MOSCOW, Idaho – Paul Petrino knows receivers.
The Idaho Vandals head football coach can comb through his resume at the position and roll off names such as Harry Douglas and Roddy White from his one season as receivers coach with the Atlanta Falcons; A.J. Jenkins while working as offensive coordinator at Illinois; and Josh McCain, who led the Sun Belt Conference in receiving his senior season at Idaho.
Recruits are starting to take notice.
Idaho inked three players Wednesday in its midyear signing class. By way of junior college, wide receiver Alfonso Onunwor and fullback Josh Herman selected the Vandals. Offensive lineman Noah Johnson will join Idaho out of Fayetteville (Arkansas) High. Petrino said Idaho will likely add a defensive lineman to the midyear signing class.
By far, the receiver headlines the class. Onunwor said Troy, South Alabama and Bowling Green were in the picture when he decided to sign with Idaho. He has also had an offer from Southern Mississippi. The 6-foot-1 receiver hauled in 75 passes and 10 touchdowns his sophomore season at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College.
“If there’s one position we feel like we can go out and recruit, that’s receiver,” Petrino said. “You should be one of the top guys in the conference and definitely one of the top guys in the country.
“I show them tape of all the guys (I’ve coached). There’s all different sizes and speed and they all have different traits, and there’s a chance there’s a guy they’re similar to.”
Although Callen Hightower is likely to continue as the No. 1 receiver, Onunwor will have plenty of opportunity to supplant returners such as Jacob Sannon and Dave Ungerer as a starter. He’ll enroll in time to participate in spring ball.
“My visit, they made me feel like home. They welcomed me with open arms. The offense, how they’re going to use me, I just felt that was right for me,” Onunwor said in a phone interview. “(Petrino) showed me the team’s highlight. He showed me the Auburn the game, showed me a few of the guys on the team right now and how they used those guys.”
Petrino reached back to his previous home of Fayetteville to sign Johnson. Johnson was teammates with Petrino’s son, Mason, in ninth grade while the he was an assistant at Arkansas.
Johnson is graduating this month and will enroll at Idaho in time for spring practices, the first high school player to do so in Petrino’s tenure.
“He was all-state as a sophomore and junior, will be again this year. He’s very athletic,” Petrino said. “I like that he can get out and run and pull, very athletic kid. Comes from a great program – most of the guys who come out of that program.”
Petrino sees Johnson as a center, but he can also play guard.
Herman joins Idaho out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. The 6-1, 251-pound junior college transfer fills a need for a fullback with the departure of three-year starter Jake Manley.
“Our fullback is an extension of the offensive line. They’re going to be a hard-nosed tough guy that’s going to get a lot of the dirty work. It does make it hard recruiting some individuals,” Petrino said.
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