BUTTE — Few offseason periods have been more important for Montana Tech with head coach Chuck Morrell at helm than the one he’s faced this year.
Five coaches who were on the staff for the 2018 season have moved on to different jobs, all of them at a higher level of football. Four new faces are on the staff, with Morrell taking over defensive playcalling duties.
There is also a new offense to put in as well as key positions to fill along both sides of the ball. Spring practices allowed the Orediggers to figure out a bit of what they’ll have in the fall and get used to their new coaches.
Those spring football sessions are over now, but they gave coaches and players a fairly good idea where everyone in the program is at. Here’s a few final stray observations from the 2019 spring football practices.
All is fine at the top
With all the turnover on staff, it was reasonable to wonder if there might be a bit of an exodus by players on the Orediggers roster.
While a few players have decided to transfer or walk away — notably quarterbacks Cole Hauptman, Tanner Kump and Danny Peoples — the vast majority of the team decided to stick with Tech. In various interviews throughout spring practice, the student-athletes seemed content with how transitions were handled.
Tech struck fairly early in its offensive coordinator hire, allowing Kyle Samson to get a jump start on creating a new offense while Morrell taking over defensive duties simply was a smart move to make. There wasn’t a whole bunch of time to find a defensive coordinator and the Orediggers were also able to add a few other solid assistant coaches.
With all the coaches leaving the Orediggers moving to bigger jobs, it’s the sign of a healthy program at Montana Tech. Sure, it certainly hurts Tech a bit to lose talent, but to have a reputation as a place where coaches can make a name for themselves isn’t such a bad thing to have.
O-Line a strength
While learning a new offense can be especially tough on quarterbacks, it also creates some complications for offensive lineman as well.
Especially this season, where Tech is transitioning from an all-spread, all-the-time approach to something that’s completely different. There’s now an emphasis on tight ends and true fullbacks, which in part switches how things along the offensive line work.
But with players like Hunter Spartz, Trey Copeland, Hunter Berg and Grant Benz returning, there is definitely some experience. That certainly helps the transition and the time spent in spring working to hammer out the thousand minute details that go into blocking schemes was critical.
Nik Nunez, a punter who transferred from FCS James Madison before last season, will likely be the starting punter next season. He looked solid during spring football and had some strong moments last season kicking the ball.
Tyler Padilla — who both punted and place kicked for Tech last year — did not participate much in spring practice and is still recovering from a leg injury suffered last fall. Sophomore Cody Gagnon, who saw limited time last season in place kicking duties seems like the prime candidate to move into that spot come fall.
Gagnon hit 2-of-3 field goals last year with a long of 33 yards while hitting all eight of his point after touchdown attempts. Padilla, who will be a junior, was 11-of-15 kicking field goals and 22-of-24 on PATs.