Idaho coach Paul Petrino spent his Thanksgiving having a feast with his players, while in preparation for his football team’s final game of the season at New Mexico State.
If Petrino has his way, that will be the last time his season ever ends in the final week of November.
Currently, 70 programs around the country are allowed by the NCAA to practice throughout December because they’ve been selected for bowl games.
“You don’t want the last week of practice to be Thanksgiving week,” Petrino said. “Hopefully, never again. Hopefully, they’re always practicing into late December or even January.”
If you happen to be one of the 55 programs stuck at home during the bowl holidays, there’s only one thing to do — recruit.
Going on year two, recruiting will be critical for Petrino, who signed a full class of freshmen and junior college players last February.
“We need help at every position, we’re probably going to take 10 to 11 junior college kids,” Petrino said. “That’s the starting point, that’s what we need.”
Petrino’s 1-11 head coaching debut in 2013 featured a roster with a lot of holes, but one that will return a lot of contributors. Twenty-three signees from last February saw the football field as either true freshmen or junior college transfers who played right away.
The hope for Petrino is that more freshmen from the 2014 class will be able to redshirt. Armond Hawkins, Matt Linehan and Reuben Mwehla were the only scholarship freshmen who redshirted in 2013.
The focus will be on finding immediate help in the secondary, where the back-end struggled to find depth amid injuries to veterans Solomon Dixon and Trey Williams. Junior college options are likely there.
From there, Petrino also anticipates recruiting a junior college offensive lineman, finding another junior college receiver to replace Najee Lovett, a junior college running back to replace James Baker and finding more depth at receiver with high school receivers Petrino said have already committed.
Two players are committed on record — high school quarterback Jake Luton of Marysville, Wash., and junior college defensive lineman Glen Antoine of Highland College in Kansas.
Luton, a 6-foot-6, 220 pound prospect committed early in the process, with Idaho being his only FBS offer.
His under-the-radar status may have something to do with his run-heavy offense he ran in high school. Luton rarely threw the ball down the field or put up big passing numbers. Coaches from UNLV, Wyoming, Portland State and Idaho State talked to him, but the Vandals were the first program to really pull the trigger and offer him a scholarship.
“I’ve always followed Idaho, not real closely. I’ve always liked Idaho. I knew a few years back they were pretty good. I’ve talked to Petrino a lot and all the coaches and I believe they’re on the rebuild and on the rise to be a good program,” Luton said.
Petrino has made it an emphasis to hit Washington and the Pacific Northwest in his recruiting base. Six of his signees were from Washington in 2013, along with two from Idaho and another two from Utah.
National Letter of Intent day is on Feb. 5, 2014, which is the first day that high school athletes can sign binding letters of intent with schools.
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com