Q & A with Griz interim head football coach Mick Delaney

QB Jordan Johnson

QB Jordan Johnson

April 11, 2012


1. You went through your first official practice as the interim head coach yesterday (Tuesday, April 10), although I do know you have been out here to watch a couple of practices earlier this spring. What do you think of the potential for the 2012 Grizzly football team?

Coach Delaney: "This is a good football team. I said that at the beginning. Do we have a lot of work to do? Of course. Do we have a lot of positions that don't have a lot of experience? Of course. But, I really liked what I saw yesterday; from the standpoint that the kids showed high energy and they were always on the move - that makes up for a lot in this game. Talent is certainly important, but the guys we have do have talent, or they wouldn't be here.

"We've got a great group of coaches who are going to coach those young guys up. I know since I have been here, in my very first year (2008) I can remember Bobby (head coach Bobby Hauck) saying `you know we lost 26 seniors, and we've got to coach them up.' We ended up with a 14-2 record and made a great run in the playoffs. We've got a lot of good football players here. Do some of them not have a lot of experience? Well, yes, but that's our job now to get them ready to play.

"You know in the old days you didn't play freshman, you redshirted them. You didn't play sophomores - they were back-ups. But now that's all changed, and we've got sophomore redshirts who have been here two years and they're going to be fine. It's going to take some work and we'll have some growing pains, but I have all the confidence in the world.

"We have a couple of young players who really impressed me yesterday in (sophomore cornerback) Josh Dennard and (redshirt freshman cornerback) Nate Harris particularly. There are other guys too, like (redshirt freshmen) John Schmaing and Samson Kaleikini on the offensive line, and Trent McKinney at quarterback. Sure, you'd like to have guys at every position who have played three years, but nobody in our division has that. I am excited about the players who are here, as well as our recruiting class, who will join us this summer for fall camp.



"I don't think I am looking through a pink cloud. I do think that these young men understand what it takes to be a football player at Montana. They are going to work hard and be the best players they can be. Tonga (Takai, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle) - I was really impressed with him yesterday. He's come a long way since last fall. On the defensive line I think guys like (Junior tackle Alex) Bienemann, (sophomore tackle) Trevor Rehm, a walk-on, (redshirt freshman end) Derek Crittenden, (sophomore end) Zach Wagenmann, have really worked hard over the winter and improved. Obviously (senior end) Josh Harris is a stable guy there because he's played there more than anyone else.

"And our linebacker crew is as good as anybody in the conference and maybe in the country in our division. Now, is there maybe a better player here or there at another school - probably; but as a whole group I'd take our guys over any."

2. There was a lot of concern by Griz Nation when Montana lost its offensive and defensive coordinators (Jonathan Smith and Mike Breske), who moved on to positions at Boise State and Washington State, respectively. It looks like both sides of the football have excellent potential. What do you think?

Coach Delaney: "I agree, I think things do look pretty good. With Ty (Gregorak) replacing Coach Breske and Timm (Rosenbach) replacing Jonathan, there are some different thoughts and philosophies, but we're still doing the same things. We are adding their wrinkles in, and maybe throwing out a few wrinkles that maybe they don't agree with, but we're fine.

"We've got two great coordinators. I honestly believe that. Before I retired I had never worked with Timm, but I've known of him and I knew his dad (Lynn) when he coached here (Lynn was the running backs coach at Montana from 1980-82 and then went to Washington State to become and associate athletic director) very well. I told Timm when we got together this morning, `you know I feel like I've known you for 25 years but I have never sat a room with you and visited with you.' But after two days here, and watching practice earlier (two weeks ago) this spring, I can tell that Timm Rosenbach is a great football coach. "Ty's been kind of like my son since I've got back here. I've been really fortunate to have worked with young guys like him who are just tremendous coaches. Brian Schneider, who is the special teams coach for the Seahawks is one of those young guys I am talking about. As I told Ty yesterday `you are like brothers.' He (Snyder) was an intense, great player, who started (Schneider also played linebacker in college, as did Gregorak) with us (at Colorado State where Delaney was an assistant coach for mentor Sonny Lubick for 15 years from 1993-2007) as a player, then became a GA (graduate assistant) and then was full time, and went on-and-on, and now with the Seahawks. So, we're in great shape with coaches. I have no qualms there."

3. Obviously you are incorporating new offensive and defensive schemes, and evaluating players in spring drills. What are you main areas of emphasis for you right now, or at least for the next few days as your team goes closer to this Saturday's scrimmage under the lights in Washington-Grizzly Stadium?

Coach Delaney: "I think probably the number one thing after just watching practice yesterday is consistency. I think the energy is there and that makes up for a lot. Guys were finishing and they are focused on what they are doing. The kids were excited to get back to football, which they usually are not after spring break. The whole atmosphere was good, and I told our staff that now it's our job to make sure that it's at least that good today, or better, and then better on Friday, and even better at Saturday's scrimmage."

GRIZ NOTES: Montana has around 20 or so new walk-ons out for spring drills, and all of them returned to practice on Tuesday after spring break, which is somewhat unusual.

On defense, sophomore Trevor Rehm, who is from Dillon, is now playing defensive tackle. He was moved from linebacker to defensive end last spring.

Promising redshirt freshman quarterback Trent McKinney, from Mililani, Hawaii, is up to 198 pounds, which is up around 16 pounds from his weight a year ago.

Other redshirt frosh on offense who could contribute in 2012 are tackle John Schmaing, guard Samson Kaleikini, and wide receiver Ellis Henderson.

Redshirt freshmen who could make a splash on "D" this season are cornerback Nate Harris, tackles Jesse Ginn and Tonga Takai, end Derek Crittenden, and safety Connor Lebsock.

The Griz had a 4-1 record over ranked opponents in 2011, with the sole loss 31-28 at No. 1 Sam Houston State in the FCS semifinals.

Delaney is now in his fifth year in a row at Montana, which makes him the longest tenured Griz coach, although Beers and Gregorak were both assistants for the Griz in previous seasons.

The Griz have 33 players from the state of Montana on their 2012 spring roster.

SOME OF WEDNESDAY'S PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS In 11-on-11 drills (from the 45-yard line):

Senior halfback Peter Nguyen had several long runs (a long of 27)

Junior wide receiver Cam Warren had 3 catches for around 45 yards.

Junior QB Jordan Johnson threw several completions, as did McKinney.

Senior DE Josh Harris had a tackle for a loss (sophomore halfback Brett Kirschner).

Kirschner 45-yard touchdown run, thanks in large part to a block by junior guard William Poehls.

Junior safety Steve Rominger with an interception.

(From the 10-yard line going in to the endzone):

Johnson, 8-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Sean Haynes.

Kirschner 3-yard TD run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Redshirt freshman Chris Lider and junior Zach Veasy both connected on 31-yard field goals, but both missed from 46 yards out.

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