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Idaho Vandals fill pressing needs on signing day

Idaho head coach Paul Petrino has the Vandals pointed in the right direction. (Geoff Crimmins / Moscow-Pullman Daily News)
Idaho head coach Paul Petrino has the Vandals pointed in the right direction. (Geoff Crimmins / Moscow-Pullman Daily News)

MOSCOW, Idaho – There are few guarantees when courting high school and junior college football players, but Paul Petrino feels pretty good about his chances when he and his staff can convince a recruit – and even better, the recruit’s parents – to visit the Idaho campus.

Once here, recruits and their family usually appreciate the attention to detail and warmth that the Vandals’ coaching staff, administration, professors and players show.

“They just feel the family atmosphere of the whole university, and I think the town,” Petrino said.

On Wednesday, Petrino announced his fifth recruiting class since taking over a moribund Idaho program, and he left no doubt: Last year’s nine-win season opened more doors with recruiting targets … and led to more of those targets agreeing to official visits.

“Once we can ever get a kid on campus, we always have a great chance of signing him because the people are so great here,” Petrino said. So that’s what (our success) did – it helped us get some guys to come visit here that maybe in the past we wouldn’t have gotten to come visit.

“So I think the good season really helped make this a good recruiting class.”

The Vandals added 16 players on National Signing Day to help address positions of need for both 2017 (the offensive line, secondary and tight end) and 2018 (most notably quarterback) when they will drop down to the FCS and play in the Big Sky.

They signed four defensive backs, three high school offensive linemen and an athletic-but-raw tight end. The haul doesn’t include four early junior-college signees already on campus, two of whom are O-linemen and another is a tight end.

UI also signed QB Dylan Lemle of Los Angeles’ Hawkins High School – rated as a three-star athlete by recruiting services – and Lewiston High QB Colton Richardson. Another decorated prep QB, Zach Borisch of Kamiakin High in Kennewick, will come to Moscow as an athlete who could play on the defensive side, Petrino said.

Borisch was the 3A player of the year after leading Kamiakin to the state title, but his skills extend beyond football. He was bronze medalist in the 2016 junior pan-am judo championships and he’s ranked second in the 3A wrestling ranks at 182 pounds.

“Probably a guy you don’t ever want to mess with,” Petrino said.

The Vandals’ head man was perhaps most excited when talking about linebacker Christian Elliss, whose brother, Kaden, had a standout year at linebacker last season for UI and whose father was an All-Pro defensive lineman for the Lions.

Elliss helped lead Valor Christian High – a powerhouse in Highlands Ranch, Colorado – to a state championship while alternating between receiver, fullback, running back, safety, linebacker and defensive end.

Oh, and he was a running quarterback in Utah before his family moved to Colorado.

“I played a lot of positions,” Elliss said. “That’s why on the roster it just said ‘athlete.’”

The recruiting battle for Elliss was fierce, Petrino said. He told the Spokesman-Review that he had offers from Eastern Washington, Weber State, North Dakota and Northern Colorado, all Big Sky schools. And at one point, Petrino said Mississippi State (where is brother Noah committed) looked to be interested.

“(He’s) probably as good and talented a kid as I’ve signed since I’ve been here,” he said.

Petrino loves to sign players whose fathers have coached football or who have family ties to Idaho. Elliss checks both boxes, while Post Falls High defensive lineman Nate DeGraw is another legacy recruit.

DeGraw is the son of former UI defensive end Mike DeGraw, who played in Moscow when Petrino was an assistant in the early 1990s. He’s one of four in-state signees, joining Richardson, Eagle High lineman Maxim Moore and Capital High tight end Harrison Ashby from Capital High in Boise.


Backup quarterbacks Gunnar Amos of Coeur d’Alene and Mason Petrino will see action at safety and wide receiver, respectively, during spring camp while still taking some snaps at QB. That will leave starter Matt Linehan as the only full-time returning QB. … Petrino said he has “a good plan” to get UI to the required 63 scholarships when UI joins the FCS ranks in 2018. “I really didn’t try to reduce this class much. Next year will be a little bit different, and then a lot of the good students we have on the team are really going to help that way.”

Idaho’s recruiting class

Harrison Ashby, Capital HS, Boise, Idaho

TE, 6-5, 220

Ashby helped lead Capital to the state championship game with an all-state season that included 34 receptions for 578 yards. He also scored five touchdowns. He also is a standout on the Capital basketball team.

Zach Borisch, Kamiakin High School, Kennewick, Wash.

