#18 Montana FCS Football 2012 Preview

Montana Grizzlies

Overall Rank: #18
#3 Big Sky
Montana FCS College Football 2012 Team Preview
Montana Team Page


It was a tough offseason for Montana. The end result was Mick Delaney took over as interim head coach, and then officially as coach of the Grizzlies. The long-time assistant will be happy to get his team back on the field, leaving the off-field distractions behind them. However, this is not the same team that reached the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs a year ago. Amid all of the distractions, the Grizzlies are left with just a handful of returning starters and less than a dozen seniors on the roster. But this is Montana and they will reload much quicker than most would expect.

2011 Record: (11-3, 7-1)
2011 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mick Delaney (First year at Montana, 7-9-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Timm Rosenbach
Defensive Coordinator: Ty Gregorak

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Peter Nguyen, RB, 835 yards
Passing: Gerald Kemp, WR, 218 yards
Receiving: Sam Gratton, WR, 465 yards
Tackles: John Kanagata’a, LB, 93
Sacks: Josh Harris, DE, 3.5; John Kanagata’a, LB, 3.5
Interceptions: Matt Hermanson, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Jordan Canada, TE Greg Hardy, OT Danny Kistler, FB Dan Moore, C Kjelby Oiland, S Bo Tully

Key Losses: DE Bobby Alt, OT Charles Burton, DE Ryan Featherston, QB Jordan Johnson, S Mike McCord, LB Caleb McSurdy, OT Jon Opperud, G Kyle Ritt, CB Houston Roots, C Stephen Sabin, WR Jabin Sambrano, LB Alex Shaw, DT Bryan Waldhauser

Montana will have to rely heavily on their defense. And that is what they did last year, ranking first in the Big Sky in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. The new look defensive line will revolve around senior end Josh Harris. Harris will be looked upon to be a leader on the field and he has the talent and experience to emerge as a major pass rushing threat. However, the real strength of the Montana defense is in the linebacker corps. Jordan Tripp is back after missing most of last season with an injury. Tripp is not one of those seniors that Coach Delaney is pushing for leadership, but he will get plenty from Tripp. As a sophomore in 2010 Tripp tallied 99 tackles. That number could go up this year. John Kanagata’a stepped up when Tripp went out and ended the season with 93 tackles, including 12.0 tackles-for-loss. Those are two of the best linebackers in the conference and the Grizzlies should get plenty of help from junior college transfer Jeremiah Kose and Washington transfer Nick Holt. The secondary returns safeties Matt Hermanson and Bo Tully. Hermanson is just a sophomore, but he had a great freshman campaign roaming in the secondary. On the year he tallied 65 tackles, picked off three passes and forced two fumbles. Cornerback is a concern, but the coaching staff has high hopes for junior Sean Murray and they brought in some help for the secondary from the junior college ranks with Jacob Coogan and Jeremiah Kose.

Quarterback Jordan Johnson pleaded not guilty to rape charges in August and is currently suspended from the team. He may be back for the opener and the Grizzlies are pretty green under center without their quarterback who threw for 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2011. Without Johnson, running back Peter Nguyen will have to do more work than usual. Nguyen led the team with 835 rushing yards and is a solid senior leader in the backfield. The return of Jordan Canada, who rushed for 580 yards and nine touchdowns and fullback Dan Moore, who added 430 yards on the ground and seven scores, gives Coach Delaney plenty of options. The problem will be whether or not the offensive line can create holes for the backs like they did last season. On a team that rushed for over 210 yards per game, the offense will heavily rely on the ground attack even with Johnson back. The line will rely heavily on junior tackle Danny Kistler and center Kjelby Oiland. Trevor Poole had a good offseason and the sophomore should step into a starting tackle spot opposite of Kistler, but the depth and talent does not match up to what this group had last season.

The Bottom Line:
Sam Gratton is the top returning receiver, catching 36 passes for three touchdowns. He will team up with Bryce Carver and tight end Greg Hardy to give the quarterbacks some passing options, but losing Jabin Sambrano is a big blow. Sambrano also caught 36 passes, but he was the big play receiver and his 36 receptions resulted in 632 yards and ten touchdowns. The Grizzlies will have to find a new big play threat. The offense has a lot of questions to answer, especially if Johnson is not back. However, the defense will reload quickly and that will put Montana back into a position to make the FCS Playoffs yet again in 2012.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 210.86 (17th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 209.50 (57, 7)
Total Offense: 420.36 (21, 5)
Scoring Offense: 33.86 (16, 1)
Rushing Defense: 136.57 (32, 1)
Pass Defense: 190.57 (30, 2)
Total Defense: 327.14 (26, 1)
Scoring Defense: 19.93 (18, 1)
Turnover Margin: .79 (23, 1)
Sacks: 2.57 (21, 2)
Sacks Allowed: .71 (6, 1)

Madness 2012 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#9 Malik Watson
#12 Tyrone Holmes
#68 Hayden Craig
#123 Taylor Walcott