Junior center Kjelby Oiland
Aug. 2, 2012
The defending Big Sky Conference champion The University of Montana Grizzlies start their quest for another league crown on Tuesday, August 7, when they begin 2012 fall camp drills. (Attached is a PDF of UM's entire fall camp practice schedule).
First-year Griz Head Coach Mick Delaney and his staff will welcome 95 players on "Reporting Day," which is Sunday, August 5. On Monday, August 6, the players will go through physicals and be issued equipment, and they will also attend a team meeting in the evening.
The players will have one-a-day practices from Tuesday, August 7 through Saturday, August 11. Their first two-a-day practice session is Sunday, August 12.
All of Montana's practices will be held on campus at the Riverbowl practice site, as well an in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. NOTE: Montana will not have any practices on the South Campus practice fields this season.
The Grizzlies will hold three scrimmages during fall camp in Washington-Grizzly Stadium: Sunday, August 12 (at approximately 7:45 p.m.); Saturday, August 18 (starting around 10:10 a.m.); and Thursday, August 23 (which begins at approximately 9:15 a.m.).
UM's annual "Great Griz Encounter" at Caras Park is slated for Thursday, August 23, and begins at 6:00 p.m. Griz players will be introduced and sign 2012 football posters at that annual event, which is held in conjunction with the Missoula Downtown Association's weekly "Downtown Tonight" community gathering. Classes at UM begin on Monday, August 27.
The Grizzlies return just seven starters and 33 lettermen from a senior-laden team that posted an overall mark of 11-3, won the Big Sky's regular-season championship (7-1), and advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) semifinals.
Last season was the 18th time in the last 19 years that Montana has participated in the national playoffs, and the 16th time in the past 19 years they have won (or shared) the Big Sky title.
Montana has five starters back from an offensive squad that was highly ranked nationally in several categories a year ago. In 2011, the Griz were 16th in the FCS in scoring (33.86 ppg); 17th in rushing (210.86 ypg); and 21st in total offense (420.36 ypg). Another impressive offensive stat for the UM offense was it allowed just .71 sacks a game - the sixth best in the nation.
"Last season I thought we were a really, really good offensive football team," Delaney said. "We had great balance between the pass and run. Our offensive line was just tremendous; our receivers made big plays and so did our running backs.
"The big question for our team going in to this season now that we have two new coordinators is - `what are we going to see that is completely different'?" he said. "The answer to that question is that you won't see anything that's completely different. You will see the same, fast-tempo pace most of the time.
"The next thing that you'll see is coach (Timm) Rosenbach (UM's offensive coordinator, who took over for Jonathan Smith, now an assistant coach at Boise State) has brought what we call the quick passing game," Delaney said. "If you are under center, it's a three-step drop; if you're in the `gun,' it's catch, gather, and throw. I think in those changes that you will see our passing percentage sky-rocket.
"Those tweaks let us do a couple of things," he continued. "First, it lets you get the ball up and out, as the receivers are running very quick routes. Second, it is also a good way to beat a big-pressure, blitz team. I am really excited about that.
"The other thing that you will see on offense that is a little bit different is we'll probably be a little more tight end and H-back oriented at times," Delaney said. "I think that will give us better capability in short yardage situations and on the goal-line.
"I am really excited about the overall prospect of what we have the potential to be offensively, and that is a team that can move the ball and score a lot of points," he said.
Two of UM's five starters back on offense were all-conference picks a year ago. Senior tight end Greg Hardy (14 starts) was a first team all-league selection, while junior tackle Danny Kistler (who started 14 games at left guard last season), was named to the second team.
Other starters returning for the offense are senior wide receiver Sam Gratton (14 starts) and senior running backs Peter Nguyen (six starts) and Dan Moore (five starts). Gratton and Nguyen were honorable mention All-Big Sky picks last season. Also back is junior center Kjelby Oiland, who had 12 starts at right guard a year ago. Gratton had a team-high (tie) 36 catches a year ago, while Nguyen led the Griz with 835 yards rushing.
The Griz defense, which was a mainstay last season, has just two starters back (as well as one from the 2010 season). Montana was ranked high among the FCS leaders on "D" in several key categories. They were 18th in the country in scoring defense (19.93 ppg), 21st in sacks per game (2.57), 23rd in turnover margin (+.79 pg), and 26th in total defense (327.14 ypg).
Coach Delaney and his staff have has a lot of holes to fill on defense, including the spot vacated by the league's defensive player of the year - linebacker Caleb McSurdy. Long-time Griz assistant coach Ty Gregorak was elevated to the position of defensive coordinator, replacing Mike Breske who left UM to take the same position at Washington State.
The two starters back on "D" are junior linebacker John Kanongata'a (11 starts) and junior free safety Bo Tully (eight starts). Kanongata'a was UM's second leading tackler last season with 93 stops, and a second team all-league selection. Tully is the team's third leading returning tackler and had 52 stops in eight starts last season.
Another key player back is junior Jordan Tripp, a Buck Buchanan Award candidate, who was a starter in 2011 (he started all 11 games in 2010), but was lost for the year when he suffered an injury in the fourth contest (against Eastern Washington) of the season.
"We're going to have some growing pains on defense," Delaney said. "We are not going to pressure quite as much like we did with coach Breske, but we will still be a pressure team. I look for the personality of our defense to take over the personality of (defensive coordinator) Ty. That means they will play with high energy, play with high emotion, play fast, play hard, be tough guys, and they will just go out and make plays."
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