2015 Record: 4-8 (3-5)
Head Coach: Paul Petrino (6-29; fourth year)
Returning Starters: 8 Offense/6 Defense
2015 Offense: 428 ypg (147 rush/281 pass); 30.3 ppg
2015 Defense: 485 ypg (273 rush/212 pass); 42.1 ppg
Offense: The success of the Vandals' offense rests on the capable shoulders of Matt Linehan. As a sophomore last season, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 63% of his passes. He's no statue either, rushing for 234 yards and five scores. The biggest thing for head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich will be finding a replacement for running back Elijhaa Penny who totaled 1,159 yards and 10 scores as a senior last year. Tight end Trent Cowan is Linehan's security blanket and Deon Watson is another big receiver (6'4", 225) who has starting experience. The offensive line loses just one starter and they are pretty sizeable averaging 6'5" and 300 pounds across the front. If Linehan can stay healthy, the Vandals should be able to top their offensive productivity from last season and that could result in more wins.
Defense: Losing the top tackler (Broc Westake) and the guy who was third in tackles (Marc Millan) won't help matters, but they aren't devoid of talent with linebacker Kaden Ellis, who finished second in tackles, as well as the entire secondary back. Along the defensive line, Idaho has some size and word is the coaches love the work that senior defensive back Tueni Lupeamanu put in this spring and summer, but the defensive front definitely looks like the weakness of the team right now.
The Bottom Line: Petrino has brought the Vandals back from football oblivion over the past three years. He's added speed, athleticism and size to what was a moribund program. With their move back to FCS in 2018, they are trying to drop their scholarship numbers to 63, so their recruiting classes are going to be smaller than they had been. Could they be good enough to get to 6-6 and go bowling this year for the first time since 2009? It sure looks that way. Now they just need to go out and get it done.