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Jack Layne looks to be next in line for Idaho football's starting quarterback position

Mar. 31—Idaho redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Layne's ascent to one of the team's most interesting prospects ahead of the 2024 season is nothing to scoff at.

The Lake Oswego, Ore., native came to Moscow as a walk-on with little to no expectations and started the 2022 campaign as the seventh quarterback on the Vandals' depth chart.

As spring turned to summer and fall began Idaho's season, Layne started to climb the Vandals' depth chart. He eventually became Idaho's backup QB and got his first start against Idaho State in the final game of the year.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder excelled at the mental components of the position, such as timing and decision-making.

The Vandals downed their Big Sky foes 38-7 and Layne looked impressive, finishing 18-of-29 for 255 yards and a score. His performance also earned him a scholarship.

"That game was super fun," Layne said. "Coach Eck believed in me as a true freshman kid. I was just blessed and thankful for that opportunity."

After Layne's performance, the Idaho faithful and coaching staff knew they had a more-than-capable backup if their QB1, Gevani McCoy, went down.

McCoy remained healthy for most of the 2023 season., but his ankle seemed to bother him later in the year. This allowed Layne to start in Idaho's final game of the season for the second year in a row.

The Vandals' opponent was once again Idaho State, and the game was almost exactly a year to the day of Layne's last start.

The sequel was better than the original.

Idaho once again dispatched its rival from the south, this time by a score of 63-21, and Layne tied a program record with six touchdown passes.

The Vandals' backup QB was 20-of-26 for 275 yards and was pulled in the third quarter.

The onslaught Idaho put on the Bengals was its best offensive output of the season.

There was no doubt McCoy was going to finish the season as the Vandals' signal caller. But the writing was on the wall: Idaho had to reevaluate its QB room ahead of the 2024 campaign.

The duel between Layne and McCoy never materialized.

Days after the Vandals' 30-22 loss to Albany in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the former Jerry Rice award-winning QB McCoy entered the transfer portal.

"I think I learned more from Gevani than anybody else I've been around," Layne said. "He kind of elevated me. One thing about him, in practice, if he missed a throw by inches, he was mad at himself. That kind of perfectionism and accuracy as a quarterback — that's what I got from him. He was so hard on himself, and he was so consistent with his feet and his upper body; he's great."

McCoy transferred to Oregon State, and Layne has been practicing with Idaho's starters a week into spring camp.

The Bengal hunter is the favorite to land the Vandals' QB1 gig. But he still has a chip on his shoulder.

"I was a QB7 once," Layne said. "Anyone can win the job; they're all here for a reason. You have to come to work every day. You're getting elevated every day, is what the coaches say, so that's how I look at it."

Layne credits his grandpa for developing his love of football. The elder Layne and Jack share a couple of similarities when it comes to the sport. The pair are both Buffalo Bills fans and took snaps under center. The duo are also film nuts.

"We film all of our practices, so I gave him my password because he wanted to watch all the film," Layne said. "He probably watches more film than me. So when coach Eck sees how many minutes I've put in the film room, probably half of it is just him."

The Beaver State native started his football career as a running back and didn't switch positions until his freshman year of high school.

His first game as a varsity quarterback at Lake Oswego came his sophomore year against Oregon City. His first career pass was a pick six.

That was a rattling experience for the young quarterback. But he had a coach on the sidelines, Nick Hahlberg, who kept him grounded.

"I think he believed in me," Layne said. "He was the first guy who said you can be a college quarterback; I see it in you. He taught me how to read defenses and how to play on time. I didn't have the biggest arm, and I wasn't the biggest dude, so I had to win with my brain and with timing and stuff like that."

Layne helped the Lakers to an 8-1 regular season and a No. 1 seed in the Oregon Class 6A state playoffs his senior year in 2021.

Lake Oswego fell in a 56-49 shootout against Jesuit in the quarterfinals. Layne fumbled on the Lakers' final possession of the game, making the first and final plays of his high school career turnovers.

"A lot of my good buddies were on the other team," Layne said. "It still hurts, but it was such a fun game because shootouts are always the best."

Despite the rough start, and ending, Layne had a decorated high school career. He was named the Gatorade player of the year in Oregon and was a first-team all-state selection as a senior.

In his final year with the Lakers, he completed 72% of his passes and threw for 3,400 yards and 44 touchdowns.

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, tpixley@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @TreebTalks