Griz hold their first of 29 practices of 2012 fall camp

QB Shay Smithwick-Hann

QB Shay Smithwick-Hann

Aug. 7, 2012

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Griz Nation can start to gear up for the 2012 football season now, as 95 veterans and newcomers and the defending Big Sky Conference University of Montana Grizzlies held their first practice session of fall camp this afternoon (Tuesday, August 7).

The players reported this past Sunday (August 5), and will participate in one-a-day practices starting today (Tuesday, August 7) through Saturday, August 11. Their first two-a-day practice sessions are Sunday, August 12.

The Grizzlies will hold the first of three scrimmages in Washington-Grizzly Stadium Sunday evening, August 12, starting at approximately 8:15 p.m.. UM's other two scrimmages are slated for Saturday, August 18 and Thursday, August 23, and both begin in the morning.

Head Coach Mick Delaney was excited and humbled to begin practice in his first season as the Griz mentor. Delaney welcomed back a talented group of experienced players, and said that he was elated about the way things started out this past weekend, and that he also feels very good about UM's 2012 recruiting class.

"We had kind of two situations (in fall camp), and one was Saturday might (August 4) when a couple of the parents, Joanne Peevey and Terry Greenberg (mom's of two of UM's freshman players), organized all the parents and said `let's go over to the Mo Club and have a burger and a shake,' and brought their sons and family members with them," Delaney said. "Cheri (Mick's wife) and I walk in there and all of the players together with their families were together, and it was just really refreshing, and I said, `wow that is one heck of a recruiting class.'

"We had a couple (recruits) who couldn't get in town until Sunday, but I think we had 17 or 18 players there, and that started the weekend out on a real positive note," Delaney said. "Our guys (assistant coaches) worked very hard to put this class together, and I think it's going to be, from top to bottom, probably the best recruiting class since I've been back (2008) to The University of Montana."

"Sunday (August 5) was probably the best day I've had since I took this job - well maybe the second best day since I had a hole-in-one this summer, so that's a pretty good day too," Delaney said, laughing. "Seriously, it was just so refreshing. To hear from (strength coach Rob) Coach Oviatt all summer long on how hard the kids were working, and then to see them back here in person. It makes me realize how fortunate I am to be here at The University of Montana as the head coach, along with our assistant coaches, and what I still feel is the best FCS job in America.

"When I looked around that room on Sunday it almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw how good those players looked and how anxious they are to get going," Delaney said. "We worry about the distractions and all of the things that have happened, and they may worry about it, but they don't wear it on their collars. They are ready to go."

The Grizzlies have seven starters and 33 lettermen back from their 11-3 team of a year ago, along with 25 new players - 19 from the high school ranks, three junior college transfers, and three "drop down" players from FBS schools.

"We expect a lot of those new players to have key roles on our team this season," Delaney said. "Anthony Goodwin (6-1, 190, Jr., from Mt. San Antonio JC) at corner I know will challenge for playing time. Herbert Gamboa (6-1, 215, Fr., from San Clemente HS, Calif.) at safety, who was a linebacker in high school ran a 10.6 (100 meters) this past spring, is as fast as anyone we have on our football team.

"Caleb Kidder (6-5, 240, Fr., from Helena Capital HS) at defensive end, Tyrone Holmes (6-4, 265, Fr., from Eagle Point HS, Ore.), who will play either end or tackle, are freshmen who I think will have a huge impact on defense," Delaney said.

"On offense, I look for Hayden Craig (6-5, 246, Fr., Dayton HS, Ore.) to have an impact at tight end," Delaney continued. "Three wide receivers, Ryan Burke (6-4, 195, Fr., Billings Central HS), Chase Naccarato (5-8, 160, Fr., Mt. Spokane HS, Wash.), and Taylor Walcott (6-0, 175, Fr., Marist HS, Eugene, Ore,.) -- I think all three of those guys, or at least two of them, will see playing time.

