Sophomore TE Jordan Harper
April 23, 2014
The University of Montana football team just completed their spring drills, and third year Griz head coach Mick Delaney said that he was pleased with the progress that his 14 returning starters and 45 lettermen made in their preparation for a rigorous 2014 schedule.
COACH DELANEY TALKS ABOUT THE OFFENSE
O-LINE: "I am excited about our offense. We didn't have a lot of consistency this spring on offense, but we did a lot of different things with a lot of different people too. We had a lot of guys in-and-out, and it is very difficult to be consistent when you do that.
"Any time when you look and see that you have six offensive linemen who have played football for us, and three of them are starters, and two are back-ups that got a lot of turns last year. We're going to be fine.
"We need to work hard this summer on our strength. (Starting senior left guard) Jordan Hines (604, 271) has to get some weight back on. He had a bout with some stomach stuff and lost about 25 pounds, but he's gradually putting that on. Ben Weyer (starting sophomore right guard) has got to get a little bit more girth (he's 6-4, 270 right now) on.
"I think that (junior starting left tackle) John Schmaing (6-7, 290) is as good of a starting tackle as there is in the conference, and (senior starting right tackle) Trevor Poole (6-5, 285) has started for us the past two years. We're going to be solid there."
QUARTERBACK: "Any time you have a third-year starting (senior Jordan Johnson) quarterback back, that's a plus. JJ is going to be a dynamic player for us this season. He's a very unselfish player. He's working harder and harder to understand the game. He has to communicate a little better to help the other guys, and that's something he will do and need to work on."
WIDE RECEIVER: "I think our skill guys at wide receiver are as good an anyone. (Returning junior starter) Ellis Henderson (6-0, 185) is a big-play guy for us and dangerous with the football whenever he makes a catch. (Also a returning junior starter) Jamaal Jones (6-1, 191) had a fine year for us a year ago, and just gets better and better.
"Chase Naccarato (5-7, 166, junior) had a very good spring and will help us next year. We will get Taylor Walcott (6-0, 180, junior) back, who has really good speed. We'll get Sean Haynes (6-3, 195, senior) back eventually who has really good speed and size. (Haynes and Walcott are recovering from off-season surgery and did not participate in spring drills).
"Those are, sort-of-speak, the veteran guys, and then you add Josh Janssen (6-0, 195), a freshman redshirt, and Marq Rogers (6-4, 181), a freshman redshirt, and they're two pretty special guys. "We had a young guy hurt in Nico Graham (5-11, 175, RS Fr.), along with Haynes and Walcott, as well. Ryan Burke (6-4, 190, So.) has had a real nice spring. We're fine at receiver. I think we've got a really good crew. We've got back-up who are going to push and make those returning guys compete."
RUNNING BACKS: "When you get to the halfbacks, we have five quality running backs - that's when they all get healthy. Treshawn Favors (5-9, 190), hasn't played yet - he's a redshirt freshman, but I think that he brings something real special to the table. And Travon Van (5-11, 195) has been injured most of the spring as was Joey Counts (5-9, 215), but both of them have shown what they can do, and will really help us once they get back on the field.
"(Returning senior starter) Jordan Canada (5-9, 190), who never missed a practice again this spring, and he's made himself one of the top running backs in the Big Sky and in our school history for that matter, will be back. I think John Nguyen (5-7, 180, So.) had a tremendous spring. John does a really nice job for us."
TIGHT END: "I think after spring I feel a lot better than I did going into the spring, because there were so many unknowns there. "Jordan Harper (6-3, 222, So.) did a good job of running routes and catching the ball last season. Mitch Saylor did a nice job in running routes and catching, but that was at the wide receiver spot, and Cooper Sprunk (6-4, 250) and Mike Ralston (6-5, 245), being freshmen, we had a lot of questions about that position.
"We came out of the spring with a lot of improvement, but we still have a lot of work to do. One of the great things about Kefense's (Hynson, UM's co-coordinator) offense is that you can use Jordan Harper in 35-40 plays a game even though his physical stature is not the same as a lot of guys who play tight end, and the same with Mitch. That is an area that was a pleasant surprise. I know those kids will work their fannies off and continue to make progress the rest of the spring and in the summer."
