MOSCOW, Idaho – The traditional February football National Letter of Intent signing day is not the presents under the Christmas tree-like gala it used to be. That has been moved back to December, when the University of Idaho signed 30 freshmen and eight transfers.
Signing day Wednesday was more like checking out the stocking stuffers.
Idaho picked up a pair of scholarship players and five more walk-ons.
“This was kind of just a last effort,” Vandals coach Jason Eck said. “It was valuable for our new (coaching) staffers. This was just a little cleanup.”
Highlighting the late signing period are freshmen Marquawn McCraney (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and Braxton Lawrence (6-4, 205).
McCraney, a receiver from Highline High School in SeaTac, Washington, was honored as his team’s MVP two seasons in a row and led Highline to three KingCo League championships.
Lawrence, a linebacker from Goodpasture Christian High School in Madison, Tennessee, was a first-team all-state defensive back as a senior.
The Vandals can thank their new coaches for those two. Running backs coach Deontae Cooper was McCraney’s high school coach. Defensive coordinator Dan Jackson, who came to Idaho from Vanderbilt, was recruiting Lawrence there.
McCraney was so impressive at Idaho’s summer camp two years ago that he was offered a scholarship then, Eck said. The Vandals are well stocked at receiver, Eck added, but McCraney is “so good you have got to find a way to take him.” McCraney had offers from Power Five schools to play defense, but he is set on playing receiver, and that is how UI plans to use him.
Lawrence helps fill a necessary spot. Idaho lost a couple of linebackers who had committed to the Vandals in December. One is going to Colorado State, the other to Utah.
“We had a little need there and Braxton fit the bill,” Eck said.
Idaho also signed as walk-ons two players from the state – Jaxon Peterson (6-5, 270), an offensive lineman from Kuna High School, and Noah West-Baranco (6-4, 195), a wide receiver from Melba High School.
Peterson plans to complete a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before resuming his football career with the Vandals. Eck projects a bright future for West-Baranco.
“I am excited about him,” Eck said. “He is a big receiver and could grow into a tight end.”
The Vandals also welcomed walk-on quarterback Rocco Koch (6-1, 205) from Curtis High School in University Place, Washington; walk-on offensive lineman Christopher Quinonez (6-4, 250) from St. Francis High School in San Jose, California; and walk-on linebacker Dylin McIntyre (6-2, 224) from Kennewick High. McIntyre was a high school teammate of current Vandals offensive lineman Ayden Knapik and his brother Nathan Knapik, who signed with Idaho as a freshman in December.
Eck said Idaho will have 20 more players on its roster when it begins spring practice than it had last year at that time.
“I have visions of being able to play a true spring game,” he said, instead of the offense versus defense format the Vandals used the past two years.
Idaho may pick up more players after spring practice when the late transfer portal is open.