Friday, July 21, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals
The final season of FBS football is set to commence for the Vandals, and the shame of it is that this is happening right when the Vandals are becoming interesting in the Sun Belt. Idaho finished with nine wins last season, by far one of their most successful seasons as an FBS (1-A) program.Paul Petrino has the Vandals ready to charge once again, and this team will try to challenge for a conference title on their way out the door. Can they upstage everyone as they leave the group?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Matt Linehan returns as a senior, and will close out his career at Idaho as a four year starter. He has evolved into a solid passer, as he passed for 3184 yards and 19 TDs last season. He averaged 244.9 yards passing per game, and added another four scores on the ground.

The receiving unit does suffer the loss of their two leading receivers, who were both TEs, but the group is decent enough to carry the day this fall. Reuben Mwelha caught 16 passes last season, and steps into a starting role, but Alfonso Ununwor and Jacob Shannon both return as well, and they combined for 67 receptions last season.

The Vandals have a solid combo pack coming back at RB this fall in Aaron Duckworth and Isaiah Saunders. The two combined to rush for 1403 yards last season, and scored 14 times.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Four starters on the line will be sophomores or freshmen, and the entire second unit will be composed of the same. Experience and depth will basically be non-existent. One name to watch, however, is Jordan Ross, a senior, who still is hanging in among the youngsters.

Austin Rehkow is gone at PK, and that is a huge hole to replace, as he has been probably the best PK/P combo kicker in the nation over the last four seasons.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
The return of Aikeem Coleman at DE is a huge gain for the Vandals in 2017, as he led the team with 11 TFLs last fall.

A very talented group of LBs returns for the Vandals this fall in Kaden Elliss, Tony Lashley, and and Ed Hall. Lashley led the tea in tackles with 105 last fall, while Hall and Elliss combined for 136 tackles. This unit also combined for 20 TFLs last season, and may be one of the top LB units in the west this season, as far as overall production goes.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Other than Coleman coming back at DE, the line is void of any real play makers in DT Zach Cable and NT Arie Anderson. Again, depth is severely limited.

The secondary is in rebuild mode this season, as FS Armond Hawkins, a senior, is the lone returning starter, and he finished with just three PBUs last season. Dorian Clark and Lloyd Hightower project as the starters at CB, while Jordan Grabaki is projecting to win the SS spot.

Rehkow also affects the Punting game, as he was one of the best in the nation the last three years running. He actually posted his worst year by far last fall, averaging 41.64 yards per punt.

2017 Schedule
8/31 Sacramento State, 9/9 UNLV, 9/16 at Western Michigan. 9/23 at South Alabama, 10/7 UL-Lafayette, 10/14 Appalachian State, 10/21 at Missouri, 10/28 UL-Monroe, 11/2 at Troy, 11/18 Coastal Carolina, 11/25 at New Mexico State, 12/2 at Georgia State

Final Overview
Idaho was one of the most shocking teams in the nation last season, as after a 2-3 start, they finished the season by winning seven of their final eight games, including a huge bowl win over Colorado State in Boise. This will be their final go in FBS football, as they slide back to the FCS and Big Sky Conference next fall, but this program will be entering their old home moving in a rock solid direction, and could even be in a position to compete for a Big Sky title right away in 2018. This season, the Vadals may have just enough on offense, and to some degree on defense, to make a Sun Belt run before they check out after the season. I see another bowl on the horizon.

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