Idaho ranks tied at No. 5 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
The Vandals lost 45-42 at Southeastern Louisiana University in the first round of last year’s FCS playoffs, finishing 7-5 overall and 7-3 vs. the FCS.
Here’s a look at this year’s Idaho football squad.
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Returning 2022 FCS All-Conference Players (9)
WR Hayden Hatten
WR Jermaine Jackson
PR Jermaine Jackson
RB Anthony Woods
CB Marcus Harris
K Ricardo Chavez
QB Gevani McCoy
S Tommy McCormick
ST Sean McCormick
OL Ayden Knapik
Players In 2023 FCS Positional Rankings (7)
Transfer Portal Movement
Transfers Lost To The FBS (5)
Brett Tommasini (LB) to Boise State
Kemari Munier-Bailey (DL) to Fresno State
Paul Moala (LB) to Georgia Tech
Devante Keys (DL) to Louisiana-Monroe
CJ Jordan (QB) to Northern Illinois
Transfers Lost To The FCS (3)
Ridge Docekal (QB) to Bryant
Kevin Eldredge (OL) to Eastern Washington
Zach Borisch (RB) to ETSU
Transfers Coming In From The FBS (1)
TJ Ivy Jr. (TE), Coastal Carolina
Transfers Coming In From The FCS (2)
Dwayne McDougle (DB), Northern Arizona
Tre Thomas (LB), South Dakota
A major reason for Idaho being this year’s preseason media darling is because of what’s returning on offense.
The Vandals return eight offensive starters and plenty of star power from a team that went from four wins in 2021 to seven wins and a playoff appearance in Jason Eck’s first season as head coach.
Gevani McCoy leads the unit at quarterback after winning the Jerry Rice Award for best FCS freshman. He completed 68.5% of his passes (204/298) for 2,719 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. McCoy’s passing efficiency of 170.6 ranked No. 4 in the FCS.
Idaho is the only FCS team with two 1,000-yard returning receivers.
Hayden Hatten (6’2″ 205 lbs) is the top WR in the subdivision, hauling in 83 catches for 1,209 yards and 16 TDs last year. Jermaine Jackson (5’7″ 165 lbs) wasn’t too shabby either, recording 54 receptions for 1,049 yards and five TDs. Idaho also brings back 6-foot-3 WR Terez Traynor. He appeared in only four games last year due to injury, but in 2021 he had an All-Conference season with 50 receptions for 737 yards and three touchdowns.
Last year’s leading rusher Anthony Woods returns at RB. He had 149 carries for 872 yards and three scores. Nick Romano is also back at RB after being limited to seven games in 2022. He’s an experienced playmaker with 744 career rushing yards, 362 receiving yards, and 1,216 kick return yards.
The offensive line, which has a couple of holes to fill, looks to get stronger to compete at the top tier of the FCS. Elijah Sanchez (6’4″ 290 lbs) and Ayden Knapik (6’7″ 270 lbs) saw solid starting experience last year as underclassmen. Terrian Rainey (6’4″ 285 lbs) transfers in as an NAIA All-American and looks to earn a starting role.
Idaho should have an elite offense after scoring 35.9 points per game to rank No. 13 in the FCS.
The Vandals return six starters on defense with big holes to fill on the d-line and at linebacker. Idaho was above-average on defense in 2022, allowing 25.4 points per game to rank No. 44 in the FCS.
Idaho loses three starters up front, including All-Big Sky defensive ends Leo Tamba and Juliano Falaniko. The two All-Conference linebackers are also gone in Fa’avae Fa’avae and Paul Moala. Moala went through this year’s spring ball and was expected to lead the defense, but he surprisingly entered the transfer portal and landed at Georgia Tech.
Sam Brown and Ben Bertram both started games last season on the DL. D2 transfer Jahkari Larmond looks to make an impact as well at 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds.
LB Tre Thomas was a good get in the transfer portal. He was a two-year starter at South Dakota, totaling 78 tackles, six TFLs, and nine passes defended. He’ll step into a big role in the middle of the defense.
The secondary will be experienced, led by Tommy McCormick, Marcus Harris, Murvin Kenion III, and Mathias Bertram. McCormick (safety) and Harris (CB) were All-Big Sky performers last fall.
Bertram was the No. 2 tackler with 74 stops. McCormick was No. 3 on the team with his 61 tackles, adding four interceptions. Harris recorded 53 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, two interceptions, and 12 pass breakups. Kenion had 36 tackles, four interceptions, and seven pass breakups.
Idaho’s offense will be electric in 2023. But its defense, especially the front seven, will determine if the program can take another giant step forward as an FCS contender.
8/31 at Lamar
9/9 at Nevada
9/16 at California
9/23 vs No. 10 Sacramento State
9/30 at Eastern Washington
10/7 at Cal Poly
10/14 vs No. 16 Montana
10/28 vs No. 3 Montana State
11/4 at Northern Colorado
11/11 at No. 11 Weber State
11/18 vs Idaho State
HERO Sports’ rankings
Bold indicates Big Sky games