#5 Montana FCS Football 2014 Preview

Montana Grizzlies

Overall Rank: #5
#2 Big Sky

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Montana turned things around in 2013 following a disheartening 2012 campaign. With a 6-2 conference mark and trip to the playoffs, all was well for the Grizzlies. Montana was upset at home in their playoff opener, losing 42-35 to Coastal Carolina, but after the year prior, just getting there is a step in the right direction. This time around a win or two in the playoffs is the goal.

2013 Record: 10-3, 6-2
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mike Delaney (15-9 at Montana, 15-9 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Scott Gragg, Kefense Hynson
Defensive Coordinator: Ty Gregorak

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Canada, RB, 1,062 yards
Passing: Jordan Johnson, QB, 3,387 yards
Receiving: Ellis Henderson, WR, 1,008 yards
Tackles: Matt Hermanson, S, 107
Sacks: Zack Wagenmann, DE, 8.5
Interceptions: Nate Harris, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Travon Van, RB John Nguyen, WR Jamaal Jones, WR Chase Naccarato, DT Caleb Kidder, DE Tyrone Holmes

Key Losses: WR Cam Warren, OL Danny Kistler, OL Kjelby Oiland, LB Brock Coyle, LB Jordan Tripp, LB J.P. Kanongata’a, S Bo Tully, DL Alex Bienemann, DB Anthony Goodwin

The potent Grizzlies offense starts with senior quarterback Jordan Johnson. He threw for 3,387 yards and 32 touchdowns last season, while getting picked off just five times. His ability to take care of the ball is a huge reason why this team had the second best turnover margin in all the FCS. Johnson returns his two favorite targets in Ellis Henderson and Jamaal Jones. Henderson, who caught 43 passes for 1,008 yards and 14 touchdowns, is one of the best big play receivers in the country. The balanced Montana attack returns three running backs who carried the load. Jordan Canada is the workhorse, rushing for 1,062 yards and 16 touchdowns, but Travon Van and John Nguyen are more than capable backups. There are some questions on the offensive line, yet Trevor Poole and John Schmaing are a good duo to build around on the left side.

The losses on defense are quite significant. Gone are linebackers Brock Coyle, Jordan Tripp and J.P. Kanongata’a. Last year those three accounted for 313 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 29.0 tackles for loss, six interceptions and eight forced fumbles. They all earned all-conference accolades as well. Losing one of them would be significant, but losing all three leaves a huge leadership gap in the middle of the field. Despite other significant loses on the line and in the secondary, most notably Alex Bienemann, Bo Tully and Anthony Goodwin, Montana does have star power returning to the rest of the defense. Defensive end Zach Wagenmann is a superb pass rusher and a consistent presence in the opposing backfield. Tyrone Holmes is a quality end opposite of Wagenmann and Tonga Takai is a very good nose tackle. The secondary returns safety Matt Hermanson who was second on the team with 107 tackles and cornerback Nate Harris who picked off three passes.

The Bottom Line:
The defense is going to take a step back, but it may not be as bad as it seems. Coach Mike Delaney has talent around that should be able to fill the holes. And the offense is going to be improved to help cover any problems the defense may have. However, turnovers will be key for this squad. Having the second best turnover margin in the nation is not an easy feat to repeat and the new look defense needs to find new players who can make things happen just as effectively as the departed linebackers.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 185.2 (39th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 267.9 (23, 6)
Total Offense: 453.1 (15, 3)
Scoring Offense: 37.7 (14, 2)
Rushing Defense: 143.3 (40, 4)
Pass Defense: 237.7 (87, 8)
Total Defense: 381.0 (56, 5)
Scoring Defense: 22.9 (28, 4)
Turnover Margin: 1.40 (2, 1)
Sacks: 2.23 (48, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (25, 3)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#65 A.J. Hotchkins


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