Nolan Swett, Montana’s outside receivers coach and pass game coordinator for the past two season, will not return to the coaching staff next season, multiple sources close to the football program confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
To fill the spot, Montana head coach Bob Stitt has focused his attention on Idaho State offensive coordinator Matt Troxel, who is a former Montana receiver and is highly thought of within the profession as an offensive mind. A source confirmed that Troxel was in Missoula on Wednesday afternoon to interview for the job.
Swett was one of four coaches Stitt brought with him when he was hired as Montana’s 36th head coach in December of 2014. A former Division III All-American tight end, Swett coached under Stitt for five seasons at Colorado School of Mines.
In his two years in Missoula, Swett oversaw an outside receivers group that started fresh after the graduation of Jamaal Jones, the school’s all-time receiving yards leader, and the loss of Ellis Henderson. Swett’s group in 2016 was largely constructed of a group of receivers playing either their first or second season of Division I football.
The five receivers who rotated through Montana’s outside spots combined for 99 catches, 1,494 yards and 18 touchdowns in what became Swett’s final season on staff. The yards and touchdowns accounted for more than 50 percent of Montana’s output in those statistical categories, while the catches are just below one-third.
Montana’s offense, which nearly put up single-season school record numbers in yards per game and points per game, experienced wild swings throughout the 2016 season. The Grizzlies struggled to score in a mid-September win over Northern Iowa and then put up 41 in a loss at Cal Poly two weeks later. Montana also strung together three games of 60 points or more for the first time in school history, but labored to find the end zone in four late-season losses.
Idaho State’s offense finished last in the Big Sky in scoring and total yards this season.
Following Montana’s season-ending defeat to rival Montana State, Stitt promised a comprehensive reevaluation of the program, starting from the top and trickling down to the smallest details. Weeks later, during a postseason interview on Dec. 7, Stitt identified Montana’s outside receivers and quarterbacks as two areas that were inconsistent during a 6-5 season that ended with the Grizzlies missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Stitt later added that he intended to become more involved with the offense this season after delegating some of his duties in 2016.
“I do think I can help,” said Stitt, who is 14-10, including a 1-1 playoff record, in his two seasons as head coach. “When you go back and look at our cut ups — I guess the armchair quarterback looks at it and it’s not moving and we’ve got stuff open every single time.”
During the same interview, Stitt was asked whether or not he foresaw changes to the coaching staff, to which he replied, “We’re looking at different things. You’ve always got to look at ways of doing things better. We’re going to look at the whole staff.”
Troxel, who played receiver at Montana for three injury riddled years spanning from 2005-2007 and is the son of former Griz quarterback Van Troxel, has spent the last five seasons at Idaho State. Before he was promoted to offensive coordinator prior to the 2016 season, Troxel coached the Bengals’ inside receivers and special teams.
Despite his job title, Troxel’s first game calling plays came during Montana’s 62-44 win over the Bengals in early November. Idaho State’s offense finished last in the Big Sky in scoring and total yards this season.
Highly regarded as bright coaching mind, Troxel also spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Idaho, working with wide receivers and the offensive line.
“He was one of those guys that had such a good understanding of it at a young age. Nothing he would do coaching would surprise me at all,” former Montana coach Bobby Hauck said of Troxel, whom he coached for three seasons and then oversaw for one year when Troxel was a student assistant. “I think it’s more about where he wants to go with it. I think he could coach anywhere at any level.”
Colter Nuanez contributed to this report.