Throughout his career at Idaho, senior quarterback Matt Linehan has progressively improved, and if this fall camp is any suggestion, he just might save the best for last.
Linehan was quick to be praised by coach Paul Petrino following Sunday’s scrimmage. Heading into the 2017 season, Linehan is No. 2 among active Football Bowl Subdivision passers with 8,716 career yards.
“I thought Matt played really well. I thought Matt was on fire, he was hitting people’s hands, playing really good,” said coach Paul Petrino, adding that the receivers and defensive line also stood out.
Statistics were not available for the scrimmage, but junior Isaiah Saunders and senior Aaron Duckworth split carries at running back. The pair combined for 1,403 yards on the ground last season. Linehan loses four of his top five targets from last season, but senior Alfonso Onunwor (39 receptions in 2016) was among his top receivers in the scrimmage, along with senior Jacob Sannon (28 receptions).
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“I feel like our offense is running at a good pace right now,” Linehan said. “I think we are running at a good tempo. A lot of guys are stepping up. We are starting to see guys form into their positions. We look good.”
On the defensive side, Petrino said senior defensive lineman Aikeem Coleman is “playing unbelievable” after racking up 8.5 sacks last season on his way to Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year honors. Idaho also returns its three starting linebackers in junior Tony Lashley (last season’s top tackler), junior Kaden Elliss (five interceptions) and junior Ed Hall (70 tackles).
Idaho yielded 31 points per game last season, a 10 ppg improvement from 2015. The Vandals are looking to keep teams under 30 ppg for the first time since 2010 in this, their final season at the FBS level before dropping down to the Football Championship Subdivision.
“They are the fastest defense we have had since we got here,” Linehan said. “I think that shows out there on the field. They close in on balls. They break hard.”
Idaho’s next scrimmage is Aug. 19, and the regular season opens Aug. 31 against Sacramento State at the Kibbie Dome.