MISSOULA — Montana’s game at Northern Colorado will have some Power Five flavor to it on Saturday at Nottingham Field in Greeley, Colorado.
The Griz and Bears each have 10 former P5 players on their roster, the most among any Big Sky teams. The P5 is the upper tier of the FBS, containing the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and select independent teams.
While UM and UNC combine for 20 such players, the other conference teams have a total of 44 former P5 players. That’s an average of four each for those 11 league squads, none of which has more than seven.
UNC’s former P5 players are safety Dustin Johnson (Colorado), running back Tru Wilson (Michigan), wide receiver Kassidy Woods (Washington State), wide receiver Dylan Thomas (TCU), linebacker Xander Gagnon (Duke), quarterback Dylan McCaffrey (Michigan), punt returner/defensive back Uryan Hudson (Colorado), fullback Zach Angelillo (California), defensive lineman Austin Williams (Colorado), defensive lineman Tava Finau (Colorado).
Seven are listed as starters on the two-deep, while Johnson and Finau are listed as backups. Williams isn’t on this week’s depth chart.
McCaffrey was the big-name transfer as the coach’s son and a former four-star prospect coming out of high school.
“He’s a good player,” Griz coach Bobby Hauck said. “He’s a big kid. He’s pretty durable. Throws it pretty well. Pulls and runs it pretty well. He’s obviously a coach’s kid and grew up around it. He’s got a good handle on things.”
Woods is the team leader in all three major receiving categories. Thomas is second in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
“Their receivers really stick out,” Hauck said. “They got the one kid from Washington State and the one kid from TCU that are leading them in catches and yards per catch. They’re good players for sure.”
UM’s former P5 players are cornerback Omar Hicks Onu (Oregon State), safety Gavin Robertson (Arizona), safety TraJon Cotton (Oregon State), cornerback Justin Ford (Louisville), kicker Kevin Macias (Arizona State), defensive end DeAri Todd (Michigan State), defensive end Joe Babros (North Carolina State), center AJ Forbes (Nebraska), left guard Hunter Mayginnes (Washington State) and defensive end Justin Belknap (Arizona).
Nine of them have been regular starters when healthy and are expected to start this week. Todd has come off the bench as a rotating defensive end this year when he’s been healthy.
In total, Northern Colorado has 36 transfers, the most in the conference. Montana has 20, the eighth most out of the 13 teams.
Family and familiarity
Not only is Ed McCaffrey the head coach and his son Dylan McCaffrey is the quarterback, but another son, Max McCaffrey, is the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
This is Ed’s first college coaching job. He spent 2018 and 2019 as the head coach at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. His defensive coordinator at Valor Christian, Scott Darnell, is his DC at UNC.
Ed McCaffrey played at Stanford and won three Super Bowls as an NFL player. He spent the 1995 season on the Denver Broncs with UM cornerbacks coach Ronnie Bradford and was still on the team in 2003 when Bradford was an assistant coach. He played with former UM safety Tim Hauck, the brother of Griz coach Bobby Hauck, in 1995 and 1996 on the Broncos.
“We like Ed and know him,” Hauck said. “Ronnie Bradford played with him. My brother played with him. Ed coaching at Valor, everybody was through there. They were at our passing tournament at UNLV, so we’ve all known them for a long time.”
Ed McCaffrey’s hire was a splash for a bottom-dwelling program because of the name recognition. He hasn’t taken the league by storm, but at 3-6, the Bears have their most wins since 2016.
“It’s good to win the press conference. It certainly gives you a little boost,” Hauck said about the splashy hire. “But then, you know, for all of us in coaching, you got to go compete, and so it ultimately comes down to that.”
Get off my lawn
Northern Colorado has ditched its grass field for turf, leaving Cal Poly as the only remaining natural grass field in the Big Sky.
Nottingham Field, which opened in 1995, had its grass replaced with IRONTURF leading up to its home opener this season. The capacity is listed at 8,533.
UM is 14-2 all-time at UNC, going 9-0 at home and 5-2 on the road. Hauck is 5-0 against the Bears as the Griz head coach.