Transfer market pays dividends for Vandal football team

Petrino's junior college additions have been magnificent this spring.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comApril 19, 2013 

Taylor Davis, left, and Chad Chalich, center, shown during practice last month in Moscow, are the prime candidates to be the Idaho's starting quarterback.

KYLE MILLS — Lewiston Tribune

Idaho hired Paul Petrino to be its football coach in December, and he quickly signed seven junior college transfers.

So far, five players from that group are some of the top performers heading into Friday's spring game.

"Very pleased with them," Petrino said. "Sometimes you get junior college guys and you feel you're pretty lucky if you go 50-50. We're probably over 90. I'm very happy with the guys we brought in."

Considering they were Petrino's first recruits, and knowing they were brought in to provide immediate help at thin positions, the transfers understand that expectations are high for the group.

"I think coach Petrino set the bar high for us because he wanted us to compete right away," said linebacker Eric Tuipulotu, a transfer from the College of San Mateo (Calif.). "He picked a handful of us, and it's a blessing to be part of that first group."

Petrino's group of seven includes two running backs and three linebackers. Last year's team produced only three rushing TDs, then lost two of the three backs who had at least 100 yards and all three starting linebackers.

"Thank God for those running backs and those linebackers," Petrino said.

Idaho's new running backs have shouldered most of the load in the spring - Kris Olugbode has 77 carries, and Jerrel Brown has 65 in three scrimmages. Petrino called the running backs "the studs of our camp" Thursday.

"Our mind-set has been to come in and compete right away, and I definitely think we've done that," said Olugbode, who came from City College of San Francisco and has 362 yards and nine touchdowns in scrimmages. "The scrimmages are big. It's showtime, a chance to show the coaches what you can do in a game-like situation."

Petrino pointed to linebacker Marc Millan from Santa Ana (Calif.) College as one of the standouts of the spring, while Tuipulotu has a 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown and 20 tackles in the three scrimmages.

The rest of the group includes quarterback Anthony Neyer and linebacker Juan Martinez, while cornerback Delency Parham is expected to join the team this summer.

"We've only been around a few months, but you get the feeling it's a really good group," Tuipulotu said. "There's a real good camaraderie with all of us."

Petrino said he recently took his parents to dinner in Moscow when the six transfers on campus entered the restaurant together.

"They're close, which is nice to see, and they've done a great job of studying hard together, which is a part of why they're having success," Petrino said.

The transfers have another chance to improve Friday before going into the offseason.

"It's really helped to adapt from JC ball to Division I, which is a whole new ballgame," Olugbode said. "And it's helped to get the system down and hopefully catch the coaches' eyes a bit, too."

SEPARATION AT QUARTERBACK

Senior Taylor Davis and redshirt freshman Chad Chalich have emerged as the front-runners to win the starting job, Petrino said Thursday.

"Those two guys are separating themselves from the pack," he said.

Petrino said both have played better than the other in stretches, but neither has done so consistently. Idaho will add junior college transfer Joshua McCain and freshman Matt Linehan this summer to compete with Davis and Chalich.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420,Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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