By ERIC TABER
Fresh off a day’s rest, the Montana Grizzlies returned to the field inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Monday morning for the 14th practice of fall camp.
With the countdown to kickoff eclipsing the two-week mark Saturday, the excitement level is ramping up, with the players out of the Topel Tunnel early to get extra reps and individual skill work in before the starting whistle blew.
The Grizzlies got to test the noise capacity of the new audio system that accompanies the new Griz Vision, cranking up the volume to simulate a game-day experience and test out the team’s pre-snap communication.
As usual, practice started with the offense, led by senior quarterback Brady Gustafson, walking through head coach Bob Stitt‘s playbook, and the defense doing walk-throughs of different formations based on offensive pictures.
After warmups, special teams once again got more work. Kickers Tim Semenza and Brandon Purdy were both consistently accurate, swatting attempts from 30-plus yards out. Following field goal/PAT work, coach Travis Niekamp worked with kickoff coverage and return units to cap off the special teams segment.
In individual work, the QBs got in more reps with the inside receivers, while coach Nolan Swett did positional skill work with the outside receivers. On the defensive side of the ball, the linemen and linebackers worked through different position scenarios while coach JB Hall ran the DBs through coverage tactics.
After three periods of one-on-one work, the Griz kicked off five different semi-live segments, with either seven-on-seven passing or a full team run to finish the practice.
Today’s top targets: Clean route-running is one of the hallmarks of a great wide receiver, and the Griz have plenty of them. Running crisp routes and catching plenty of balls at Monday’s practice were Caleb Lyons, Josh Horner, two-year walk-on Mitch McLaughlin, 6-foot-five Brennan Corbin, Keenan Curran and Kobe Eaton.
Play of the day: Today’s play of the day came during the final team run. It was a touchdown pass, which, in itself is noteworthy, but it was the way the pass came about that earns our nod as play of the day.
From roughly 20 yards out, Brady Gustafson took the snap in a shotgun formation. He checked the run to John Nguyen, wasn’t there. He then checked right for the quick-out route, and before he threw he took one last glance at wide receiver Kobey Eaton running for the end zone on a post route. Gustafson’s third check of the play turned out to be the best option, and his strong arm made the pass to a wide open Eaton with ease for the score.
Next up: The team will have practices on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week before holding its final scrimmage of fall camp on Thursday. That scrimmage is closed to the public. Griz fans will get the chance to meet the team at the annual Great Griz Encounter Thursday evening however, starting at 6:30 pm in Downtown Missoula’s Caras Park.
Tuesday August 23: 8AM: Pre Practice/Media
Wednesday August 24: 8AM: Pre Practice/Media
Thursday August 25: 6:30 PM: Great Griz Encounter