| March 22, 2018

Idaho football spring primer – Linebackers

March 5, 2013

One of the first things Paul Petrino said he was going to do when introduced as the new coach in December was that he’d immediately break down film from 2012 to better understand where the strengths and holes on his team were.

One of those holes he felt compelled to filled was linebacker.

Petrino signed four junior college linebackers in the early signing period and brought in one more high school kid on national letter of intent day. His inaugural signing class had more linebackers than any other position.

What we’re saying is that you’re probably not going to recognize many guys, if any, in this linebacking core.

Returning players: James Randall (Jr.), Addison Palomino (RFr.), Matthew Willis (Sr.), Spencer Killman (RFr.), Skyler Nielson (RFr.), Ringo Robinson (RFr.)

Departing players: Conrad Scheidt, Homer Mauga, Rob Siavii, Su’a Tuala, Elan Richard, Corey Sandberg, Kerey Kuheana, Jerimiah Walters, Nik Landdeck

Coming in for spring: Brock Westlake (So.), Eric Tuipulotu (Jr.), Marc Millan (Jr.), Juan Martinez (Jr.)


Junior college players have their pros and their cons. For cons, they were in junior college for a reason, whether it be grades, attitude, or talent. Relying on too many junior college players can have an affect of the chemistry of your program.

But in a meeting with the media during the early signing period Petrino said what he liked about this group is that they bring good character, along with the immediate experience a junior college player brings.

Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen, but at the very least the group adds much needed depth to a position group that lost four starters whose eligibility ran out.

Petrino alluded a little bit to where the junior college signees might play on his signing day press conference. He referred to Broc Westlake as a “Mike” meaning playing in the middle. Juan Martinez played inside linebacker at City College of San Francisco, and both him and Westlake have the taller, bulky build compared to the rest of the linebacking unit. So it appears those two could compete for the starting middle linebacker job.

Marc Millan, Petrino said, “we’ll pass rush with a lot.” The 6-1, 215 pound outside linebacker could see some time competing for the starting weak side linebacker spot then.

Eric Tuipulotu, the 5-11, 215 pounder from the College of San Mateo will “run around and knock you,” Petrino said. Sounds like he’d be a good strong side linebacker. Martinez and Westlake could try and get in on the strong side action too.

Of the returning group of linebackers James Randall and Matthew Willis are the only experienced ones. Randall was competing for the starting middle linebacker job last fall before suffering a season ending ankle injury in practice. Willis played a reserve role, and fits in well at middle linebacker.

It remains to see how all of the redshirt freshmen play in to new defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee’s plans, but it is telling how compelled Petrino and Lee were to get so many linebackers right away.

In the fall Idaho will add Tony Lashley, who played at outside linebacker at Rockhurst High School, but has the build to grow in to any of the spots.

Way-too-early Spring depth chart projections

Strongside OLB

1. Eric Tuipulotu
2. Juan Martinez
3. James Randall

Middle LB

1. Broc Westlake
2. Juan Martinez
3. Matthew Willis

Weakside OLB

1. Marc Millan
2. James Randall
3. Juan Martinez

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