Like a child ripping off the wrapping paper under the Christmas tree or a teen racing around a car lot, Montana head coach Bob Stitt, too, is excited about getting eyes on his new toys.

But instead of action figures or two-door coupes, Stitt's wishlist is full of football players.

"It's fun and it's our conversation as coaches every time you go up the tunnel," Stitt said before a Griz football practice this week. "You're always talking about that new guy. 'Man, did you see that play he made?'"

Montana's influx of freshmen will have an impact in the coming years, maybe a few this fall even, but the more likely spot to look for major immediate contributors among the newest jerseys issued is in the transfer additions.

The Griz added three big transfers this summer after a signing day that was already loaded with gridders coming over from other programs.

"We have an absolute ton of them," said Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson, himself now a fourth-year Grizzly. "They'll get a taste of what Griz football is like today."

The area likely to see the most influence from transfers is the passing game. Two senior additions in Tyler Lucas (Penn State) and Ben Roberts (baseball at Washington State) joined the already loaded field of wide receivers, which also included freshman transplant Keenan Curran (Air Force).

Quarterback transfers Chad Chalich (Idaho) and Eric Prater (Hawaii) are also in the running for playing time.

Receivers coach and passing game coordinator Nolan Swett has a simple message for the new guys: Study up.

"We've got some great upperclassmen, but with the new guys coming up, they're gonna have to learn quick," Swett said. "We're throwing a lot at them early, more than they can handle almost, but we've got to get them up to speed."

Roberts and Lucas were each in Missoula in July to begin workouts with the team. Their three-week stretch of player-run practices and study has been hugely beneficial in beginning to comprehend Montana's high-tempo offense, Lucas said.

"I have a better understanding than some of the new guys just coming in, a little ahead of the game, but I've still got more to learn," Lucas said. "There's plenty of options (on each play). It's a lot, but you've got to get it down."

Lucas is on his third offensive playbook of his college career. He played for Penn State as a freshman and sophomore before taking his junior season to De Anza (Calif.) Junior College. He transferred back to Penn State, though did not play last season as a redshirt.

The Grizzlies will have a pair named Sanders in the secondary, neither of whom were part of the program in 2014 with freshman cornerback Markell Sanders and junior safety Yamen Sanders. The former player came to UM from Washington State after a redshirt year while the latter was with the Arizona Wildcats the past three seasons.

Both will challenge for starting spots in Montana's suddenly crowded secondary. Yamen Sanders may not sneak into a starting safety spot, but his skill set is vast enough to add help many other places. He filled in as a nickle corner, the D's third cornerback on the field in certain formations, at Arizona.

He's played with the No. 1s in the first week of fall practice as a nickle, going with the 2s at free safety.

"My expectations are to just help the team wherever I can," Sanders said. "Whether that be back (at safety) or wherever. They could put me at quarterback; I'll play, it doesn't matter. I just want to play football."

Versatility and a willingness to adapt are wonderful qualities in an athlete from a coaching perspective, but Sanders should stick a little closer to his lane in this regard.

There's already five quarterbacks in fall camp, after all, and those two other transfers need no extra competition in their chase of Gustafson, the perceived starter.

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The waiting game

Though Grizzly wide receiver Ellis Henderson was granted his medical hardship waiver, effectively returning his lost year of eligibility from last season, the Montana wideout has still not heard back from the NCAA concerning an academic waiver.

Henderson, who left school last fall mid-season because of health and personal issues after appearing in four games, was cleared by the Big Sky Conference to return to redshirt junior status, giving him two more seasons with the Grizzlies.

But because the 23-year-old withdrew from school, therefore failing to complete his semester coursework, he was pushed off the NCAA's mandated five-year plan to graduate, making him ineligible.

His appeal is still pending.

"Just waiting," Henderson said Thursday. "Patiently."

With Henderson's eligibility still in question, Montana has the preseason all-Big Sky selection at kick returner taking snaps with the third-team receivers.

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