The University of Idaho Vandals needed some help in this recruiting class. Their program has gone 2-22 over the last two seasons, and last year signed only one player who even had a recruiting ranking (2-star guard Nick Edenfield).
Head coach Paul Petrino was able to do a little better with high school recruits this year, getting athlete Michael Garner, running back Aaron Duckworth and offensive lineman Jordan Rose—all with a 3-star ranking—to sign with the Vandals fresh out of high school.
The rest of Idaho's class, however, may be the most unorthodox in the entire country.
Hurting for capable players, Petrino took an unprecedented dip into the junior college ranks, signing an astounding 17 junior college recruits!
While most programs sign a couple of junior college recruits each year in order to help fill an area or two of weakness, Idaho showed that it is in desperate straights and needs all the help it can get immediately.
A couple of the JUCO recruits were highly rated prospects who Idaho did very well to get. Alfonso Hamption, a 4-star defensive tackle, is easily the highest-rated recruit the program has ever gotten. Kenny Torrence, a 3-star wide receiver, turned down bowl teams Fresno State, Kansas State and Washington State in order to sign with the Vandals.
The other 15 JUCO signees were all unrated, however, showing that Petrino is in desperate need of players who can take the field right away for the Vandals this season. While most high school recruits take at least a couple of seasons to get acclimated to college ball and are then able to make an impact, JUCO players come in much closer to the level of play required for a team at the top tier of NCAA football.
Idaho's JUCO recruits come from all over the board—basically every position but quarterback was represented by the Vandals' JUCO signees. What this tells us is that Petrino doesn't believe that the roster he inherited when he was hired before last season has much depth. Instead, he believes he needs a whole lot of instant help.
While his methods were unorthodox, what Petrino did with this year's recruiting class was actually quite smart. The Vandals are one of the worst programs currently at the FBS level of college football. They are moving into their new football home in the Sun Belt Conference this season—pressure is high and patience is low.
Petrino doesn't have the luxury of waiting a few years for his players to develop. He needs major positive results in the next year or two. JUCO players give him the best chance at achieving that, given that a school like Idaho doesn't really have the ability to get many players who are ready to make an impact fresh out of high school.
Idaho signing 17 junior college players may be eye-catching, but it gives head coach Paul Petrino the best chance at making the positive strides forward quickly that he needs in order to keep his job.