Idaho football coach Paul Petrino spoke to the media Tuesday, the day before his Vandals begin spring practices. Petrino said "no question, by far" it has been the best offseason since he took over more than two years ago. Idaho's spring game is April 24. Here are a few highlights from the news conference.
—Petrino confirmed that former Washington State and Wyoming defensive coordinator Mike Breske will be the Vandals' defensive coordinator this season, though the hiring has not been made official by the school.
—Sophomore Matt Linehan will open the spring as the starting quarterback with redshirt freshman Jake Luton the backup.
"Matt will have an edge because of his experience Jake's got all kinds of talent, Jake's got a big, live arm," Petrino said.
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—At receiver, the Vandals welcome back senior Dezmon Epps, who was kicked off the team last summer, but returned earlier this year. Petrino said "he was our best receiver two years ago, he'll definitely step in and help." Petrino pointed out that Epps did well academically and stayed out of trouble, getting him back on the roster. Senior Chris Edwards, a safety who left in the middle of last season, also returns, this time at linebacker. Petrino said "I've always been a guy to give guys a second chance," noting that Edwards still has a lot to get done academically to play this fall.
—Petrino said defensive linemen Ryan Edwards, Quinton Bradley, Tueni Lupeamanu and offensive lineman Steve Matlock (a Capital High grad) are probably the four strongest players on the roster.
—Freshman Kaden Elliss, a linebacker and son of former NFL defensive lineman Luther Elliss, got some high praise.
"A guy that everyone around here is going to know his name for many years to come if he can look out there in pads like he looks in the weight room and runs around on the field, he's going to be a big-time star," Petrino said.
—Matlock will be the first-team center on the offensive line, Dallas Sandberg and Jordan Rose will be the first-team guards with Mason Woods at one tackle spot. Competing for the fifth spot will be Calvin White and Kato Fawkes, along with some newcomers.
—Petrino said the team has been very focused on starting off the season at home against Ohio on Sept. 3.
"That's something they've all been talking about, kinda done a little extra every day, whether its running or lifting, to beat Ohio, talking about beating them all offseason," Petrino said.
—Richard Montgomery, a junior-to-be who was second on the team with 543 receiving yards and scored two rushing TDs, is no longer with the team. Petrino said it came to a head late in the season when he did not take the Florida native on the road for the team's Nov. 29 season finale at Appalachian State.
"I didn't feel he was doing the things I wanted him to do," Petrino said. " I definitely think some of the freshmen coming in can do something of the things he did (on the field)."
—Athletic director Rob Spear told the Statesman on Tuesday that the decision to push back the team's planned 2017 road game at Florida and replace it with a game at Missouri was because Florida was pushing for it to fall on a date where Idaho had planned a home game. The Vandals are expected to get $1.3 million to play against the Tigers. Spear said Idaho may be able to schedule the Florida game some time in 2018.