When Idaho junior quarterback Matt Linehan was announced out this spring with an unidentified foot injury, Vandal fans wondered how much the offense could accomplish in his absence.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Luton responded with an essentially seamless transition into the role, as he took the majority of the first-team offensive reps this spring.
Luton threw for 571 yards on 64 attempts during the teamâ€™s first scrimmage in Lewiston April 2. The sophomore had 36 completions, seven of which resulted in touchdown passes.
In the teamâ€™s second scrimmage Saturday at the Kibbie Dome, Luton again showcased his talent on the gridiron for the Vandals.
The quarterback recorded 431 passing yards on 19 completions during the team session. Luton also threw for six touchdowns, including a 69-yard pass to senior wide receiver Callen Hightower.
While the sophomore has displayed several inexperienced plays with the occasional interception, his overall performance provides assurance for the Vandals as to the teamâ€™s quarterback depth.
Lutonâ€™s ability to scramble also adds to his abilities on the field. He recorded five touchdown runs last season, including three against Arkansas State Oct. 3.
However, there is little question that Linehan will remain in the starting role for the Vandals. The junior has exhibited an improved knowledge of the game during the 2015 season, throwing for 2,972 yards and completing 63.1 percent of his passes.
In addition, Linehan earned a passing efficiency average of 135 while throwing for 16 touchdown passes.
Lutonâ€™s athleticism supplies Idaho head coach Paul Petrino with a strong backup quarterback, a luxury only a few collegiate programs possess.
The experience the sophomore gains during the spring will prove even more vital if Linehan is to sustain another injury at the position. Last season, Linehan missed Idahoâ€™s matchup against Arkansas State with a foot injury, prompting Petrino to replace the starter with Luton.
The sophomore quarterback completed 24 of 42 passes and recorded 166 yards through the air against the eventual Sun Belt Conference champions.
Later in the season, Luton took the field against SEC heavyweight Auburn, completing 14 of 18 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown.
Linehanâ€™s knowledge of the position. coupled with Lutonâ€™s performance as a backup, provide the Vandal football team flexibility and a bright future.
Josh Grissom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GoshJrissom