The top 10 Idaho football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. P/PK Austin Rehkow, Sr.
One of the nation’s top all-around kickers over the last few seasons, Rehkow was rock solid on field goals connecting on 23-of-27 shots with a good enough leg to give it a shot just inside 50 yards. He missed on a few makeable midrange ones, but still he only missed four all season long and started out making his first nine and 13 of the first 14 inside the 50. As good as he is as a placekicker, he’s even stronger as a punter averaging 45.7 yards per try putting 14 inside the 20.
The all-star has been special from the start, averaging 49.2 yards per kick over his four season including a 52-yard average two seasons ago. It might not be exciting when the best player is a kicker, but he’s that important.
2. QB Matt Linehan, Jr.
The 6-3, 214-pound veteran slowed down his interceptions, improved his accuracy, and came up with a terrific sophomore season completing 63% of his throws for 2,992 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 picks. A good scrambler, he ran for 234 yards and five scores, but in the Vandal offense his job is to keep the passing game going. After throwing 18 interceptions as a true freshman, he tightened up his game, throwing for over 300 yard in three straight games and four of his last six games with just two interceptions in the last four games. The Michigan native is a good all-around athlete with the upside to throw for well over 3,000 yards now that he knows what he’s doing.
3. TE Buck Cowan, Sr.
Trent – that’s his first name – finished third on the team with 48 catches for 624 yards and four scores, highlighted by a ten-grab, 118-yard day against Auburn while showing good hands and route-running ability throughout the season. At 6-3 and 224 pounds, he’s like a decent-sized receiver, but he’s growing into weapon and a top target for Matt Linehan. He can hit a little bit, but his job is to keep the chains moving.
4. LB Kaden Elliss, Soph.
The team’s second-leading tackler, Elliss had a great first season coming up with 83 tackles with a sack and 7.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 216 pounds he’s still growing into his frame, but he was a contributor from Day One while making 11 tackles in the middle of the year against Arkansas State and 11 more against Texas State. More like a big defensive back playing on the outside, he’s a good athlete who should be a stat-sheet filler.
5. CB/S Jayshawn Jordan, Sr.
One of the team’s best all-around defensive backs, he was a top corner two years ago making 64 tackles with two picks, but last year he suffered a thigh injury and missed most of the season. Back and healthy, he’ll get tried out at safety, but he might be a better corner. At 5-9 and 185 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s a tough tackler with good speed and quickness – he can play anywhere in the secondary.
6. WR Callen Hightower, Sr.
The team’s second-leading receiver behind Dezmon Epps, Hightower did a nice job catching 57 passes for 749 yards and two scores, averaging 13.14 yards per grab, coming up with ten catches for 115 yards and a score in the win over New Mexico State and with 17 grabs over the final two games for 289 yards and a touchdown. The JUCO transfer originally from Georgia by way of Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, he’s fast enough and dangerous enough to be used as a kick returner if needed. Mostly, though, he’ll be the No. 1 deep threat.
7. OT Jordan Rose, Jr.
The starter at the Strong Tackle – normally the left tackle in the Idaho offense, the 6-6, 322-pounder earned all-star honors as the main pass protector for a line that did a decent job in pass protection. Banged up two years ago, he turned into the mainstay and anchor with the good size and tough pop – he’s a fighter who moves his feet well for a player of his size.
8. TE Deon Watson, Sr.
Buck Cowan might be the team’s top tight end, but Watson is doing more than his share as the No. 2 option and working as another receiver. The 6-4, 222-pound former wideout was more of a short-range target two years ago, last season he became more dangerous averaging over 13 yards per grab with 42 catches for 551 yards and seven touchdowns. Used more and more as the season went on, he caught seven passes for 109 yards and two scores against South Alabama, and closed out the season with five catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns against Texas State.
9. SS Russell Siavii, Sr.
The Hawaii native picked off two passes and returned a fumble for a score, but mostly he was used like a last line of defense in the open field making 42 tackles with most of them solo stops. A thumper, he got banged up late in the season missing time in two games, but he was still a steady part of the rocky defensive backfield. With his 6-2, 208-pound size, he’s big, but he has to do more when the ball is in the air.
10. CB Dorian Clark, Jr.
Clark made a long trip from Jacksonville, Florida to play for the Vandals, getting his feet wet as a freshman before turning into one of the team’s rising corners. At 6-0 and 182 pounds he has nice size and held up reasonably well when picked on, breaking up five passes while coming up with a pick. Physical, he came up with 45 tackles doing a strong job of holding up when needed.