QB, 6-0, 180

Borisch is a player of many talents – and a leader who scored the winning touchdown in overtime to give Kamiakin its first state title over powerhouse O’Dea of Seattle. In the championship game, he completed 12 of 27 passes for 172 yards in addition to running for the winning score. He was voted the 3A Player of the Year and was second in the Player of the Year balloting for all divisions. He finished his senior season with 2,848 passing yards and more than 600 rushing yards. He was equally as proficient as a junior with 1,490 passing yards and 476 rushing. He also was a state qualifier in wrestling and track, and is a national judo champion.

Seth Carnahan, Sumner HS, Sumner, Wash.

OL, 6-7, 255

Carnahan didn’t play football until his junior year in high school but he made great strides during his two seasons – as did Sumner. During his two seasons as a starter, Sumner was 22-2 with him at left tackle. He is a standout basketball player and was a member of the Seattle Rotary Style team throughout high school. Currently, he is averaging 15 points per game for Sumner.

Tyrese Dedmon, Antelope Valley HS, Lancaster, Calif.

S, 6-1, 180

Dedmon was a talented two-way player at Antelope Valley. As a senior, he had 66 tackles (30 solo, 36 assists) along with nine tackles for loss and one sack. He doubled as a running back where he had 669 yards on 99 carries with five going for touchdowns. As a junior, he accounted for 61 tackles (34 solo and 27 assists) in addition to one tackle for loss and one sack. He had four interceptions and three passes defensed as a sophomore in addition to 69 tackles (37 solo and 32 assists). He was a three-time all-Golden League selection as a defensive back. He also is an outstanding sprinter and was on the California Interscholastic Federation’s fourth-place 4x100 relay team.

Nate DeGraw, Post Falls HS, Post Falls, Idaho

DL, 6-3, 235

DeGraw was a two-year starter at Post Falls after being elevated to the varsity at the end of his sophomore season. He was a first-team all-Inland Empire League choice as a junior and senior, and a second-team all-state honoree as a senior. He also played basketball for Post Falls through his junior season before turning his attention to wrestling this winter. His father, Mike, played Idaho coach Paul Petrino during Petrino’s first stop in Moscow.

Christian Elliss, Valor Christian, Highlands Ranch, Colo.

LB, 6-3, 215

Elliss will be following in the footsteps of his brother Kaden. A varsity player since his sophomore season, he was a key figure on Valor Christian’s state championship team and was recognized as the South Metro co-Defensive Player of the Year for his contributions. He also was a Mount Lincoln all-conference choice and played in the all-Polynesian game in Hawai`i. He played at Salt Lake’s Judge Memorial Catholic before the family moved to Denver where his father, Luther, is a coach and team chaplain for the Broncos. During his senior season, he had 65 total tackles (33 solo and 32 assists) with 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks to go with one forced fumble and one blocked field goal. He had a career high of 11. He doubled on offense and in the state championship game had a 61-yard scoring catch in addition to a key interception. He finished his senior season with 337 yards on 12 receptions and 226 yards on 30 carries. Their father is former NFL player Luther Elliss.

Cutrell Haywood, Stagg High School, Stockton, Calif.

WR, 6-0, 190

Haywood had an impressive career for Stagg in a dual role as a receiver and defensive back. During his senior year, he had 100 catches for 1,644 yards and 22 touchdowns. He had 100 or more yards in nine of Stagg’s 11 games – with two of those for more than 200 yards. He had a career-best 211 on 17 catches – four of which were touchdowns. He added another 60 rushing yards (13 carries), 126 on kickoff returns and 130 on interception returns for 2,216 all-purpose yards as a senior. On defense, he had 30 tackles (19 solo, 11 assists) as well as five interceptions, nine passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. As a junior, he caught 62 passes for 915 yards – with four of 100 or more, and 11 touchdowns. He added 21 rushing yards, 81 punt return yards and 260 interception return yards for 1,278 all-purpose yards. Defensively, he had 14 tackles, five interceptions, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery. He finished his high school career just shy of two miles of all-purpose yards.

Jalen Hoover, Northwest Rankin HS, Brandon, Miss.

S, 5-10, 170

Hoover earned first-team all-state honors and was recognized by his coach as a coach on the field for his teammates. He had 46 total tackles (26 solo and 20 assists) in Northwest Rankin’s 10-3 season. He also had one tackle for loss and three interceptions. He had 41 tackles (17 solo, 24 assists) to go with three interceptions, five passes defensed, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles as a junior. His high school career began with a sophomore season that included 94 tackles (54 solo, 40 assists) in addition to three tackles for loss and nine breakups. He also ran track for Northwest Rankin.

Roshaun Johnson, Desert Edge HS, Goodyear, Ariz.