COACH DELANEY TALKS ABOUT THE DEFENSE
"I am really excited about the way our defense played this spring. I think they improved every day, and the last two weeks they were dynamic. We're going to be a good defense. We've got athletic guys who can run and have worked very hard to build their strength.
LINE: "We get frustrated when our guys on the offensive line don't block them, but I really believe there are a lot of people that won't be able to block our ends and our interior guys. We've got five or six guys inside with Tonga (Takai, a 6-2, 310-pound senior) and Caleb Kidder (6-5, 275, Jr.), and Trevor Rehm (6-3, 265, Sr.). Nate Bradley (5-10, 260, RS Fr.), a walk-on, has helped us a lot, and Zach Peevey (6-2 ½, 255, So.) and Bo Harris (6-3, 280, So.) are in the mix as well."
"Then you get on the outside, and Zack Wagenmann (6-3 ½, 255, Sr.) and Tyrone Homes (6-4, 24, Jr.) I think are as good a pair of ends as there are. I will be very disappointed if Zack Wagenmann is not the Big Sky's defensive player of the year. He's been a first team all-conference guy for two years, and I think if he stays healthy he will be an All-American this year for the Griz. We are looking for Derek Crittenden (6-3, 240) to contribute at end for us again this season. Those guys up front have done a tremendous job for us. "
LINEBACKER: "When you take Jeremiah Kose (6-2, 230, Jr.) our "mike" at the middle backer, who hasn't been able to have contact coming off of a ACL, but seems to have really re-habed that well. He can run, he's smart, and he's a good tackler. And then ("will" linebacker) Kendrick Van Ackeren (6-1, 220, Jr.) and Herbert Gamboa (6-1, 220) have both had outstanding springs - and I mean great. They both can run really well - Gamboa especially and he's tackling well. Van Ackeren is just one of those guys that you don't notice very much, but at the end of the day he's got 12, 13, 14 tackles.
"I am happy about them. They're back-ups are two redshirt freshman and Connor Lebsock (6-2, 205, Jr.). Those freshman are Connor Strahm (6-1, 235) and Tucker Schye (6-4, 220), and they're coming along, so I think that they're going to be excellent back-ups and great special teams guys." SECONDARY: "I think (free safety) Matt Hermanson (6-1, 202, Sr.) is another one who is going to receive a ton of post-season honors if he continues to play like he has. He's had a great spring. This will be his third year starting for us. (Strong safety) Justin Whitted (6-1, 195, Jr.) has had a nice spring, as has Jake Dallaserra (5-10, 190 Jr.). Zach Gratton (6-0, 190, Jr.), and a couple of other young kids will be pushing for playing time as well. The safeties are better, and Matt's a leader there."
CORNERBACK: "I think we have improved a bunch at corner. I think both Nate Harris (5-10, 180, Jr.) and Josh Dennard (5-11, 194, Sr.) had solid springs. They got better in coverage. They got better in finding and playing the ball. JR Nelson (6-0, 177) is a redshirt sophomore, and he's got to be ready to play. (Redshirt freshmen) Ryan McKinley (6-0, 195) and Chris Parker (6-0, 175) are kids who still need a lot of work, but if they work hard this summer and come to camp ready to roll, then they will help us too."
GRIZ STAT FACTS: Following the 2013 season, Coach Delaney was named one of five finalists for the Liberty Mutual's FCS "Coach of the Year" award.
Montana's overtime win at Sacramento State on Nov. 2, 2013, gave the Grizzlies their 27th winning season in the past 28 years (since 1986).
Montana made its 21st appearance in the national playoffs in the 2013 season -- the most in division history...the Grizzlies' 30 playoff wins are the second most in division history (45, Georgia Southern). UM had a record 17 playoff berths in a row from 1993-2009, and have been in the playoffs 18 of the past 21 seasons.
The Griz were second in the nation in average attendance, at 24,380 in seven games. Appalachian State was the leader (24,894 average in six games), while James Madison was third (21,011 average in seven games).
For the first time in school history Montana had three players participate in post-season all-star games following the 2013 season: linebacker Brock Coyle played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif.; offensive tackle Danny Kistler Jr. started for the west team in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.; and linebacker Jordan Tripp participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and he was also invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game.
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