"One or two of our young offensive linemen - man, they're good-looking kids could help us too," Delaney said. "I am talking about Max Kelly (6-7, 265, Fr., from Gonzaga Prep HS in Spokane, Wash.), Ben Weyer (6-4, 275, Fr., from Bozeman HS), McCauley Todd (6-7, 280, Fr., from Washington HS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa), and Clint LaRowe (6-5, 250, Fr., Custer County HS, Miles City). Out of those four, probably two of them will end up in our two-deep."

"I don't think you can count Brady Gustafson (6-7, 210, Fr., Billings West HS) out at quarterback with the situation the way it is," Delaney said. "Certainly Shay (a 6-4, 214-pound sophomore, Smithwick-Hann from Kalispell) and Trent (McKinney, a 6-0, 198-pound redshirt freshman from Mililani, Hawaii) have the upper hand. And I expect Adam's (Brzeczek, 6-0, 195, redshirt freshman from Queen Creek, Ariz. via Stanford) to compete there too. When Brady walks in the room at 6-foot-7 and I know how he throws the football - it'll be interesting to see how that all shakes out.

"So overall, yeah, we need some young people to step up, and we need some of the younger guys who have been on our team but not played to step up as well," Delaney said. "Those guys who have been around and maybe not played too much for us yet are as big a key to our success as the new guys. People say ` well, you don't have this on the defensive line and you lost guys, or receivers, and you lost this and this.' But, we've got guys who can play, I guarantee, at those positions - and they're going to surprise some people."

After the first of 29 practices slated for fall camp, Delaney had both positive and negative comments on his team's effort today.

"We got it done is the best way to put it," said Delaney, whose team concluded today's afternoon practice in 90-plus degree heat in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. "Our expectations are really high. I think there were some really good things, and obviously there's a ton of stuff that we've already got to get going on. We're not going to be a group that stands around and says `well that's okay because we're young, or that okay because he hasn't done this, or that's okay because it's our first day. It's got to be done right, and all of our coaches will be harping that message every minute.

"I loved the effort today, and I loved the enthusiasm of the coaches and the players," Delaney said. "We just have to get better every day - that's what we are talking about. Overall, I am glad to get the first one out of the way."

Practice ended with head-to-hear spring competition and two players running against each other in the 40-yard dash. Chase Naccarato, one of the young receivers Delaney mentioned as possible impact players this season, won all three of his races.

"Chase ran some 10.5's (in the 100 meter) this past spring in track and I really wanted him and Walcott to run, but Walcott was kind of cramping up at the end of practice today because it was so warm today so he stayed out," Delaney said.

"You got to love a guy like (freshman running back) Joey Counts (from Desert Ridge HS in Mesa, Ariz.), who is now at about 238 pounds, and yesterday in the weight room he benched 325 four times, I think, or maybe it was 350, and he won his first race today and was close in another," Delaney said. "We love to see that kind of enthusiasm with the young guys. This class is amazing. There are a lot of good football players in this incoming class."

CALLING IT QUITS: Two promising players, wide receiver Aaron Roberts and linebacker Ty Timmer were both unable to overcome injuries and are no longer able to play football. Roberts was a prolific player in Spokane's Ferris High School, where he had 75 receptions for 1,164 yards and 14 TDs, and rushed for eight scores as a senior. Timmer was first team all-state as a senior at Great Falls High School when he had 171 total tackles, including 14 for loss.

POSITION CHANGES: Gamboa, who had 112 tackles his senior year in high school, will make the transition from linebacker to safety. Shawn Bradshaw, a 6-3, 256-pound squad member from local Sentinel High School, has been moved from offensive guard to the defensive line. Bradshaw missed last season because of an injury.

A COUPLE OF PLAYERS NOT RETURNING: Two players who decided not to return to UM were redshirt freshman offensive tackle Zach Taves from Millikan HS in Long Beach, Calif., and sophomore defensive tackle Taylor Tuliaupupu from Claremont HS in LaVerne, Calif.



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