RYAN EDWARDS, DT
He started all 11 games last season and had 19 tackles and two sacks — then carried that into a strong offseason, literally. The 6-foot-3, 323-pounder set a school record with a 379-pound clean lift in March. He’ll occupy a key spot in the middle of the new 3-4 defense.
“Our defense is predicated on what Ryan does, and he fits that job really well,” defensive end Quinton Bradley said.
DEZMON EPPS, WR
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In 2013, Epps was the Vandals’ top playmaker, hauling in 79 catches for
980 yards as a junior. However, Epps was dismissed from the team last summer. He rejoined the Vandals in the spring and is again poised to be the top receiver, a needed spot with Josh McCain’s graduation.
“He can go to the house on any touch, which was an element we really needed,” offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich said.
MATT LINEHAN, QB
Starting 10-of-11 games last season as a redshirt freshman, Linehan threw for 2,540 yards, but had 11 TDs to 18 INTs. He worked this offseason on reducing turnovers and improving decision-making.
“He’s smarter with the ball, he’s making better reads,” junior TE Deon Watson said. “He knows what the game’s about now. He’s a leader, he definitely has the confidence and swagger everyone looks for.”
ELIJHAA PENNY, RB
The big senior (6-foot-2, 234 pounds) is a little less big this season after losing about 20 pounds in the offseason, but it should help him break bigger runs. He had 12 TDs last season, rushing for 589 yards, with 342 of those in the last four games.
“I think we started to see the team we could be those last few games when he was running hard,” offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich said.