|Rehkow first team kicker, punter|
Nine Vandals are on Athlon Sports’ preseason all-Sun Belt football team with kicker/punter Austin Rehkow the first-team choice at both positions.
Receiver Callen Hightower is a second-team selection as an all-purpose player as is tight end Buck Cowan with offensive lineman Jordan Rose also a second-team choice. On the third team are center Steve Matlock, linebacker Kaden Elliss and defensive back Jayshawn Jordan. Quarterback Matt Linehan is a fourth-team honoree along with Deon Watson at tight end.
Rehkow, a senior from Spokane Valley, Wash., has been among the national kicking and punting leader throughout his career. He is Idaho’s all-time punting average leader and in 2015 led the Sun Belt in field goals per game, punting average and scoring, and was second in field goal percent.
Cowan, a senior from Camas, Wash., finished the season fourth among the nation’s tight ends with 48 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns. Hightower, a senior Loganville, Ga., moved into a starting role midway through the season and was impressive with his athleticism in averaging 5.2 catches per game – fourth in the league and 56th nationally. Leading the way in providing the protection was Rose, a junior from Spokane, Wash., who has been a key component of the offensive line since his true freshman season.
Matlock (Boise, Idaho), a senior and member of the Rimington Award Watch List, made a seamless transition to center from guard and has shown the leadership and durability needed for the position. Elliss, a sophomore from Salt Lake City, stepped into a starting linebacker role as a true freshman and became a leader at the position as the Vandals’ second-leading tackler. Jordan, a senior from Seattle, missed 2015 with injury but is back in the secondary and expected to be a key component.
Linehan, a junior from Highland Park, Texas, and Watson, a senior from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, teamed up for some of 2015’s most memorable moments. Linehan was among the nation’s leaders all fall and was the Sun Belt leader in completion percentage as well as second in completions per game, total passing yards, passing yards per game, and total offense per game. He was third in yards per pass attempt and fourth in pass efficiency. Watson, who made the most of a receiver/tight end role, was Idaho’s fourth-leading receiver with 551 yards on 42 catches with seven touchdowns.
Idaho opens the 2016 season at home against Montana State on Sept. 1. Kickoff is 6 p.m.