#15 Montana 2018 FCS Football Preview

Montana Grizzlies
Overall Rank: #15
#3 Big Sky
 Montana Logo
Montana welcomed back head coach Bobby Hauck for the second time after the 2017 season after moving on from Bob Stitt. The expectation level in Missoula, as always, is to make the FCS playoffs on a regular basis and Montana has not done that since 2015. Hauck was successful the first time around in Missoula with an 80-17 record. It will be interesting to see if he replicates that or surpasses that performance this time around.
2017 Record: 7-4, 5-3
2017 Postseason: None
Coach: Bobby Hauck (80-17 at Montana, 95-67 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Timm Rosenbach
Defensive Coordinator: Kent Baer
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jeremy Calhoun, RB, 684 yards
Passing: Caleb Hill, TE, 13 yards
Receiving: Keenan Curran, WR, 803 yards
Tackles: Josh Buss, LB, 94
Sacks: Josh Buss, LB, 5.5
Interceptions: Josh Sandry, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Alijah Lee, WR Jerry Louie-McGee, WR Samuel Akem, WR Samori Toure, OL Angel Villanueva, OL Conlan Beaver, OL Dallas Hart, OL Brandon Scott, LB Shayne Cochran, LB Dante Olson, DL Jessie Sims, DL Reggie Tilleman, S Evan Epperly, DT David Shaw
Key Losses: QB Gresch Jensen, LB James Banks, DL Tucker Schye, LB Connor Strahm
Balance will be key for the Grizzlies on offense as they will need to be able to run the ball just enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Jeremy Calhoun and Alijah Lee will provide a great 1-2 punch in the backfield to help get that balance for offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach. Dalton Sneed is in the lead for the starting quarterback job heading into the 2018 season. Sneed was originally recruited to UNLV by Hauck and Rosenbach back in 2014. Sneed should be one of those guys that if he can limit turnovers and facilitate the offense then the Grizzlies will score a lot of points. Keenan Curran and Jerry Louie-McGee will provide quality targets for Sneed to throw the ball to at wide receiver. Curran and Louie-McGee caught 88 passes for 1,448 yards and ten touchdowns between them in 2017. Samuel Akem and Saori Toure will provide some competitive depth at wide receiver this season as both players are on the rise. The offensive line will be a work in progress, but Angel Villanueva has started every game of his career and his experience will help lead this group all year long.
Defensive coordinator Kent Baer oversees a defensive unit that is looking to develop a tough mentality on that side of the ball. Linebacker Josh Buss is the top returning player, but his health is something to keep an eye on after Buss suffered a shoulder surgery. Dante Olson will be counted on heavily if Buss is unable to play at full strength in 2018. David Shaw, Reggie Tilleman, and Jesse Sims will anchor the defensive line and their goal will be to generate plenty of heat on the quarterback. The Grizzlies finished fourth in the FCS in 2017 with 3.64 sacks per game. Josh Sandry is back at safety, along with Evan Epperly, and they will need to generate more turnovers as Montana had a turnover margin of -0.27 per game in 2017. Brandon Purdy is back at kicker and Purdy made 15 of 17 field goals last season.
The Bottom Line:
The Grizzlies kick off the 2018 season against Northern Iowa at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. This will be an ideal opportunity for Montana to put away a quality win on their resume before diving into Big Sky play. Sacramento State visits on September 22nd to kick off the Big Sky portion of their schedule. The schedule is favorable early in conference play and doesn’t include a game against Eastern Washington. If the Grizzlies can hold serve through the month of October, then they will be primed to contend for the Big Sky Conference championship as the last three games are difficult. Southern Utah awaits Montana on November 3rd and then rival games with Idaho and Montana State are on tap for the last two games. Look for about eight to nine wins and an FCS playoff berth for the Grizzlies in 2018.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2017 Team Stats
Rushing Offense: 149.8 (60th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 305.5 (10, 3)
Total Offense: 455.4 (9, 3)
Scoring Offense: 35.0 (11, 2)
Rushing Defense: 169.5 (83, 6)
Pass Defense: 252.5 (104, 7)
Total Defense: 422.1 (97, 6)
Scoring Defense: 29.0 (86, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.27(81, 9)
Sacks: 3.64 (4, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.73 (46, 3)
HERO Sports 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#43 Cole Sain
#66 Nash Fouch
#228 Cole Grossman