The Montana Grizzlies opened up week two of fall camp on Tuesday, diving into the finer details of the installation process with a practice plan featuring plenty of situational work.
The Grizzly defense once again showed it should be a force to be reckoned with this year, coming up with several big plays as the intensity ramped up during the second practice in full pads.
The Griz spent a lot of time in the red zone during their three scheduled team run periods and seven-on-seven sessions as well.
The tenor of the entire practice was summed up in a two-play sequence, however, when Dante Olson intercepted a pass from Dalton Sneed in the end zone to stall an offensive drive. On the very next play though, Sneed struck back, hitting an outstretched Jerry Louie-McGee across the middle for a touchdown.
It was that back-and-forth that left a good taste in head coach Bobby Hauck‘s mouth following the practice.
“The red zone is a critical area of the field for both sides of the ball. The offense needs to score, and the defense needs to not let them in the end zone. So, we had a little bit of both of those, and we got our field goal team some work down there that was live, which was great. So it was good,” said Hauck.
Other defensive highlights of the practice include more from Olson, who picked up a big sack in the first team run of the day. Freshman Marcus Welnel showed the depth UM has in its young linebackers too, picking up a big tackle-for-loss not long after.
Later in the period, the Grizzly pass rush picked up even more breakups as they pressured the quarterbacks.
On back-to-back plays sophomore Jed Nagler and senior David Shaw were able to get extension and separation as they came through to break up a pair of passes as well in an overall solid day for the defense.
Life Changing Practice
One of the biggest highlights of practice didn’t come until the very end after Hauck had already gathered his troops for a final debrief before everyone headed for the bus to take them back to campus.
Before the final break, Hauck called junior walk-on offensive lineman Cody Meyer up to stand in front of the team. Little did he know his life would be different from then out.
When Meyer got to the front, Hauck described Meyer as a guy that has worked hard and done everything the right way. His reward? Hauck then told Meyer he’d been put on scholarship before being rushed and congratulated by the entire team.
“I had no idea. I thought I’d get yelled at or made fun of or something, I had no idea that’s what it was going to be about, so it was a complete surprise,” said Meyer.
“There’s nothing that we as coaches like better than seeing a walk-on guy put in his time, give the effort,” said Hauck.
“Cody never asked for anything but a chance to be out here and wear a Grizzly uniform. I don’t think he said a word to me in the last eight months, all he asked was where he needed to be and what he needed to do. For him to earn a scholarship obviously is exciting for us as coaches, and it’s certainly exciting for his teammates because he’s a great guy and they like him.”
Back in the Mix
Offensive lineman Payton Stoner has re-joined the team after announcing he was departing at the end of last season.
Stoner, a 6-6, 282-pounder from San Diego, dressed for his first practice with the team on Tuesday.
“We’re excited to welcome Payton back. After some thought he decided he’d do about anything to get back and wear a Grizzly uniform again,” said Hauck.
“He made a significant personal sacrifice to do it, but he understands what a privilege it is to be on this football team, and we think he’s got a chance to earn his way back onto the field.”
The first AFCA FCS Coaches’ poll of the season came out on Monday, and the Griz came in at No. 25 to start the year. Like the STATS FCS media poll that came out last week, only three Big Sky schools will begin the year ranked. Eastern Washington came in at No. 7, and Weber State behind them at No. 8. Idaho and Northern Arizona came in just outside of the top-25, with Southern Utah and Sacramento State garnering votes as well.
UM’s first week opponent Northern Iowa came in at No. 12 in the poll, while its week three opponent Western Illinois earned votes as well, sitting just outside of the top-25.
The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) has taken over administering the coaches poll in 2018.
More people on the Buss
Senior linebacker Josh Buss added to his list of preseason accolades on Monday, earning a place on the College Sports Madness preseason All-American first team. Buss has now earned six major preseason recognitions. He was named to the Buchanan Award watch list, the Butkus Award watch list, was named the Big Sky preseason Defensive Player of the Year, was named a STATS FCS first-team preseason All-Ameican as well, and was named to the first-team All-America preseason list by Phil Steele magazine.
Montana will take the field once again on Wednesday at 2:30 for practice No. 7 of fall camp, scheduled to be a helmets and shoulder pads only practice.