POCATELLO — Idaho State continued building its football program Wednesday with the announcement of 17 class-of-2019 high school signees, adding to December’s seven-player signing class to give ISU 24 announced incoming players.
Head coach Rob Phenicie said he expects to sign between one and four more players in the coming months, meaning ISU could add up to 28 players to its future plans.
“This concludes almost a yearlong process,” Phenicie said during Wednesday’s press conference at Holt Arena. “We did a good job solidifying the needs that we have. This is by no means a definitive list. There will be more as we go along.”
Wednesday’s announced signing class featured seven players from Idaho, four expected Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries (whose arrival at ISU will be delayed), and multiple recruits who picked ISU over larger, higher-profile programs.
Phenicie highlighted additions at defensive line, offensive tackle and running back, as well as ISU’s recruits whose high school coaches are former ISU football players.
ISU announced five defensive linemen and four offensive linemen combined in its December and February signing classes. Minico High School signees Colter May and Mason Harwood were coached by former ISU player Keelan McCaffrey (2011-14), Nyssa High School (Oregon) signee Jose Sanchez was coached by former ISU player Lee Long (2000-03), San Diego High School signee Raiden Hunter was coached by former ISU player Charles James (2001), and Idaho Falls High School signee Carson Fugleberg was coached by former ISU player Pete Molino (1989-92).
Phenicie didn’t specify how many announced signees are scholarship players. ISU had 15 seniors on last season’s roster. There has been no announcement made regarding players leaving the program via transfer or retirement.
“We have a handful of (full-scholarship signees), a handful of (partial-scholarship signees), and then the non-scholarship (signees),” Phenicie said.
The signing class does not feature any junior college transfers, though one was announced independently via Twitter. The other announced signees from Idaho are Bishop Kelly tight end Jackson Lightner, Gooding defensive lineman Jake McGinnis, Horseshoe Bend defensive back Quade Renfro and Hillcrest running back Jordan Neuerburg. Multiple other Idaho prospects have committed to ISU via Twitter.
McGinnis and May have brothers on Weber State’s football team. Cole McGinnis started nine games on the Wildcats’ offensive line in 2018, and Brady May has earned multiple FCS All-America and all-Big Sky Conference honors as WSU’s fullback and special teams player.
“(Jake McGinnis) wants to be a big cat and come be a Bengal and not a little cat, like some others are,” Phenicie said.
ISU announced one quarterback signee, though two more have committed via Twitter. Sagan Gronauer, a quarterback from Nevada’s Faith Lutheran High School, was an announced signee in December.
With the departure of veteran signal caller Tanner Gueller, ISU is without a sure-fire starting quarterback for the first time in years.
“Sagan Gronauer is a good quarterback,” Phenicie said Wednesday. “If he shows that he’s the best, he’ll play. That’s our rule.”
Other notable signees include three-star defensive backs Ja’Maree Boone and Keithan Gooden, three-star defensive lineman Will Vea, two-star tight end Preston Helwege, two-star running back Raiden Hunter, two-star defensive lineman Nick Larriva and Fugleberg, a three-star offensive lineman. They all chose ISU over opportunities at FBS schools, according to their recruiting profiles on 247sports.com and other recruiting databases.
ISU’s most notable commitment to fall through is three-star offensive lineman Alexx Schmidt. He announced his decision to de-commit from ISU on Feb. 2 via Twitter, and on Wednesday was announced as part of Fresno State’s 2019 signing class.
Schmidt’s commitment flip was likely a result of former ISU offensive line coach Roman Sapolu accepting a job at Fresno State in January.
“Roman Sapolu, as I said from the day he got here, made a big difference with us. He changed our offensive line play,” Phenicie said Wednesday. “He felt worse than anybody coming to say he was taking a job. He was darn near crying. … We have a very strong candidate (to replace him) that we’ll announce once it’s finalized.”
Phenicie said leading factors that played a role in landing this year’s recruits were ISU’s recent improvements to its game-day environment (inside and outside Holt Arena), and the program’s familial feel.
“We make a big deal about family around here. We’re genuine,” Phenicie said. “It has to be a fit. When they come on an official visit, it’s an interview. We’re interviewing them, they’re interviewing us. It goes both ways. I think that’s important.”
ISU’S 2019 RECRUITING CLASS
QB Sagan Gronauer, Faith Lutheran HS (NV)
RB Malakai Rango, Junipero Serra HS (CA)
RB Jordan Neuerburg, Hillcrest HS (Ammon)
RB Raiden Hunter, San Diego HS (CA)
TE Jackson Lightner, Bishop Kelly HS (Boise)
TE Preston Helwege, O’Dea HS (WA)
OL Jacob Angel, JSerra Catholic HS (CA)
OL Jacob Dimond, Yelm HS (WA)
OL Sam Dawe, Spanish Fork HS (UT)*
OL Carson Fugleberg, Idaho Falls HS (Idaho Falls)*
DL Jake McGinnis, Gooding HS (Gooding)
DL Will Vea, Eastside Catholic HS (WA)
DL Luke Toomalatai, Liberty HS (NV)
DL Nick Larriva, Santa Ana HS (CA)
DL Mason Harwood, Minico HS (Rupert)
LB Jose (JoJo) Sanchez, Nyssa HS (OR)
LB Cruz Littlefield, Las Vegas HS (NV)
DB Keithan Gooden, Calabasas HS (CA)
DB Ja’Maree Boone, Narbonne HS (CA)
DB Junior Damuni, Ridgeline HS (UT)*
DB Quantraill Morris-Walker, JSerra Catholic HS (CA)
DB Colter May, Minico HS (Rupert)*
DB Quade Renfro, Horseshoe Bend HS (Horseshoe Bend)
LS Zach Wallace, St. Mary’s HS (CA)
* = expected to take LDS mission