#14 Montana FCS Football 2013 Preview

Montana Grizzlies

Overall Rank: #14
#3 Big Sky

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It has been a rough couple of seasons for Montana. On the football field the Grizzlies never really got anything going in 2012, winning a mere three conference games and five total. By Montana standards that is a very bad year. But the bad times should be over now. Coach Mick Delaney has a year under his belt to get comfortable with his system and his players and the Grizzlies are a more experienced and deep team that will look a lot like the Montana squads of old.

2012 Record: 5-6, 3-5
2012 Postseason: None
Coach: Mick Delaney (5-6 at Montana, 5-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Scott Gragg, Kefense Hynson
Defensive Coordinator: Ty Gregorak

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Canada, RB, 586 yards
Passing: Trent McKinney, QB, 1,350 yards
Receiving: Ellis Henderson, WR, 360 yards
Tackles: Brock Coyle, LB, 107
Sacks: Zack Wagenmann, DE, 11.5
Interceptions: Matt Hermanson, S, 2; Sean Murray, CB, 2; Bo Tully, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: DT Alex Bienemann, CB Joshua Dennard, CB Anthony Goodwin, QB Jordan Johnson, LB John Kanongata’a, OT Danny Kistler, C Kjelby Oiland, G William Poehls, OT Trevor Poole, WR Mitch Saylor, DT Tonga Takai, LB Jordan Tripp

Key Losses: WR Bryce Carver, WR Sam Gratton, TE Jordan Harper, DE Josh Harris, RB Dan Moore, RB Peter Nguyen

Two years ago quarterback Jordan Johnson led the Grizzlies to the semifinals of the playoffs where they ran into a Sam Houston State team destined for a trip to the finals. But Johnson spent last season amidst legal issues of which he was eventually cleared. After all of that it would have been quite easy for Johnson to head to another school to finish up his collegiate career, but the 6-1 junior returns to lead his Grizzlies back to the playoffs. Back in 2011 Johnson threw for 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns, while throwing just nine interceptions. Johnson will have the benefit of a talented and experienced offensive line. Johnson was sacked a mere five times in 2011. The quarterbacks last season were sacked just 17 times. With Danny Kistler and Kjelby Oiland leading the unit, the line will be even better this time around. With that strong line, Montana will look to the ground quite a bit. Jordan Canada rushed for 586 yards and four scores and the addition of Travon Van, a transfer from Marshall, will give the Grizzlies a potent one-two punch. Montana had the second best run defense in the nation last year, allowing a mere 92.55 yard per contest. The front seven will again be a dominating force. End Zack Wagenmann totaled 11.5 sacks on a team that ranked second in the country in sacks per game. Tackles Alex Bienemann and Tonga Takai will get into the backfield consistently as well. So will the linebackers. Jordan Tripp is a great leader and a big time playmaker. He forced four fumbles, picked off a pass and recorded 5.5 sacks. But his 95 tackles were second to fellow linebacker Brock Coyle who will again man the middle linebacker position.

However, there are still massive concerns in the secondary. They ranked dead last in the Big Sky in pass defense. A year older and a year wiser is nice, but there is a lot of work to do. Safety Matt Hermanson ranked fourth on the team in tackles and picked off a couple passes, but he never really lived up to his 2011 season. Bo Tully will again join him at safety, but the opposing quarterback often had success throwing his way. Cornerback Anthony Goodwin has potential after an up and down campaign following a stint in the junior college ranks. Josh Dennard is an aggressive corner who led the team with nine passes defended in 2012 and there are a few other young options like Nate Harris, Jamaal Anderson and J.R. Nelson. But most of those guys were around last year and had a great front seven to work with and it did not go well. The problem on offense will likely be at wide receiver. Johnson will need to get a feel for his new targets and Ellis Henderson will need to develop into a true number one receiver. The 6-0 sophomore is the top returning receiver and he only caught 23 passes for 360 yards.

The Bottom Line:
With strong lines on both sides of the ball, Montana is going to win a lot more than five games this year. How good they end up will depend on the play of Johnson under center and the secondary. Montana’s offense should score plenty of points and that means the opposition will be forced to throw the ball and the slightly more experienced Montana secondary will again be tested thoroughly. In the end, Montana is back and trips to the playoffs will again be the norm.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 235.73 (11th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 216.55 (55, 11)
Total Offense: 452.27 (11, 1)
Scoring Offense: 31.64 (27, 6)
Rushing Defense: 92.55 (2, 1)
Pass Defense: 288.36 (120, 13)
Total Defense: 380.91 (66, 4)
Scoring Defense: 26.73 (60, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.18 (70, 8)
Sacks: 3.73 (2, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.55 (29, 3)


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