MOSCOW — Idaho coach Paul Petrino had three must-haves marked on his recruiting big board for the traditional national signing day.
First, he needed an experienced quarterback to push the room and contend to start.
Next, he and his staff sought out some standouts to plug into the secondary, considering that was the only defensive position group to lose any starter after last year.
Petrino also was in the market for some hogs to compete in the offensive trenches — a troubled group in 2019.
The Vandals checked all the boxes Wednesday with their 10 new recruits, who’ll mix in with the 12 they signed in December.
“Last year, we got a lot of skill guys on offense and big guys on defense, so we kinda did the opposite this year,” said Petrino, who made sure to note his newest class — one brimming with local talent — is ranked third in the Football Championship Subdivision by 247 Sports.com.
Two one-and-done signees are perhaps the most notable of the bunch. Connecticut transfer quarterback Mike Beaudry and Montana transfer cornerback Dareon Nash enter as graduate transfers.
Beaudry stands 6-foot-5 and and 255 pounds, but “doesn’t look it.” He’s lean, with “big shoulders” and a “big chest,” Petrino added.
His career has been plagued with injuries, but Petrino saw a lot to like from the Floridian, who played five games with UConn after an All-American career at Division II West Florida, a program which was started in 2016 — Beaudry took the Argos to a national title showing in Year 2.
“His arm, his decision making, his ability to make plays under duress,” Petrino said of Beaudry’s qualities. “He could have people in his face and coming down on him, and still make throws. He can make throws to all different places on the field.
“Then when I met with him, really his intelligence. He understands the game of football.”
Beaudry will be on campus in the summer, when he’ll presumably enter a competition with freshman CJ Jordan, junior Colton Richardson and sophomore Nikhil Nayar.
Nash, who started for two years at Big Sky foe Montana, was brought in by cornerbacks coach Vernon Smith, who also spent time with the Griz. The 6-2 Nash has played in 36 games in three years at UM.
“Usually when I’m talking to high school kids, you’re kinda keeping it basic,” Smith said. “I guess he got a little bored, because he started asking next-level questions.”
Nash will expectedly start right away at the boundary corner position, and “might even wear (Lloyd Hightower’s) number,” Petrino said.
Joining Nash in the backfield is Tarynce Antolin, the Class 4A Greater Spokane League defensive MVP who was an under-the-radar find because he began his prep career in Hawaii. Petrino said he could vie for time early at safety, then potentially morph into a linebacker.
“He plays the game of football the way you wanna see it,” Petrino said of Antolin, one of the team’s earliest commits. “He has a really good motor, has a good nose for the football.”
Staying local — and in the secondary — Idaho signed 6-1, 200-pound Coeur d’Alene grad Colbey Nosworthy, the 5A Inland Empire League MVP last year.
Nosworthy will begin at free safety but could eventually become a two-way player — he was a star receiver for the Vikings.
“He made plays all over the place,” Petrino said.
Up front, the Vandals found a couple of Californians who boast next-level size and athleticism.
Nate Azzopardi, from northern California football hotbed Junipero Serra — where Tom Brady prepped — played tackle, but could rotate at all three offensive line spots until Idaho discerns where he fits best.
“The thing that jumps out with him is his feet and his quickness,” Idaho offensive coordinator/O-line coach Kris Cinkovich said. “You’d prefer having guys that can play multiple positions.”
Said Petrino: “This was a huge get.”
As was 6-5, 290-pound Palm Desert High School product Elijah Sanchez, a three-star tackle who Petrino wouldn’t be surprised to see inching his way into the starting lineup before long.
“Those two O-linemen, that was really just an outstanding job by everybody recruiting them,” said Petrino, who agreed this might be Idaho’s best offensive line class in several years. “(Sanchez is) very athletic, has good strength. ... A kid I think that could come in and compete and have a great chance to play early.”
Idaho added to its deep pass-catcher pool with San Mateo College (California) transfer Jermaine Jackson, a 5-7, 165-pound speedster whose versatility allowed him to play a lot of running back last year as well. He had more than 1,200 yards from scrimmage.
“He doesn’t play small, because he can go catch the ball above his head,” Petrino said.
Noah Ormsby, a 6-1 receiver from McCall-Donnelly, has a knack for highlight-reel grabs and tackle-busting. He racked up 1,171 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Class 2A Vandals.
On defense, the Vandals landed another of their home state’s best prep players — Eagle High linebacker Derek Tommasini, the 5A Southern Idaho Conference’s defensive MVP who defensive line coach Luther Elliss called a “Dick Butkus kind of guy.”
“It kind of reminds me of when we got (running back) Nick (Romano of Rocky Mountain) out of that area last year. I thought Nick was really the best offensive player in the state,” Petrino said. “Derek was the best defensive player out of that area.
“He can really run, he’s got good speed. He can run sideline to sideline. Definitely could see him coming in here and competing to play early.”
Tommasini’s father, Kevin, played football and baseball at Arizona State.
Rounding out the class is a legacy — Landon Rehkow, brother of former All-American UI punter Austin Rehkow, who also kicked.
Landon, after he completes a two-year religious mission, will do the same for the Vandals.
“He’s got a big leg,” Petrino said. “It’s great to get another big-time kicker from that family.”
Petrino, heading into his eighth year at Idaho fter a 5-7 season, said Idaho’s recruiting tactics have been restructured somewhat, so more local-bred athletes will be signed. Nine 2020 recruits come from either Idaho or Washington.
But some of the signees indicate Idaho will retain its ties in the south, fashioned by a coaching staff with backgrounds there and Idaho’s past stint in the Football Bowl Subdivision’s Sun Belt Conference.
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