The temps were high but so was the energy at Dornblaser Field for the first practice of the Montana Grizzlies’ fall camp on Wednesday.
Breaking a sweat was not an issue for the team as coach Bobby Hauck put the Griz through the paces in the two-and-a-half-hour session, with the mercury hovering in the mid-90s.
Maybe it was the sweaty hands, maybe the sun was in some eyes, but the first practice jitters were apparent for the Griz as they took the field in helmets and shorts. But the slip-ups didn’t hold back Montana’s enthusiasm.
“It was an OK practice. I thought the attitude carried on from spring ball to now, so that was good. Certainly, the execution didn’t look game ready, but the good news is we have some time,” said Hauck following practice.
After a summer helping lead the team through player-run-practices, junior quarterback Dalton Sneed echoed Hauck’s thoughts on a bumpy first day of practice but was just excited to be back on the field with his teammates.
“I think overall it went pretty well. We expected some errors, but that’s why we have film tonight,” said Sneed.
“Everybody is just fired up to be out here. We’ve been training so hard the last two, three months. Lifting, running, day in and day out. We’re just happy to get a ball in our hands, be able to fly around, put some helmets on and hit each other a little bit. So, it’s been good.”
Sneed, who knows a thing or two about heat as an Arizona native who spent time at UNLV, is the most experienced quarterback with Montana’s system after emerging out of spring drills as the favored signal-caller. He’ll compete with five other quarterbacks for the starting job this fall.
Back on the Grass
When the Griz de-bussed at Dornblaser Field, south of the UM campus, for the first practice of the season, running onto the grass was a sensation not felt at a Montana fall camp for nearly two years.
Hauck has taken the Griz show on the road this year, just as he did in his previous seven-year stint that led to seven-straight Big Sky titles.
For Hauck, the reasons for the change of venue are three-fold, and for him, player safety is at the top of that list.
“I think the grass is safer and it’s a little cooler out here, and I just think it’s a little safer surface to play on,” said Hauck.
“I also think it’s productive to practice somewhere other than in our stadium. The only time we play outside our stadium is when we go on the road. I don’t think that’s productive. I think you have to play wherever they ask you to play. The space is great out here too. We have a lot of field space, and we can spread out with our sleds, there’s a lot of room to work.”
The Grizzly coaching staff will now break down the film from practice one and hold position meetings and team walkthroughs for the rest of the afternoon to prepare for tomorrow’s mid-day practice.
“We have a lot of meeting time on a daily basis. Offense, defense, kicking, as well as walkthroughs. Everything we do, we recap, get corrections and do installations, so the days are full.”
Welcome to the Fold
Montana added four players to the roster in the days leading up to fall camp.
Missoula native Gabe Peppenger has joined the team after transferring from Montana State. He’ll compete for a job in the specialist group as a kicker/punter.
Adam Wilson will also compete as a kicker/punter after arriving from the University of Arizona, where he played rugby for the Wildcats. Wilson is a native of San Diego who played football and rugby at Cathedral Catholic High School – the same school as current kicker Tim Semenza.
Jackson Groff is a walk-on from Northwest Christian High School in Phoenix, Arizona. He’ll add depth as a freshman wide receiver.
Jake Olsen has joined the team as a freshman tight end. Olsen is a native of Great Falls who played his high school ball at C.M. Russell.
The Griz will return to the meeting rooms on Thursday morning before taking the field for practice number two at Dornblaser Field at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon. The team will once again practice in helmets and shorts.