Montana’s Offense Reloaded for 2021

Here’s a thought that should send shudders down the spine of FCS coaches nationwide.

When the Montana Grizzlies take the field for their first official practice of spring on Friday, one of their many offensive weapons will be running back Marcus Knight, who broke the school record for total touchdowns in a season in 2019.

He scored 25 touchdowns… As a sophomore. Let that sink in.

Now let this sink in: Knight has since bulked-up, packing-on 24 pounds of muscle to check in at a hefty 218 this spring.

Better yet is head coach Bobby Hauck‘s assessment of Knight’s ability. “I think Marcus is just getting started. I don’t think you’ve seen the best of him yet, which is exciting.”

Twenty-five touchdowns in his first year in the Big Sky, and he’s just getting started. That is very exciting.

Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics

But Knight’s nose for the end zone and increased size is just one indicator of Montana’s firepower this spring, with eight starters returning to the fold from an offensive unit that was top-10 nationally in five different production categories in 2019.

When talking to boosters or media, Hauck frequently notes that when the Grizzlies were good during his first run as head coach from 2003-2009, the team’s depth helped weather storms of injury and attrition.

Now entering his third season back steering the Grizzly ship, he says the depth of Montana’s offense is finally getting back to where it needs to be for UM to compete for championships.

“I like where we are. Obviously, it’s college football, and there are always a few question marks, but when we were good around here, we were always looking at how good our backups were,” said Hauck.

“We’re getting back to that point. I think we have good players at every position on our offense, and week to week, what is emphasized will differ. That’s what game planning is. But our players are getting more experienced, they’re getting more physically dominant, and I think they’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”

Here’s a breakdown of the offensive position groups to keep an eye on as practice gets underway, and the Griz take the field for two games this spring.


When one of Montana’s all-time greats like Dalton Sneed departs for the professional ranks of the CFL, it’s natural to wonder who is going to replace him.

Luckily for offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach, the QB room cupboard is far from bare, with a proven commodity in Cam Humphrey back to lead the charge his senior year and four other signal-callers all competing for a starting job.

And maybe no other group on the Grizzly offense benefitted more than the QBs during Montana’s spring-like camp in the Covid-restricted fall of 2020.

While Humphrey shined going 3-0 as a starter during his time as an injury replacement for Sneed in 2019, he’s also the only Grizzly QB to have ever played a game in maroon and silver, with two transfers, a redshirt-freshman, and a true freshman filling out the room.

During fall camp, however, guys like South Florida transfer Kirk Rygol, Saddleback transfer Robbie Patterson, Bozeman native Kris Brown and freshman Carson Rostad each got the opportunity to run the offense, allowing Hauck and the staff to begin completing the spring depth chart.  

“Cam came out of the fall first, but we’ll keep competing there this spring. It’s what we need to do. Some of the other guys had a nice fall session, so it will be highly competitive,” said Hauck.

“I know Cam is going to work hard to hold on to that job, and guys are challenging to try to unseat him. So, we need to continue to develop that, and we feel pretty good about the guys in that room. But Cam just needs to go execute. He just needs to go be Cam Humphrey.”


When Hauck refers to the offense becoming “more physically dominant,” he is, in large part, talking about the offensive line, where the Grizzlies could return one of their most experienced units in years.

Four of UM’s eight returning starters (3+ starts) on offense come from the O-line, with Dylan CookColton KeintzMoses Mallory, and All-Big Sky pick Conlan Beaver bringing 62 career starts worth of experience and weighing a combined 1,281 pounds – an average of 320 pounds each.

Add Kordell PillansSkyler Martin, and Tyler Ganoung to the mix with a combined 28 appearances in 2019 and the emergence of Nebraska transfer AJ Forbes at center during fall camp, and the Grizzly front is shaping up to literally be one of the team’s biggest assets in 2021.

And, of course, all the extra time in the weight room since December 2019 hasn’t hurt either.

“The O-Line was a weakness for us the last couple years, but those guys have worked really hard. I see the confidence in that group growing, which is a huge deal. So, I think we’re going to see a more traditional Montana offensive line,” said Hauck.

“All those guys have kind of made the leap attitudinally as well. They were kind of unsure, and now they’re way more confident. Which is great. They’ve done a really good job. Really good. They’re different guys now. They’re different dudes.”


Sneed didn’t end up becoming one of Montana’s top-10 passes of all-time in just two years as a Grizzly without having one of the best receiving and tight end corps in the nation to aim at.

You can’t just replace the likes of UM’s all-time leader in receptions Jerry Louie-McGee, or Samori Toure, who broke Randy Moss’ FCS playoff record for yards in a game, or even Grizzly blue-blood tight end Colin Bingham.

But it’s not what the Grizzlies DON’T have at receiver in 2021. The thing to know about this year’s group is the level of talent and experience that IS coming back that should once again make Montana’s offense one of the most potent in the nation.

“I think we have some guys that can make plays in that group,” said Hauck. “I think our receiver group will be good, and maybe some of the marquee players will be guys you’ve never heard of.”

While Samuel Akem returns as one of the most dangerous targets in the Big Sky as a two-time all-conference pick, other Grizzly receivers have been biding their time behind the legends that went before them.

Junior Mitch Roberts, who started four games last season, has played in 24 games in his career, and might have the team’s surest hands, is back. As is slot-back Gabe Sulser, who scored a thrilling TD on this first touch of the ball in a college football game and brings plenty of speed.

Junior Malik Flowers has already entered Montana’s record books as a kick returner and will get the chance to showcase his speed as a receiver this season. And freshmen Keelan WhiteRyan Simpson, and Cole Grossman have each impressed with their size and athleticism, giving the receiving group plenty of depth.


During Hauck’s first tenure as head coach, Montana employed some of the best running backs to ever set foot in Washington-Grizzly Stadium to help control the game. Bruisers like Lex Hilliard and Justin Green imposed their will on defenses before moving on to NFL careers.

With Knight packing on the pounds during the offseason and sophomores Nick Ostmo and Drew Turner each checking-in at over 200 pounds each, the Grizzlies appear to be returning to that style of ball-carrier. Just the way Hauck likes it.

“We’ve got some size and some speed there. Our backs are big,” Hauck says. “I expect big things out of that group. I think they can be punishing.”

Montana’s season preview series returns next week with a breakdown of the defense.