LEWISTON – Idaho’s last batch of football recruits hasn’t yet been seen in live, Division I action.
Even so, here come some more additions to the team.
About two months ahead of their coronavirus-delayed spring season, the Vandals tacked on 12 signees – all part of another notable Football Championship Subdivision haul.
As of its unveiling Wednesday, UI’s class ranks No. 6 in the FCS, according to 247Sports.com. The previous group came in at fifth nationally.
So it’d be fair to say eighth-year coach Paul Petrino has a healthy bit of roster management to deal with in the coming weeks after pulling off a successful recruiting season with just Zoom calls and social media.
“Definitely the first recruiting class where I wasn’t in all of the homes, so that made it different, but our assistant coaches did a great job,” Petrino said. “It’s not gonna be our biggest class ever, because of the guys that are coming back, but I think it was a really good class.
“And by the experts that rank ’em, I think last year was one of our highest-rated classes at like .785 (overall 247Sports grade), and this year we have it at .8025 or something like that.”
Two newcomers will be able to contribute when the Vandals kick off their season Feb. 27 in the Kibbie Dome against Northern Colorado.
Speedy New Mexico graduate transfer receiver/return man Elijah Lilly and former Tyler (Texas) Junior College standout cornerback Joshua Jones will arrive to campus in January, and Petrino expects the pair to make an immediate impact.
Lilly (6-foot, 160 pounds) posted a 23.5-yard average and two touchdowns on 63 kick returns in three years with the Lobos. Originally a cornerback, he switched to offense in 2018, and logged 470 yards receiving and five touchdowns on 28 grabs in 14 games before an injury cut his 2019 season short.
“Super fast, like track fast,” Petrino said. “… He can flat fly. Anytime you get speed like that, we’re exceptionally excited to get him here, and I think he’ll really help us.”
Jones initially walked on at Texas-San Antonio. Petrino pointed to the Texan’s physical play, long arms and noted “he’s good at the line of scrimmage.”
UI lost a handful of defensive backs this year to graduation and transfer, so augmenting the secondary became “the first thing we were really looking for,” Petrino said.
“Both speed and length. Anytime you can get longer in the secondary, get in passing lanes and break on balls, that really helps you,” he said.
Corner Zamajay Duncan, from Lincoln High School in San Diego, had offers from the Arizona schools, Oklahoma and Boise State. He’s a three-star prospect at 5-10, 180, and a preseason Sports Illustrated high school All-America nominee going into his senior season in the spring.
“Very athletic, very physical. Probably one of the top guys we’ve ever signed since I’ve been here,” Petrino said.
Fellow three-star San Diego product Isiah King “covers a lot of ground” and is a “good hitter. He’s got good ball skills.” King stands 6-4, weighing 200 pounds. He added 397 yards and eight touchdowns as a receiver in 2019.
Also from San Diego, receiver Ja’Shon Williams is slippery with the ball in hand. He was a two-star cornerback at Lincoln.
Petrino commended UI cornerbacks coach Vernon Smith for his work reeling in the San Diego natives.
UI nabbed in-state offensive lineman Logan Harris, a former All-Southern Idaho Conference player at Centennial High School in Boise. Harris (6-7, 290), a grayshirt in the fall, put on about 15 pounds of muscle in the past year.
“It’s always great to get the in-state guys that are great players,” Petrino said.
Bend, Oregon, linebacker Colt Musgrave “might be the steal of the class.” The 6-2, 215-pounder has football in his DNA. His father, grandfather and uncle played at Oregon, and his brother is a tight end at Oregon State. Uncle Bill coached alongside Petrino in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons.
Colt Musgrave also is an accomplished skier on the national level.
Inking a couple of running backs to develop was another goal for Petrino’s staff, which went back to the well at Stagg High School in Stockton, California – the alma mater of Vandals receiver Cutrell Haywood and safety Jabarii Pharms – and plucked bruiser Gabe Benton. Benton (6-1, 225) runs like former UI star Elijhaa Penny, Petrino said, and averaged 5.2 yards per touch last season.
Elisha Cummings (5-9, 180), from Waco, Texas, is an under-the-radar find who Petrino said “might be one of the best players in the class.”
“He can really change directions, does a great job running out of the backfield,” Petrino said of the scatback, who logged 1,647 yards from scrimmage and 21 total touchdowns this year at Bishop Reicher. Cummings played in three consecutive state title games.
Keison Evans (6-2, 175), from Warren High School in Los Angeles, bolsters the length in UI’s pass-catching corps. The grayshirt last year “really can go up and get the ball.”
Petrino said every newbie should vie for time – save the two quarterbacks, both of whom likely will redshirt.
Macloud Crowton (6-1, 180), the son of former Louisiana Tech and BYU coach Gary Crowton, threw for 4,331 yards and 47 touchdowns on a 61-percent completion rate as a senior this year at Pine View High School in St. George, Utah. Gary Crowton and Petrino crossed paths on the recruiting trail while assisting at LSU and Arkansas, respectively.
Dual-threat Californian Gevani McCoy (6-1, 160), out of Los Angeles, passed for 1,569 yards and rushed for 721 and 26 total scores as a junior at Lakewood High before transferring to Lawndale, where he’ll play this spring.
Notes: Grayshirted players will not be eligible to compete in UI’s spring season. … Petrino said UI will only ink two to four players in the second signing period in February. … The Vandals likely will focus next on the defensive line.
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