Vandals get faster, older with new football recruiting class

Junior college transfers make up two-thirds of Petrino’s signings.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comFebruary 6, 2014 

BUILDING DEPTH AT QUARTERBACK Idaho head coach Paul Petrino has lost senior Taylor Davis, who started the final five games last season. Petrino should get a healthy Chad Chalich back for his sophomore season, and the Vandals signed three high school QBs — Jake Luton of Lake Stevens, Wash.; Kaden Elliss of Salt Lake City, who was recruited as an athlete; and Gunnar Amos, Chalich’s former teammate at Coeur d’Alene High, who is expected to grayshirt and enroll in January.

PHIL SEARS — The Associated Press

It wasn’t just the 80-14 thrashing the Idaho Vandals suffered against national champion Florida State — it was evident just about every week they needed to get quicker. Quickly.

With that in mind, and needing to turn around a program that has won four games the past three seasons, Idaho coach Paul Petrino announced the signing of 16 junior college players, along with eight high schoolers Wednesday.

“We wanted to get faster,” Petrino said. “… We definitely tried to get faster as a whole team. That’s something we worked hard on, and I think we did a good job.”

From entire position groups to intriguing newcomers, Petrino often focused on speed when he talked about his class, which includes seven junior college players who signed in December and are on the Moscow campus.

Petrino inked Mesa (Ariz). Community College linebacker Ron Perry to join Daniel Peterson and Irving Steele, a pair of December signees, to add some much-needed speed to a defense that ranked 121st out of 123 FBS teams last season.

“All three of those guys can really run,” Petrino said.

The secondary, including the December signees, all are 6-feet or taller. Idaho was 122nd nationally in pass defense, giving up 315.8 yards per game. Petrino said cornerback Dennis Rufus out of Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College is “one of the top, top guys of this class,” while saying of 6-2, 219-pound defensive back Chris Edwards, “as fired up about him as I am about anyone.”

“We wanted to get bigger and faster there, that was something we needed to improve on,” Petrino said.

On the offensive side, a trio of new receivers could help provide more playmakers alongside senior Dezmon Epps. Incoming freshman Michael Garner missed nearly all of his senior year with a broken ankle, but Petrino said he has “big-time speed.” Kenny Torrence, out of Riverside (Calif.) City College, is a “small, fast receiver” at 5-foot-9, but 6-foot-4, 192-pound Jermaine Johnson, who spent last season as a freshman at New Mexico Military Institute, got very high praise. Not only will he add height, but has been clocked with a sub-4.3 second 40-yard dash.

“Just a blazer … he can fly,” Petrino said.

The Vandals added defensive tackle Alfonso Hampton out of Southwestern (Calif.) College on Wednesday night. The 6-5, 345-pounder was ranked as the No. 9 junior college prospect in the nation by ESPN.com.

Though he was plenty pleased with the junior college additions, Petrino is unlikely to continue stocking up on them as he tries to build his program. He added a pair of quarterbacks Wednesday — 6-6 Washington native Jake Luton and speedy 6-1 Coeur d’Alene quarterback Gunnar Amos, who is expected to grayshirt.

“I think this was a bigger junior college class than we’ll take in the future, but we needed it,” Petrino said.

MCCAIN TO SHIFT TO WIDE RECEIVER

Petrino said senior-to-be Josh McCain, who was a backup quarterback last season, will make the move this spring, but will still have some packages under center. McCain wound up the team’s No. 2 rusher with 223 yards last season.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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