MISSOULA — Montana has reached the midpoint of fall camp as it prepares for its season opener on Aug. 31 at South Dakota.
“It’s a little scary when you put it that way,” Hauck said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “I think we have a long way to go. We need to keep working. Coaches are never ready for camp to be over ever, and players are ready for it to be over day one. We’re getting good work done. I think that’s probably a tribute to our players.”
The Griz have eight practices remaining of their 17 total prior to game week — six more of which are open to the public.
Hauck said there’s still installation of plays and situational drills that need to occur more. Then there’s much-needed live-action reps to see what true freshmen and the summer and fall transfers can do in Montana’s system.
“There’s all kinds of different things,” he said. “We haven’t scrimmaged much. We haven’t scrimmaged any goal line. ... We haven’t done a whole lot of red zone yet. We’ll have to get to all that stuff.”
On Thursday, Hauck reiterated that there’s still a lot to improve upon but that he’s been encouraged by the progress.
“I like where we are,” Hauck said. “We’re progressing. Probably on the right curve in terms of getting ready for the opener.”
Hauck mentioned in the spring that redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Graves could play “probably eight positions for us on defense and five on offense. So, he’s going to be part of the plan moving forward.”
Prior to Thursday’s practice, Hauck said the coaching staff hasn’t settled on where he may see time this season, although he’s primarily practiced at quarterback.
“No, not at all,” Hauck said. “Like I said, we’re not switching him to defense or anything right now. We’re trying to let him continue to develop at quarterback. He’s really improved this training camp there.”
Graves ran the ball seven times for 18 yards with a long rush of 10 yards in two games last season as he preserved his redshirt season.
“He’s athletic enough and ... we’d certainly like to utilize him some other places,” Hauck continued. “Most of that will be based on his ability to comprehend, understand and execute at different positions. It’s hard enough to play one. So, we’ll see.”
Offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach told Riley Corcoran, the Voice of the Griz, on Tuesday that Graves has been making strides at quarterback.
“Garrett’s starting to look like a quarterback from time to time, which is, you know, that’s a big step for him,” Rosenbach said in the video posted on Twitter. “He’s working hard at it.”
True freshman Cole Grossman has seen reps with the first-team defense in the fall, playing in the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position.
He grayshirted last fall and popped up during spring camp, tallying a quarterback hit in the opening scrimmage and 1.5 tackles for loss in the spring game.
Originally recruited as a tight end, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound native of Vancouver, Washington, was recruited by Hawaii, Wyoming and Portland State before coming to Montana and switching to the defense in the spring.
“We need defensive players in this program, too. He’s got some aptitude there,” Hauck said of putting Grossman on defense. “I thought he had a nice spring for a guy just rolling in. Obviously, he’s physically pretty immature, but he’s got the ability to bend, move his feet, has some want to.”
The offensive line has been one of the biggest question marks for the Griz after struggling last year.
They return two starters in right tackle Colton Keintz and left tackle Conlan Beaver, moved Cy Sirmon from guard to center in the spring, added transfer Kordell Pillans in the spring and got back Angel Villanueva, who had started 29 consecutive games last season before his streak ended.
They have 15 other offensive linemen on their roster, only four of whom are true freshmen.
"We’ve got to find a little bit of inner strength there," Rosenbach said of the offensive line in the Twitter video. "They’re thinking a lot right now. They’ve gotten better obviously. They’re a year older, most of them that played and all that. They’ve got to continue to get better, and they’ve got to develop an attitude now. That’s kind of what we’re working on."
Montana returned 10 starters on offense, eight on defense and two on special teams from a young team last season. As those players continue to develop, younger players could be pushing to supplant them or developing some needed depth.
Hauck said the coaches watch the film of every practice and change the depth chart daily.
“We’ll figure it out when it’s time,” Hauck said. “I don’t think you force anything. Sometimes that gets to be where guys are splitting time in the opener or the first month. I don’t have any problem with that. We like playing with depth, so that’s not a big issue for us.”
Rosenbach echoed Hauck’s sentiments on needing better depth.
“Well, you get a much better chance of winning the Big Sky if you can have some depth,” Rosenbach said in the Twitter video. “And depth is not an easy thing to come by at our level, so we’ve got to do a great job of developing that. We’ve got a lot of young players that need to get better, and that’s what we’re working on.”
Two players have left the team since the start of fall camp and no longer appear on the online roster: cornerback Raeshawn Roland and offensive lineman Cole Sain.
Roland is a junior college transfer who started at Division II Dixie State, went to East Los Angeles College and graduated from College of the Canyons before joining the Griz for fall camp.
Sain is a redshirt freshman center who came to the Griz from Bellflower, California, and played in one game last year while redshirting. Sain is originally from the Bitterroot Valley.