Solid group: A preview of the Grizzlies' 2012 quarterbacks & running backs

Senior RB Peter Nguyen

Senior RB Peter Nguyen

Aug. 22, 2012

(Part 1 of 3 on the 2012 Griz Offense)

One of the biggest questions for offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Timm Rosenbach and The University of Montana Grizzlies as they began 2012 fall football camp was who would win the starting role at quarterback.

There were four players vying for that berth when camp started 16 days ago on August 7. That quartet is sophomore Shay Smithwick-Hann (6-4, 214, 1V, from Kalispell), redshirt freshman Trent McKinney (6-0, 198, from Mililani, Hawaii), Stanford transfer Adam Brzeczek (6-0, 195, from Queen Creek, Ariz.) and true freshman Brady Gustafson, a 6-7, 210-pounder from Billings (West High School).

As the Grizzlies rapidly approach their season opener, a home contest on Sept. 1 against the South Dakota Coyotes, McKinney has emerged as the starter, while Smithwick-Hann and Brzeczek are competing for the back-up job. Gustafson is a promising young player, but will more than likely redshirt this season. Smithwick-Hann is the only player in that group who has attempted a pass (just three) in a college football game.

One of the most experienced groups returning on offense is at the running back spot. That group, coached by former Griz standout running back Justin Green, is led by seniors Peter Nguyen (5-8, 182, 3V, from Seattle, Wash.) and Dan Moore (5-11, 235, 3V, from Tucson, Ariz.) who are going head-to-head for the starting berth. Nguyen had team-highs of 151 carries and 835 yards, while Moore gained 430 yards and had 7 TD runs.



Speedy Jordan Canada (5-9, 172, So., 1V, from Duarte, Calif.) is expected to be a major contributor at running back. Canada was slowed with injuries last season, but was UM's second leading rusher a year ago with 580 yards and had a team-high 9 touchdown runs.

Sophomore Brett Kirschner (5-10, 195, 1V, from Bellevue, Wash.) has been slowed by an injury the past few days, but he is also expected to contribute at running back. Last season Kirschner gained 135 yards and scored twice.

Rosenbach's offense also employs a two back set with a fullback in the line-up sometimes, and redshirt freshman Gavin Hagfors (6-2, 212, from Great Falls , C.M. Russell HS) and Caleb Walden (5-9, 198, 1V, from Boise, Idaho) are in the mix at that position.

QUARTERBACK: "Its going to be exciting watching Trent play - that's for sure," said Rosenbach, who was a star quarterback at Washington State and finished seventh in the 1988 Heisman Trophy voting in 1988. "He's gotten better as camp has gone on. He's making better decisions. He's a pretty skilled athlete, so he can make a lot of plays on his feet, and that's what we are looking for out of the quarterback position. It will be exciting watching Trent grow up on the field, and he'll do a fine job for us.

"Adam Brzeczek and Shay Smithwick-Hann have done a nice job in a back-up role," Rosenbach said. "They've had their ups and downs through camp, but I think now they are finally starting to find some consistency. I feel like either one of them could step in there and run the offense. Brady Gustafson, just a freshman, has done a nice job early in camp, but his reps have been limited lately."

RUNNING BACK: "We have three good backs who we can count on," Rosenbach said. "Jordan Canada had a problem with his health last year and was banged up a little here and there, and when he was out there he made some plays.

"Those first two guys - Dan and Peter, we've got to get a lot out of them," he continued. "They're a different type of backs, but that's a good change-up when you're looking at defense and that type of thing. They both can run our offense in anything; and just bring a different element to our offense when they're packing the ball around on the field.

"`Kirsh' came back and practiced recently, and I think he has a chance to help us this season too," Rosenbach said. "He really improved over the spring, and we are looking forward to him getting healthy and getting back out there to compete for playing time."

"I inherited a really good group - all with different styles of running," said Green, who rushed for 1,784 yards in two seasons (2003-04) at UM. "Dan is a bigger, power type of guy, and Peter being a slasher and a juke-type guy. Caleb Walden brings us a different look too, as does Jordan Canada.

"With all those guys that have kind of different aspects of their game that we are going to use, I think that's where our strong point is," Green said; "we're are just so dynamic. It's kind of a usual backfield, just in style of play. We can go third-and-short with any of those guys.

"Every single running back we have here can catch the ball very well coming out of the backfield, and they do things very good things, out in space," Green said. "They are very good in blocking the defenders as well as creating space for themselves to get first downs."

FULLBACK: "Gavin and Caleb are the type of guys who you look for at the position; they are guys who I call `ham-and-eggers,' --they like to mix it up a little bit," Rosenbach said. "Gavin is a very intelligent kid with a large GPA, so anything you throw at him he does well. Caleb's a scrapper. We're happy to have those two guys."

The team's annual appearance at the Great Griz Encounter, where they sign posters and memorabilia, is Thursday, starting at 6:30 p.m. in Caras Park, in conjunction with the Missoula Downtown Association's weekly "Downtown Tonight" festivities. UM's final two-a-day practice is Friday, August 24.


Thursday, August 23: Practice, 2:00 p.m. Great Griz Encounter, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. (Players will start signing around 7:00 p.m.)

Friday, August 24: Practice, 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 25: Mock game protocol. (Closed)

Sunday, August 26: Players stretch and run, 5:00-5:30 p.m. in WGS.

Monday, August 27: Classes begin.

UP NEXT: A look at the Griz wide receivers.

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