2013 Pre-Season Preview: Idaho Vandals

2012 Record: 1-11 (1-5 in WAC)

Head Coach: Paul Petrino (first time head coach)

Last Bowl Game: 2009 Humanitarian Bowl: beat Bowling Green 43-42

Stadium: ASUI Kibbie Dome in Moscow, ID (capacity = 16,000)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 48th out of 55 mid-major teams

Affiliation: will play as an independent in 2013

Future Affiliation: will join Sun Belt in 2014

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Good Luck: 9/14 vs NIU, 10/26 at Ole Miss, 11/23 at FSU

Winnable Home Games?: 9/28 vs Temple, 11/9 vs Old Dominion

Revenge?: 9/7 at Wyoming, 11/2 vs Texas State


Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: turned the ball over 39 times in 2012 (last in Nation), converted on just 27.68% of third downs (last in Nation), scored TDs on 48.15% of red zone trips (113th in the Nation), should we continue?

Stat to Cheer: forced one fumble per game in 2012

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 119th out of 124 teams



Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense 4, Special Teams 0

Key Defensive Returnees: DB Bradley Njoku (43 tackles), CB Soloman Dixon (36 tackles, 3 INT), DE Maxx Forde (37 tackles, 3 sacks)

Key Offensive Returnees: RB James Baker (385 yds rush, 4.05 ypc, 2 TD), WR Najee Lovett (50 rec), WR Jahrie Level (46 rec), C Mike Marboe

The Vandals went 1-11 in 2012 and in 2013 have decided to hitch their wagon to a coach whose offense scored 13 points less, per game, than they did in 2011. Hiring anybody from the disaster at Arkansas last year is very questionable yet two schools decided to take assistants from a 4-8 Arkansas team and make them head coaches. 
It looks like redshirt freshman Chad Chalick will get the start at QB as he performed well in the spring game (22/40 for 332 yds with 102 yds rush). James Baker is the next man up on the depth chart at RB but he will be pushed by JUCO transfers Jerrel Brown and Kris Olugbode. Brown gained 159 yds rushing in the spring game. The Vandals only had one game in which a RB gained over 100 yards so these new JUCOs will be a welcomed addition. Their leading receiver exits but the receiving corps look like it's could be the strength of the offense with Najee Lovett and Jahrie Level leading the way. The OL returns three starters (a fourth, Jordan Johnson, is currently suspended due to legal issues) and seems like it should be in good shape. They had to move a DL to the OL due to depth so maybe they aren't in such good shape. If they stay healthy they should be OK, any injuries and all bets are off.
The Vandals lose two of their top three performers on the DL but do seem to have some depth along the line.The LB corps got ravaged by losing three senior starters leaving the Vandals with only one LB, Matt Willis, that saw action last season. Petrino has raided the JUCO ranks in hopes of solidifying this position and they could start three JUCOs this season in the middle of the defense. The secondary was also hit hard as they lost their top three tacklers. Bradley Njoku and Soloman Dixon are the top returners in the defensive backfield. The defense was bad last season (gave up 42.4 points per game) so any changeover in personnel could actually be a good thing.
Idaho could have a really rough year but it's tough to tell with so many new players and a new coaching staff being brought in. On paper there are five or six winnable games (the schedule is ranked 71st by Phil Steele) on this schedule but I could also see the Vandals losing every single one of them. I'm going to say the Vandals win one game as they struggle to get out of the box in Petrino's debut season.

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

Independent: ArmyGeorgia StateNavyOld Dominion
MWC- Air ForceSDSU
The American- MemphisTempleUSF


Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots