Griz Started Preparing for the 2013 Season Several Months Ago


Rob Oviatt

When you watch the 2013 University of Montana Grizzly football players and coaches go through the tedious and regimented routine of fall camp drills, you can sense the focus, determination, confidence and excitement everyone has.

The Grizzlies completed practice number 11 this afternoon (Wednesday, Aug. 14), but preparation for the upcoming season, which is just 17 days when UM hosts powerhouse Appalachian State, began several months ago.

It started with the winter workout program, which is a thankless grind involving several different disciplines that all of the players (the coaches also attend and oversee winter workouts) go through as they prepare for next year.  That was followed up by voluntary workouts and weight-lifting during the summer.

The results of a lot of that hard work of course can be seen by improved play on the field, but it is also evident when the players returned for fall camp and were tested in the weight room.

All of the players worked very hard over the summer, and several of them had double-digit increases in all three major lifts.

“I could not be more proud of our football team,” said UM Football Strength Coach Rob Oviatt.  “I am as proud of this group as any I have ever coached.  It started in January.  Last season definitely put a ton of resolve and a chip on a few shoulders, and that’s (a 5-6 season) not the standards that are acceptable here obviously for everybody.

“Starting in January, I give the players a ton of credit, as well as the assistants in the weight room,” said Oviatt, who is in his fourth season at UM, and has been involved in strength and conditioning at the college level for the past 32 years.  “I’ve got a really, really good group of very good people who help me.  I don’t do this job alone, and there’s no way I could.  It’s a team effort in every aspect.  I am really pleased to be a part of this group of players and coaches.

“It is a voluntary program, and obviously you have to have self-motivated players – but I expected that,” Oviatt said.  “We did have very high participation (this summer), but I expect that here.  The tradition here, and the expectations here forces that on all of us.  We all have to be better in what we do around here because of our high standards.  That’s one of the reasons that I am glad I am here.”

Those players who had those substantial increases in strength were senior defensive tackle Alex Bienemann; redshirt freshman wide receiver Ryan Burke; sophomore safeties Jake Dallaserra and Herbert Gamboa; sophomore defensive end Tyrone Holmes; junior quarterback Jordan Johnson, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Max Kelly; sophomore defensive tackle Caleb Kidder; senior offensive guard William Poehls; and senior linebacker Jordan Tripp.

“Jordan Johnson might not look like the biggest guy, but don’t let that fool you,” said Charlie Woida, UM’s Director of Strength and Performance.  “He is very strong and powerful for his size.

“Tyrone Holmes and Caleb Kidder played as true freshman and had an impact on the defensive line last season,” Woida said.  “They are two players who added a lot of strength this off-season.  It will be exciting to see what they will do this year.”

GRIZ LEADERS IN THE BENCH PRESS: Offense: Kelly: 370 lbs, senior offensive tackle Danny Kistler Jr. : 390 lbs. Defense: senior linebacker Brock Coyle: 390 lbs.; Holmes: 395 lbs; senior linebacker  JP Kanongata’a: 380 lbs.; Kidder: 365 lbs; sophomore linebackers Connor Lebsock: 375 lbs. and  Kelsey Lippert: 365 lbs.; and junior defensive tackle Tonga Takai benches a team-best 455 pounds.

“The starting three linebackers are a very strong, powerful and athletic group of athletes,” Woida said.  “They could be the best set of linebackers that I will ever work with in my career, regardless of what level of football (FCS or FBS).  They are that good.”

GRIZ LEADERS IN THE POWER CLEAN: Offense: J. Johnson: 309 lbs.; Poehls: 313lbs; redshirt freshman offensive guard Ben Weyer: 320lbs.  Defense: Bienemann: 346 lbs.; Lippert: 320 lbs.; Kanongata’a: 320 lbs.; Holmes: 320 lbs.; and junior defensive tackle Trevor Rehm: 320 lbs; Coyle, sophomore defensive end Derek Crittenden, and junior defensive end Zack Wagenmann all at 331 lbs.  Tripp had a team-high power clean of 353 pounds.

GRIZ LEADERS IN SQUAT (Maxes 500 pounds or higher):  Offense: Sophomore running back Joey Counts: 500 lbs. and Poehls: 510 lbs.  Defense: Bienemann: 585 lbs; Coyle and Kanonogata’a: 500 lbs; redshirt freshman defensive end Zach Peevey and Holmes: 515; and Tripp with a team-best of 530 pounds in the squat.

“There’s a little bit of extra motivation for myself as a senior,” said Bienemann, a 6-2, 285-pounder from Denver, Colo.  “You get one more chance to put on a Montana jersey and go kick some butt.  We definitely put a lot of effort into it, as far as seniors, and the rest of the team for that matter.

“There’s just something about it this year– I don’t know what it is,” Bienemann said.  “If you talk to any player they’ll tell you the same thing.  We’ve got something special going, and everyone worked really hard over the summer and bought in.  Summer was huge and it’s already paying dividends in camp.

“I visited a lot of places in the country my senior year in high school, and lot’s of guys on some teams are focused more on themselves and what they have going on; aspirations to play at the next level,” Bienemann said.  “With that kind of mentality you kind of lose sight of the team.  The team – that’s how you get to the championship.  That’s how you win the Big Sky.

“Our team, with the ‘united’ theme –  that’s what it’s all about,” Bienemann continued.  “Anyone of us can be the best player at our position in the country, but without the other 10 guys on the field we’re nothing.  United is what we are all about this year, and hopefully we can get 15 wins and get a little ice on our finger at the end of the year.”

“(Redshirt freshman cornerback) JR Nelson came in weighing 153 pounds and had little to no experience in a weight room,” Woida said.  “He has been one of our project players that we had to develop.  After one year of weight-lifting he has added a lot of good weight and lean muscle, and  he now weighs 175 pounds.”

FALL CAMP NOTES: Some key plays made in team drills today included a 22-yard pass from Johnson to junior wide receiver Sean Haynes, who eluded two tackles and broke free for a long TD.  Counts also registered a couple of long runs.

The team then worked on overtime situations, and the defense held them scoreless until Lider’s practice-ending three-pointer.  In the OT action, Wagenmann had a sack and a quarterback hurry; sophomore LB Jeremiah Kose had a tackle for loss, and Kanongata’a blew up a screen pass which he stopped for a loss of five yards.

Practice ended on a fun note, as Coach Delaney donned a red jersey with the number one and a helmet, and several players grabbed a golf club and tried to nail him about 55 yards down the field.  Ryan Burke, Brady Gustafson, and Jordan Harper got the closest to Coach D.

The Griz have a two–a-day practice on Thursday, Aug. 15, in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.  The first practice begins at 8:30 a.m. ,while the second starts at 7:45 p.m.