Nobody knows just how lonely the number one is better than the Idaho Vandals. Coming off of three straight one-win seasons, Paul Petrino’s team is desperate to break this depressing streak.
Paul Petrino may not move the ball as quickly as his brother “Biker Bobby”, but he managed a top-100 offense at Idaho last season, which is no small feat. One thing the Vandals have to improve on this year is protecting the football. They turned the ball over 28 times last season, twenty of which were interceptions.
Matt Linehan, son of Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, was responsible for 18 of those interceptions last year, but he did eclipse 2,500 yards and was a freshman. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that he progresses this year in the ball security department.
Getting a top target back at receiver should also help Linehan out in 2015. Dezmon Epps was suspended for all of 2014, but he was nearly a 1,000-yard receiver in 2013 and will easily be the top target entering this season.
The offensive line also out to be fine with RG Jordan Rose being one of the more highly thought of guards in the conference despite having only started seven games in his career. There are three other linemen on this team with 15 or more starts under their belt, too. That being said, this Idaho line out to at least be halfway decent, and the running game will be fine with Elijhaa Penny returning after scoring 12 touchdowns last season.
The Vandals defense has a solid pass rush, but was entirely too susceptible to home run plays. They need to improve upon that this season, especially considering that they don’t want to waste the leg of All-Sun Belt punter Austin Rehkow.
Quinton Bradley is the top pass rusher on this team after a six-sack performance in 2014, and the move to a 3-4 should help him and others attack the quarterback. It also helps those rush ends pin their ears back with a run stuffer like Marc Millan at linebacker. Millan had 14.5 tackles for loss last season.
The secondary was a weak point in the defense last season and they are facing turnover this season. Only two starters return in CB Jayshawn Jordan and SS Russell Siavii, who recorded two interceptions apiece last season. They will need to lead this secondary by example if they want to improve on last season’s play.
Once again, this may sound like a rough prediction, but this would be tripling their win totals from each of the last three seasons. Winning three games is not a good season, but it is a step in the right direction. The Vandals should be able to handle Wofford at home, and if they can still at least one game at New Mexico State or Troy that’s two. Beyond that, the home schedule is tough, but Ohio, UL Monroe and Texas State are the most likely upset candidates.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Ilya Pinchuk