RB, 6-1, 240

Johnson wrapped up his four-year varsity career with 3,038 rushing and another 1,641 receiving for 4,679 all-purpose yards. During his senior season, he eclipsed the 100-yard mark twice rushing and once receiving en route to 586 rushing yards (88 carries) and 601 receiving yards (34 receptions). As a junior, he carried the ball 113 times for 688 yards and added 481 more yards on 34 receptions. He had 1,032 rushing yards on 132 carries as a sophomore, to which he added 263 yards on 16 receptions. His high school career started with a freshman campaign that included 751 rushing yards on 111 carries and 295 receiving yards on 23 receptions. He was a football team captain all three seasons. He also played basketball.

Dylan Korte, Casa Grande High School, Petaluma, Calif.

OL, 6-8, 305

Korte made an immediate impact and impression on the high school football world – once he started playing. A basketball and lacrosse player until he was a freshman in high school, he was recruited to the football field during high school. He was an honorable mention all-North Bay selection as a junior. By the time he was a senior, he was listed among the top high school linemen (he played both ways) in Northern California. He wrapped up his high school career with selections to the Junior Prep Sports California team and played in the Paradise Classic in addition to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl and the GGShowcase.

Dylan Lemle, Hawkins High School, Los Angeles, Calif.

QB, 6-2, 190

Lemle led Hawkins to a 13-1 record during his senior season. He completed 153 of 234 passes for 3,335 yards with 32 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He was effective on the ground as well with 623 yards on 54 carries (three for scores) to tally 3,958 yards total offense during his senior season. He had a career-best game of 413 yards and five touchdowns on 17 of 26 passing. Additionally, he had two more 300-plus games – 356 and 355. He was equally effective as a junior with 2,404 yards passing while completing 155 of 249 throws. He added another 278 yards on 25 carries for a junior-season total offense of 2,682. His junior season high was 381 yards on 20 of 29 passing with, which wound up a career-best, seven touchdowns. He was honored as a Student-Athlete of the Week, is a standout scholar, and is active in his church.

Maxim Moore, Eagle High School, Eagle, Idaho

OL/DL, 6-3, 285

Moore’s football career began in California at Westlake High School before his family moved to Idaho and he played his junior and senior seasons at Eagle. At Westlake, he was the only player in the history of the team to start as a freshman on the offensive line. He earned first-team all-Marmonte League honors as a sophomore – the first time a sophomore was recognized on the first team. He was a starter on the U16 and U17 USA Football team. After moving to Idaho, he started for the Mustangs and earned second-team all-state and all-Southern Idaho Conference honors. His high school coach called him a “road grader” for his effectiveness as a lineman. He is a native of Moscow, Russia.

Wyryor Noil, Madison HS, Portland, Ore.

CB, 6-0, 180

Noil’s football career started when he was five years old – but it was interrupted briefly when his family relocated to Portland after being forced from their New Orleans home because of Hurricane Katrina. As an eighth grader, he was one year too young to play football in Oregon but once he was in the ninth grade at Madison, he made the most of the opportunity. A two-way player, he was the Portland Interscholastic League’s Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, and a first-team all-league choice at quarterback and defensive back. He also is a standout on Madison’s track team.

Tyrece Parker, Coffeyville CC, Topeka HS, Topeka, Kan.

CB, 6-2, 180

Parker was a three-sport athlete at Topeka High School before beginning a standout career at Coffeyville. Among his highlights at Topeka was a two-touchdown game – one off of a kickoff return and the other off of an interception. At Coffeyville, he had 38 tackles (23 solo and 15 assists) as a sophomore. He also had one sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one interception and 10 pass breakups.

Colton Richardson, Lewiston High School, Lewiston, ldaho

QB, 6-4, 230

Richardson was recognized nationally as the Bengals’ quarterback when he was chosen the Offensive Player of the Year for Idaho by USA Today. He opened his senior campaign with a 560-yard outing that included five touchdown passes. By season’s end, he totaled more than 3,500 yard while completing 72 percent of his passes with 42 touchdowns. To his accolades, he added All-North Idaho Player of the Year, Inland Empire League MVP (as a junior and senior), and recognition on the American Family Insurance All-USA Inland Northwest first team. After games when he hasn’t been sacked, he rewards his linemen with a home-cooked breakfast at his home.

Ben Taliulu (TAH-lee-oo-loo), LA Valley College, Aiea HS, Aiea, Hawai`i

DL, 6-1, 255

Taliulu comes to Idaho from Los Angeles Valley College where he helped his team to an undefeated season as a sophomore. He earned first-team all-California Community College Athletic Associations honors after recording 26 tackles (11 solo and 15 assists) along with 3.5 sacks (-21 yards) and nine tackles for loss (-33 yards). He graduated from Aiea (Hawai`i) High School where he played defensive line and tight end.

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