Montana safety Gavin Robertson was happy to be back in full pads at practice Sunday, as the Grizzlies had their first fall session with full gear on.
“It’s real nice,” Robertson said. “I’ve been looking forward to today, to going out and being able to really get physical, really actually hit, and all that. It was a good day today.”
As one of the hardest hitters on the team, being in pads and having more leeway to be physical really helps Robertson’s best skill stand out.
The former University of Arizona linebacker, who transferred to Montana in January, is looking and feeling more comfortable in the secondary for the Grizzlies.
He said he was able to pick up most of the playbook in the spring. Although part of the reason he left Arizona is because he didn’t want to play linebacker, Robertson admitted that the experience is helping him now.
“Playing linebacker at Arizona helped me just learn the whole defense,” Robertson said. “Now that I’ve played linebacker, I know where the linebackers are supposed to be and all that, and coming back to safety, it’s helped me a lot.”
Robertson, listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, certainly still has the body to play linebacker. Although it’s still unknown how well he’ll hold up in coverage, expect him to be a force in the box and over the middle.
Even in practice, when defenders are generally supposed to keep ballcarriers up, Robertson has shown a knack for the big hit, laying a few receivers out over the middle and earning laps for his trouble.
“I’m trying to lay off,” Robertson said. “I get in trouble for doing that. [Safeties] coach Shann [Schillinger] has been telling me to lay off of them. I’ve been trying to. It’s hard.”
GRIZ PRACTICE NOTEBOOK
Five days into fall practice, and with the Grizzlies getting a day off Monday, it seems like a good time to take stock of some of the things we’ve learned so far in fall camp — with the caveat, of course, that’s it’s still early, and things will change between now and the season.
Dalton Sneed looks confident. A full 15 practices in the spring, followed by a summer as the assumed starting quarterback, has helped the former Fort Scott Community College transfer. He can still be inconsistent with his accuracy, but he’s made the best throws this reporter has ever seen from him in the last couple days. Cam Humphrey has more arm talent, and will improve as he gets more familiar with the offense and the receivers, but Sneed has been effective in drills even without the ability to run much. That’s Sneed’s biggest strength, so the fact that he’s looking good from the pocket is encouraging.
Running back and receiver are incredibly deep positions for the Griz this year. A glance at the returning players at those positions might be enough to tell that, but it’s a completely different thing seeing it on the field. Senior Keenan Curran (although he’s struggled with drops), junior Jerry Louie-McGee, sophomore Samori Toure and sophomore Sammy Akem are all dangerous returning receivers, while redshirt freshman Mitch Roberts and true freshman Gabe Sulser both look potentially ready to contribute.
The running backs are, if anything, deeper, considering there won’t be as many of them on the field at a time. Seniors Jeremy Calhoun and Alijah Lee are the only returning players with a carry, but Terron Moses and Rey Green have been around the program and should be in the rotation, as well as San Diego State transfer Adam Eastwood. All are fast and shifty. If that’s not enough, true freshman Drew Turner, from Kalispell, has opened some eyes with his hard running as well.
On defense, the secondary doesn’t look quite as thin as it appeared in the spring. With Reid Miller graduate transferring in from Arkansas and redshirt freshman Robby Hauck getting approved to play by the NCAA following his transfer from Northern Arizona, the Griz have four good safeties with those two, Robertson, and returning starter junior Josh Sandry. Cornerback, while still a worry, picked up junior Justin Calhoun, who moved from wide receiver. He’s looked adequate so far, and certainly has the athleticism to play there, after getting 505 receiving yards last year. It’s still uncertain how that cornerback group will hold up against the receivers in the Big Sky, but they’ve at least shown a knack for getting turnovers. Sophomore Lewis Cowans has, it seems, intercepted at least one pass a day. Sophomores Dareon Nash and Gavin Crow have come up with a few as well. If those three can grow over the fall, whatever Calhoun gives the group will be a bonus, rather than a necessity.
Andrew Houghton is a freelance journalist in Missoula providing Griz football coverage for the 2018 season. Photos by Jason Bacaj. All Rights Reserved.