Montana State fall camp 2021

Griz quarterback “competition” only helped elevate UM senior Humphrey


Anyone looking for the secret of Bobby Hauck’s Montana football team could do worse than talking to the participants in the alleged competition for what, come fall, could put each subject in the most famous and scrutinized position in the state — starting quarterback for the Grizzlies.

Cam Humphrey and Kris Brown know they’re competing, sure. They might praise the other, talk about having lockers next to each other, but they don’t hand wave away the essential facts of the situation like might happen, incongruously, at some other programs.

But in the crucible of expectations, pressure and media attention — Humphrey and Brown have been the most-requested players for post-practice interviews so far in fall camp — the buzzword for the Montana quarterbacks has been “progression.”

“It’s kind of like showing up and just making sure that you’re going to get better as a player,” Brown said. “And when every player is doing that, you know, the offense is going to get better, defense is going to get better, and the whole team is going to get better.”

“It’s not really anything concrete, but you see guys making strides, you see the team coming together, the O-line has made tremendous strides and really come together,” Humphrey said. “And, you know, we’re starting to move people around, we’re starting to run the ball a lot better, which is really hard against our defense, because they’re really freaking good.”

Montana freshman quarterback Kris Brown/ by Jason Bacaj

So, taking them at their word that they’re focused only on progression — not a sentence about who’s ahead of the other will be included in this piece — how have they looked so far?

Humphrey and Brown were shaky in the first week of practice, but better in (admittedly scattered) looks last week — calmer, more precise, more under control.

It’s a complicated evaluation because they’re going against what looks like a potential top defense in the FCS.

On Monday, Montana head coach Bobby Hauck affirmed that Humphrey, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound sixth-year senior from Issaquah, Washington outside Seattle, would be UM’s starter against Washington on September 4.

Still, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Brown has undergone a trial by fire. Montana’s increased defensive depth is best defined by watching Brown and the second-string offense go against a second-team defensive unit that includes arguable the Grizzlies’ best cornerback (Justin Ford), best pass rusher (Jacob McGourin), among its best interior defensive linemen (Alex Gubner/Eli Alford), and a couple of its toughest linebackers (Braxton Hill, Levi Janacarro).

“It’s certainly not easy,” Brown said. “That defense gives a lot of different looks. They like to blitz a lot, they like to bring pressure, you know, and they don’t do it in a generic way. They like to change it up, they like to make it look funky and they really do get after it.”

Former Montana State quarterback Kamden Brown/ by Brooks Nuanez

Humphrey is a redshirt senior who was at Boise State and Saddleback Community College. Brown is a redshirt freshman who, prepping at Bozeman High, said “it was an easy decision” for him to commit to Montana.

Charter Oak Academy in Covina, California is one of the top high school football programs in the country. Former Montana State assistant Kane Ioane, now the co-defensive coordinator at Boise State, used to prevalently recruit the school. That connection helped Ioane lure one of the rarest situational additions to Bozeman: a highly regarded out of state preferred walk-on quarterback.

That connection helped MSU recruit Kamden Brown from Charter Oak to the Bobcat quarterback room. Brown competed for a few years before injuries ended his Montana State career. But his parents grew to love Bozeman, electing to move to the Gallatin Valley.

That led to Kris Brown becoming the starting quarterback at Bozeman High while former MSU head coach Jeff Choate’s son, Jory, was a Hawk standout. Yet Choate and his staff hardly sniffed Brown, allowing the talented gunslinger to head to Missoula.

The fact that Humphrey and Brown have such different backgrounds make it easy to concoct a narrative around the quarterbacks. The secret, which Humphrey and Brown are getting to with their cliches, is that it doesn’t matter.

Montana senior quarterback Cam Humphrey/ by Blake Hempstead, Skyline Sports

Montana isn’t built to rely on a quarterback. As it looks right now, the Griz should have a great defense, a deep group of running backs, a much-improved offensive line and All-American receiver Sammy Akem, who could make me look good throwing the ball. Picking the right guy under center won’t noticeably raise the ceiling of the team.

Montana will have a quarterback when the season starts. Whoever it is will have been made better by going against each other and the Griz defense in fall camp. Not much else — the horse race, the breathless media updates, whatever else — matters.

“We’re just trying to stay consistent putting points on the board, moving the ball consistently,” Humphrey said. “And at the end of the day, just making the right decisions as consistently as possible.”

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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