In the Idaho Vandals season debut last Saturday, first-year coach Paul Petrino praised the frequency of his teams hard-hitting.
The biggest hit in the 40-6 loss at North Texas came from an unlikely source: 165-pound wide receiver Dezmon Epps.
I love the way he competes, he probably had the best hit of the day, Petrino said. (UNT linebacker Zach Orr) came and tried to wipe him out, and he knocked (Orr) right on his tail.
Epps, a junior transfer from City College of San Francisco, came across the middle as a teammate made a catch on the outside. He saw Orr bearing down on him, put down his shoulder and took out the senior Lombardi Award watch list member, who had 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Hes a pretty tough guy, but I had to show him I wasnt a punk, Epps said. Im 165 (pounds) and hes 235. I kind of surprised myself with that, but it was just a natural reaction.
In high school in Sacramento, the 5-foot-10 Epps played safety I didnt just want to be the one getting hit, he said.
But his speed, clocked in the high 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash, suits a big-play receiver. Epps led Idaho with eight catches for 94 yards against the Mean Green in his first game with the Vandals.
Dezmon, hes a playmaker, Petrino said. He made a lot of good plays for us.
When he inked Epps in February, Petrino said the junior was as big a recruit as we got, beating out Bowling Green, Fresno State, Illinois and Utah State. Epps had a connection with the Idaho staff, and also was keen on being part of what he hopes is a turnaround for the program.
I wanted to come and contribute quickly, be one of those guys that helps change how things have been going, Epps said.
That sort of attitude has made Epps a team leader despite only being on campus a few months.
He will be one of the team captains Saturday at Wyoming, and hopes his big hit says plenty about him, along with what it can show his team.
Im not big, but Id like to think my heart is, Epps said. When its my turn, Ive got to turn it up. Being a captain, Ive got to go harder this week. Last week was a poorly played game, and we all could have done better, so Im going to make sure its a much more positive result.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn