Fall Camp Report #8: Offensive Line


One position that was hit hard by graduation on the University of Montana football team was the offensive line.

Not only did the O-line lose three players who had started over the last three seasons, but they are also missing Trevor Poole and John Schmaing, both returning starters at offensive tackle.

That veteran trio of linemen no longer with the Griz are tackle Danny Kistler Jr., guard William Poehls, and center Kjelby Oiland.  Kistler is currently in camp with the Raiders, Poehls is with the Titans, and Oiland had a brief stint with the Texans.

Poole (6-5, 285, from Spokane), has been battling an injury the past couple of seasons and more-than-likely will not be able to play his senior year.  Schmaing, a 6-7, 290-pound junior from Billings, is out for the season due to academic issues.

With Poole and Schmaing out of the line-up, that means the Hines twins, Jordan (6-4, 290) and Logan (6-4, 285), seniors from Phoenix, Ariz., will be the Grizzlies’ most experienced players on the offensive line.  Logan has three career starts at center, while Jordan will be making his first career start at Wyoming on August 30 in the season opener.

Jordan Hines (UM Photo by Todd Goodrich)

Jordan Hines (UM Photo by Todd Goodrich)

Montana’s three other starters on the offensive line will be young and unproven.  Sophomores Devon Dietrich (6-4, 270, from Woodinville, Wash.) and Jackson Thiebes (6-5, 280, from Kalispell) will start at right and left tackle, while Ben Weyer (6-4, 270, So., from Bozeman) will start at right guard.

“Both the Hines brothers bring a tremendous amount of experience and leadership, which is going to help us out, figurative and physically in the middle, along with Ben Weyer at right guard,” said O-line coach Scott Gragg.  “I am really happy with the way they have taken the bull by the horns and led this team, and they will be the anchors for us.”

Also in the two-deep and expected to see action this season are guards Max Kelly (6-7, 290, from Spokane) and McCauley Todd (6-7, 200, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa), along with tackle Clint LaRowe (6-5, 290, from Miles City) –  all sophomores.  Also in the mix is true freshman David Reese (6-7, 270, from Clackamas, Ore.).

“We’ve had a bunch of people trying out for those tackle spots, and Devon Dietrich gets better every single day at right tackle, and Jackson Thiebes has started out camp as our starting left tackle, and I am really happy with the way he’s playing,” said Gragg, who started in 151 games in 11 seasons in the NFL.  “Clint LaRowe has some experience at the tackle position, so I am not afraid to put him in.  True freshman David Reese is doing some good things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays this year.

“The guys who has really proved himself this fall has been McCauley Todd,” said Gragg, UM’s only three-time winner of the Paul Weskamp Award (outstanding offensive lineman).  “He’s our first reserve at both of the guard spots.”

It will be a unique situation on the O-line for a couple of reasons.  First, of course, will be the Hines’ starting side-by-side, and second, the youth of that group, as all of the other starters and their back-ups are all underclassmen.

“It’s a little new having him right next to me,” said Logan.  “In high school we played different positions, so it’s kind of new – but it’s good to communicate with him on the line.”

Now they are the veterans at their position, the brothers will be looked upon by the rest of the linemen as leaders, and Logan has embraced his new role.

“It’s not so much pressure – it’s exciting coming into my senior year knowing, especially at center, we are kind of leading the group,” Logan said; “so it was  cool for me just to be able to have that leadership role and really get into that.  It’s been a little new for me, especially kind of jumping into it, but it’s been fun getting the younger guys going.”

Jordan was slowed down last spring with an illness and lost about 20 pounds, but he’s up to a better playing weight of about 285 pounds and excited about his opportunity and the improvement by his teammates.

Logan Hines (UM Photo by Todd Goodrich)

Logan Hines (UM Photo by Todd Goodrich)

“Just being healthy is a big thing, especially this fall,” said Jordan, who was born six minutes after Logan.  “The spring was tough, playing so light, but I am back to where I should be, thanks to the weight program this past summer and doing all of the things that I had to.

“Just being a senior and a starter especially is a cool experience,” said Jordan, who like his brother started as a freshman at Phoenix College before transferring to UM.  “Having Logan at center next to me, and then just the other guys.  This group is coming together well.  I like the guys we have.  We just want to keep working, and we just want to keep getting better.  It’s kind of weird having five new guys from last year, but we’re excited about it.  We have about 20 practices, and we are way better than we were when we started fall camp.”

“Ben (Weyer) played a good amount last year at guard and he’s got some experience,” Logan said.  “We’ve got Jordan at one guard, and the other players are young, but they got a lot of reps in the spring, and a ton of reps in fall camp.  Just coming together as one group has been big for us this fall camp.  They’re some young, and some of the guys are inexperienced, but I think this fall camp and going against our defense –- it doesn’t get much harder, definitely helps us.”

So how close are the two brothers?

“Being twins, we live together, we play football together, so yeah, we are always together,” Logan said;  “whether it’s in school, or just in the apartment just hanging out.  I would say we are together 95 percent of the time.”  (Logan is a sociology major, while Jordan’s major is communication studies.  Their birth date is Nov. 20).

“Whenever we’re down doing drills he’s always got something to say that we can tweak and do a little bit different and a little bit better, and help us to get better to play our position,” Jordan said about Gragg.  “He is always positive.”

You always want to get better every single day, and you want to have the same energy you had when you started camp, and I think for the most part we’ve done that,” Gragg said.  “We still have room to grow, and I am glad we have another week before we play Wyoming.  But overall I am really happy with the way our team is competing, and the way they are jelling.”

GRIZ CAMP/NOTES: The offense had several big plays on the “Team” portion of Friday morning’s (Aug. 22) practice.  Halfback Jordan Canada scored on an 8-yard run off left tackle, and on the next play quarterback Jordan Johnson threw an 8-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Jamaal Jones.

Later in the practice the number one offense had a two-minute drill, starting from their own 35-yard line.  Johnson guided the play 65 yards in 10 plays, culminating with a 14-yard TD pass to Jones on a fourth down play.  Tight end Mitch Saylor had 3 catches for 45 yards in the scoring drive, and Johnson completed 5-of-10 passes for 65 yards.

At the conclusion of practice the UM Marching Band played three tunes for the team, and the last one was the Griz fight song.  Prior to that head coach Mick Delaney presented $500 checks to marching band director Kevin Griggs, as well as to representatives of UM’s cheer squad and dance team.

After the band’s tunes, senior cornerback Joshua Dennard and sophomore snapper Aaron Held joined two members of the band and played the drums, much to the delight of their teammates.

GRIZ STATS & FACTS: All 12 of the Grizzlies games this season will be played on an artificial surface.  The only Big Sky team that has a grass field is Northern Colorado.

Montana’s league slate this year does not include Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Portland State, and Weber State.