A week later than planned, the Montana Grizzlies were on the field at Washington-Grizzly Stadium Monday afternoon to start spring practice.
“It’s good to get going,” UM second-year yet longtime head coach Bobby Hauck said. “We’re a week late, but everybody was anxious to be out here. … We have 15 chances to get out and practice, and we want to get better.”
Extremely low temperatures and snow on the field forced the Griz to push back the scheduled start of spring ball by a full week. But with the thermometer pushing into the 40s Monday under a cloudless sky, the team started making up for lost time.
Hauck, officially now in his second season back with the Griz after serving as the head coach from 2003 until 2009, said that he expects to get more done in this year’s spring practice as compared to last year’s.
“I know everybody’s names [now],” Hauck joked when comparing it to the first day of spring ball a year ago. “Everybody’s more comfortable with what we’re doing, so we’ll get more work done this spring, simply because we’re a year down that path.”
The team that took the field Monday looked a lot like the one that finished the season with a heartbreaking loss against Montana State.
The Griz lost just five senior starters from last year’s team, all on defense or special teams, which meant that a lot of familiar faces were out there Monday.
The combined experience that the team brings back means that Hauck and the players should be able to concentrate more on fine-tuning things rather than answering the big questions that they had to last year, such as the quarterback battle between Dalton Sneed and Gresch Jensen. Sneed, the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year last season, is firmly entrenched as the starter. Jensen plays for the Texas State Bobcats.
Hauck still emphasized that every position was up for grabs.
“We’ll compete right up to game week,” Hauck said. “But, you’re going to get your spot on the depth chart coming out of spring and have to work from there, either to hold onto it or to move up, when we get to August.”
The few Griz fans that braved the piles of snow in the Washington-Grizzly stands also got to see a few new faces take the field for the first time.
Two junior college transfers, running back Marcus Knight and offensive lineman Kordell Pillans, both participated Monday.
“You bring in transfers to contribute,” Hauck said. “You don’t bring them in to be part of the depth and work their way into it, so they need to progress quickly.”
Also new to the roster and taking part in practice Monday were two walk-on transfers, running back Ryan Arntson, from Carroll College, and defensive end Zane Whiting, previously of Adams State.
Thanks to the weather compressing the schedule, the Griz will practice again tomorrow following the team’s pro day in the morning.
Graduated seniors Keenan Curran, Caleb Hill, Reid Miller and Eric Williams are slated to do drills at the pro day, which will start at 9 a.m. The workout is closed to the public and the media.