safety unit, with the likely starters right now being Jordan Grabski and Russell Siavii with Desmond Banks and Jordan Frysinger as the back-ups fighting to break into starter roles.
- Idaho isn't at 85 scholarships, although Petrino anticipates getting there next season after signing a full class.
- Petrino was asked about rivalries and indicated that he's a fan of renewing the series against Boise State. But the complications related to that happening is a long discussion for another day.
The Vandals open fall camp on Wednesday at 6 p.m.