Just How Much News Can Happen in a Sports Day?

Blog by “Voice of the Griz” Mick Holien.

With the career-ending shoulder injury to fifth-year University of Montana quarterback Andrew Selle, there was little doubt that Justin Roper, the University of Oregon transfer last year, would be elevated from rotating QB to the starting spot.

But there was plenty of speculation as to who would be his backup.

In contention were a pair of former signal callers, Jeff Larson and Jeff Kemp, who had moved to receiver and running back, respectively, but have seen little game action. Redshirt freshman D.J. Zapata, who came to UM with quite a pedigree out of California, was in the mix, too.

But while the activation of true freshman Jordie Johnson isn’t totally shocking, it did signal just how much coaches were impressed with what he has accomplished since arriving on campus from Sheldon High School in Eugene.

Remember, while many student-athletes use a redshirt year to get bigger, faster, and stronger or await a move onto the playing field behind other players on the depth chart, they are not recruited to collegiate sports to sit and be groomed for a future role.

In most cases, if coaches didn’t think they could immediately contribute, a full scholarship wouldn’t be forthcoming – even though at Montana there is a rich tradition of non-scholarship walk-on players like Marc Mariani making a huge impact although they weren’t initially offered financial aid.

But while Johnson will wait in the wings behind Roper and might still remain a redshirt, there’s little doubt that the highly-heralded freshman from Eugene is in the mix to see the field sooner rather than later.

Coaches love to recruit at least one quarterback in every recruiting class, and many move to other positions and have storied careers. In the case of Johnson, he brings the stats of a QB heir-apparent.

He was named the big school (6A) Oregon Player of the Year at Sheldon High, where he was coached by his father and earned a mere 3.9 GPA.

He compiled 11,337 yards of total offense and 134 touchdowns in his career. As a senior, he rushed for 1,091 yards and 20 TDs, threw for 3,508 yards and 46 scores, and also caught four TDs while amassing an additional 241 yards .

Johnson was one of the prime gets in Head Coach Robin Pflugrad’s initial recruiting class. It probably didn’t hurt that Coach Pflu’s son, Aaron, who is a receiver at Arizona State, played at the same high school not far from their Eugene home.

There was, of course, the additional news this week that Athletic Director Jim O’Day attended an “information gathering” session with WAC officials in Dallas Tuesday. While an invitation from the FBS league has not yet occurred, there’s little doubt the Grizzlies, as has been previously reported here, are in the WAC’s sights.

Executive Vice-President Jim Foley said Tuesday that the study commissioned by UM with private funds to study the feasibility of a possible change in conferences should be completed in the next couple of weeks, and also is part of the information gathering phase.

The decision on any league affiliation change would fall to new UM President Royce Engstrom and be forwarded to the Montana Board of Regents, which then ultimately decides the school’s future fate.

But it seems that the WAC is on the fast-track to cementing a football league for the 2012 season, which is the earliest the move can occur due to an NCAA mandate.

There will be plenty of soul-searching in the near future and, as O’Day has said, there is little doubt a WAC invitation will be forthcoming.