UI football may be ready to take the next step in 2015
The Idaho football program hasn’t had many high points since its 2009 Humanitarian Bowl victory over Bowling Green.
Since that win in Boise, the Vandal program has a record of 11-49 although six of those wins came the following year in 2010.
This lack of success could be attributed to a number of factors including Idaho’s status as a mid-major program, lackluster facilities and resources compared to other programs in the region or a lack of overall talent.
Regardless of the reasons for the lack of success on the field, in 2014 the Vandals showed promise each week, and while it didn’t usually translate to wins on the field, the team showed flashes of a turnaround, partially due to the promise of redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Linehan.
The son of former Vandal quarterback Scott Linehan showed promise during his first season as the Vandals’ quarterback, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 11 touchdowns while missing time in two games with injury. He isn’t the only player head coach Paul Petrino has to build a solid foundation around, either.
With players like running back Elijhaa Penny, linebacker Mark Millan, defensive back Jayshawn Jordan and the return of wide receiver Dezmon Epps, the Vandals have a solid foundation going into 2015. With the returners and a recruiting class highlighted by high school running back Denzal Bradley and defensive back Trenton McGhee, the Vandals have the potential to be a sleeper team in the Sun Belt.
Granted, with players like Millan, Epps and Penny being upperclassmen, they may not be in the long-term plans of the team having a foundation already in place. But when players like McGhee and Bradley come to campus, it could pay dividends for the program moving forward.
The Vandals will never rise to be a national powerhouse or even a mid-major power like Boise State, but in the Sun Belt the team should be able to start competing for bowl bids while players like Linehan and Penny are still on campus.
If you want proof of this, look no further than last season’s Sun Belt Champion, Georgia Southern. During their first season at the FBS level they rolled through the Sun Belt with an 8-0 conference record and a 9-3 overall record. If they can do it while making the transition into the conference and the FBS level, why can’t the Vandals build a winner?
While some fans may be growing tired of the “wait until next year” mentality the program provides, it is important to remember when Paul Petrino was hired in 2013 he inherited a program with little talent. Along with this, he had to deal with the APR mess as well, but he weathered the storm and is finally starting to build his team.
Patience has been key with the Petrino era thus far and while it may still be a year or two away from being where it can be, with the core in place he has the chance to start stringing together some wins this fall.
Joshua Gamez can be reached at email@example.com