With every small step Paul Petrino has taken since our Potato Bowl triumph, I think ever so slightly there might be a chance he actually stays to see this thing out to the Big Sky when Idaho enters the conference in 2018.
Logically, it doesn’t make sense. A man who’s spent nearly 20 years at the FBS level, with a cup of coffee in the NFL, won’t see that body of work go to waste to become a head coach in the Big Sky. It’s a level where you have to win three national championships just to get a second interview at Wyoming.
Beau Baldwin, architect of two wins against Pac-12 schools, a national championship and a handful of Final Four appearances at Eastern Washington, was rejected by Oregon State and Nevada. He settled on being the offensive coordinator at Cal this season.
This realistically leaves me wondering if Paul Petrino has signed his last class at the University of Idaho.
If indeed Paulie is bidding us farewell soon then he has left us the greatest gift of all: Stability at quarterback.
We have one more season of Matt Linehan. It should be a beautiful season. He could be the best quarterback in the Sun Belt Conference, he could be getting ogled over by NFL scouts and he should leave the University of Idaho with a winning record over his last three seasons (13-11 over the last two). We could also win a bowl game. Again. That’d be dope.
We’re going to miss him when he’s gone. We missed Nathan Enderle when he left in 2010 after two seasons of 14-12 ball. We went four seasons with quarterback instability after he left, winning five games in those four seasons. This quarterback transition has the potential to be especially chaotic considering the conference change, scholarship slashing and the expectation to immediately compete to win Big Sky Conference championships.
This is probably why Paul Petrino felt compelled to sign two quarterbacks plus a state champion from Washington who might be able to take some snaps, too.
Los Angeles’ Dylan Lemle and Lewiston’s Colton Richardson signed letters of intent at Idaho. Both have the potential of starting playoff games at the Kibbie Dome and leading Big Sky title pushes.
Zach Borisch of Kamiakan High School, the 3A state champion in Washington, also signed on. He will probably redshirt and explore playing time at other positions.
These guys will join current sophomores Gunnar Amos and Mason Petrino. Amos will see snaps at safety and Mason Petrino will explore playing time at receiver, along with still working with the quarterbacks.
First, I’ll discuss Richardson.
I’ll make it no secret I think he is Idaho’s quarterback of the future. This may also be biased. I’ve covered Colton and I’ve seen what he can do.
His strength is his arm, and his current best Petrino-offense comparison is Jake Luton. Colton Richardson can make any throw in Paul Petrino’s playbook. He’s got touch to go with his arm strength and played in a high school offense that allowed him show off his arm and learn a pass-heavy offense.
He’ll get shit for being fat. He’s currently listed at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. He’s been in worse shape than that during his high school career.
He doesn’t play fat. He rarely sits stone-footed in the pocket. He shuffles his feet, he knows how to roll out to extend plays and can take off and run with it if he needs to. This reminds of Jake Luton’s ability to run the read-option on the goal line. But I think Richardson is more light on his feet than Luton was.
His weaknesses is that his high school offense wasn’t incredibly complex and the level of competition in North Idaho is fairly bad. He didn’t necessarily back up his results when it came to the state playoffs. The ability to redshirt and get reps during Get Better Sunday practices will be where Richardson earns his first points in the 2018 competition.
It’s honestly incredible Richardson wasn’t more highly recruited. I’m told he was offered a roster spot on Washington State as a walk-on. This is akin to Chad Chalich, who tore up the 5A Inland Empire League and only garnered enough interest to get a walk-on spot at Boise State.
Coeur d’Alene’s Colson Yankoff, who will graduate in 2018, has four Pac-12 offers. He and Richardson could link up in 2020 if Yankoff chooses Washington State.
Speaking of Chalich – Petrino’s first starting quarterback at Idaho and who ended up transferring to Montana when Matt Linehan inevitably took the job – that brings me to Lemle.
Chalich is probably Lemle’s best Petrino-offense comparison.
Lemle, who spurned offers from Utah, Boston College and maybe Tennessee, likely chose Idaho because the Vandals were the only school to guarantee him an opportunity at quarterback the entire way.
It’s also why Gunnar Amos and Kareem Coles, now at Duquesne, also chose the Vandals during the recruiting process.
Lemle ran a shotgun-based passing offense with option elements. It reminded me of what Idaho’s offense looked like with Chalich, minus the part where Chalich wasn’t allowed to slide out of bounds thusly leading to his murder every other play.
Idaho lists him at 6-2, 190 pounds. For comparison, Matt Linehan came in at 6-3, 215 pounds during his recruiting process.
I was impressed with the breadth of passing plays in Lemle’s highlight video, from play-action throws down the field, quick receiver screens or slant routes over the middle. Accuracy seemed like it was hit or miss (since I only got the highlights), deep passes he hit were because of wide open receivers, throws over the middle seemed pushed and the throwing motion took a while to wind up.
What could get him on the field quickly is his ability to run the option attack and his ability to gain yards with his feet, if that’s the direction the offense heads.
The more I look at Lemle’s tape the more I think he obviously has what it takes to be a stellar quarterback in the Big Sky. Which, that’s the important qualifier here.
We have to judge players a little differently now than if we were staying FBS. Portland State beat Washington State and made the FCS Playoffs with Alex Kuresa – hardly a passer, but good with his feet.
Bryan Schor won the national championship with James Madison throwing for 3,000 yards on 73 percent completion, while also rushing for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns. And, well, you all already know about that Carson Wentz kid from North Dakota State. He’s as pro style as it gets.
You can win a plethora of ways in the Big Sky and Petrino has given us multiple routes to finding Linehan’s heir apparent.
Of course, we have to keep an eye on factors such as …. who is the head coach in 2018? Will any FBS transfer quarterbacks become available to come in and play right away? Who else will we sign next year? What even is the existential meaning of life?
But as of right now, the competition starts as soon as both these guys get on campus.