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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Vandals eager to shine in final two years of Sun Belt

Sean Kramer Correspondent

MOSCOW — Should Kaden Elliss exhaust his eligibility at the University of Idaho, his senior season will coincide with the season of reckoning in 2018.

By then, the shroud of mystery surrounding Idaho’s football future should be somewhat clear, following the Sun Belt Conference’s decision to drop Idaho following the 2017 season.

Players such as Elliss, though, are just focused on the now. Specifically, the ability to show the Sun Belt that it may have made a mistake.

The now began on Thursday as the Vandals hit the practice field for their first spring practice of the 2016 season.

“By the time that year comes a lot is going to be different. We have to focus one day at a time, one game at a time, one season at a time, but it is extra motivation to know that they didn’t want us,” Elliss said. “They didn’t think we were good enough to earn them money overall. We want to get them back for it.”

The sophomore linebacker added: “Honestly, we want to make them regret it.”

He’ll be given ample opportunity for that. Idaho’s Sun Belt slate in 2016 shakes up favorably with Arkansas State and Georgia Southern, the last two conference champions, off the schedule.

Idaho coach Paul Petrino’s mood was noticeably lighter when talking about the prospects of his team which is coming off a 4-8 record and has realistic expectations of bowl eligibility.

“I think the most important thing that excites me, the guys in that locker room believe that they have a chance to be good this year,” Petrino said. “They know they’re going to be good next year. That’s where it all starts, very excited.”

Starting quarterback Matt Linehan rolled himself around practice while in a boot, occasionally lending advice to redshirt sophomore Jake Luton, who takes over as the starter during spring ball.

“It helped since he had so many reps with them last year. It felt comfortable for him. It’s going to be a really big spring for him because he’s going to get so many more reps and get that much more comfortable,” Petrino said.

The receiving group looked particularly impressive with the return of Jacob Sannon and David Ungerer from injuries that sidelined them toward the end of last season. Junior college addition Alfonso Ununwor was noticeably active making plays next to returning No. 1 Callen Hightower.

“He made some good plays, he did a nice job going up at taking it,” Petrino said. “He was swimming a little bit on some of the plays not knowing what to do, we can teach him that.”

The Vandals will scrimmage for the first time this spring on April 2 at Lewiston High.