Griz Football Opens Spring Practice in Missoula - News, Sports and Weather

Griz Football Opens Spring Practice in Missoula

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The Montana Grizzlies football program officially kicked off the new season on Monday, donning helmets for the first time this year, and getting Bob Stitt's second season as head coach underway with the opening of spring ball.
Coach Stitt, his staff and the 2016 edition of the Griz return the field with the ultimate goal of extending Montana's record of 23 appearances in the NCAA 1-AA/FCS Playoffs, and advancing to the championship game following an 8-5 season where the Griz made their third-straight postseason appearance, and finished at No. 14 in the final STATS FCS media poll.
After a month of cold morning workouts under the lights, the Griz trained on a warm Montana spring afternoon for the first of 14 practices that culminate in the annual Spring Game.
With a full year under their belts, Coach Stitt and his staff felt at ease taking the field as the season opened, compared to 12 months ago when the program and players were still unknown quantities.
"Much more comfortable, and we're feeling like we know the players and they know us," said coach Stitt of his squad.  "One of the players said today that they are so excited for spring ball, and you don't hear that very often around the country."
Montana returns 28 letter winners and five all-conference performers from last year's team that tied for second place in the Big Sky Conference. Those returners will lead a robust 31-player recruiting class (one of the largest in program history), seven of which are now on campus and participating in spring drills as transfer students.
According to Coach Stitt the first week of spring ball will be getting the team's systems uploaded as quickly as possible, a process he expects to be a quicker with strong returning numbers.
"Offensively we'll install 100 percent of it in two days with a walk through, and then we'll get on a three day install. Hopefully the kids really get comfortable in the first week, and understand it. By spring break, when we take a break, they'll have a great handle on it. Defensively, it will be a little bit longer install."
"In this type of offense, you put so much on the quarterback, having a year under their belt, they're going to be able to get us into plays that they were never able to do last year," Stitt added.
"It's just banking knowledge, banking reps every single day, and I'm really looking forward to seeing these guys compete"
Suiting up to compete for Montana's coveted starting quarterback position were returners Brady Gustafson, who started seven games while dealing with injury last season, Chad Chalich, who started in two games in Gustafson's absence before dealing with injury of his own and Eric Prater, who redshirted last season.
Transfer QBs Reese Phillips (Kentucky), and Connor Kaegi (Feather River College) are also in the mix to provide competition for Gustafson, who is currently in pole position for the starting spot.
"Brady's our guy until someone beats him out. Competition is good for everyone," added Stitt.
This year's spring game is set for Saturday, April 23 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, sponsored again this year by Steve and Roxane Bryant.

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