Senior wide receiver Jeff Cotton knew coming into the season he was expected to play a big role for the Idaho Vandals.
So far, so good.
After two games, Cotton leads the FCS with an average of 11 catches per game. He’s third in FCS with 114 receiving yards per game. Also a return man, he averages 134 all-purpose yards, good for 28th in the nation.
Last week, he caught 16 passes vs. Central Washington, for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Cotton’s 16 catches were the second most in Idaho history, one shy of the record set by Jerry Hendren in 1969. His receving yards were the most by a Vandal in a single game in four seasons.
“It’s something to be proud of, but I just want to keep on getting better,” the 6-foot-2, 204-pound Cotton said.
And it’s not just a case of picking on a smaller school. Cotton caught six passes for 83 yards at Penn State in Week 1.
“I knew coming into the year, I wanted to play all four receiver positions,” said Cotton, who came to Idaho after playing at Pima College in Tucson, where he was an NJCAA honorable mention All-America in 2016. After redshirting at Idaho in 2017, he caught 49 passes for 656 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns for the Vandals last year.
Cotton said he played mostly wide receiver at Mountain View High in Tucson, then started playing in the slot a bit at Pima.
“I like playing in slot, playing wingback ... I just like playing football.”
But what Idaho coach Paul Petrino noticed, particularly last week against CWU, was what Cotton did when he wasn’t getting the ball thrown to him.
“Everybody saw his 16 catches, but his effort was really amazing (on) the balls he didn’t catch,” Petrino said. “When it was a run, he ran his guy off all the way to the end zone. He blocked a guy all the way into the net one time. He played with unbelievable effort when he wasn’t getting the ball. When you get the whole team doing that, you’re going to win all the time.”
NOTES: Hydration is always stressed when playing at altitude, and it will be no different this week as Idaho (1-1) prepares to play at Wyoming (2-0) on Saturday in Laramie. Wind can also be an issue there, and Petrino recalled a time when wind was a factor — just not during the game. One year when he was an assistant at Utah State, he and the other offensive coaches piled into a van for the drive to Laramie to learn some football from Cowboys coach Joe Tiller. “And the wind blew (the van) over, on its side,” Petrino recalled. “Driving down the road, no one near us, just blew it over on its side.” ... Petrino said both quarterbacks, Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson, will play on Saturday, “and then we’ll decide” whether to play one of them exclusively. “We still need to get experience and continue to improve with everybody, because it’s a long season,” Paul Petrino said.