MISSOULA — The cold, hard truth for coach Bobby Hauck and his Montana football team cannot be skirted.
Bobby did not recruit most of his Griz players and they did not choose him to be their leader. That's where the story started four months ago when Hauck was re-hired.
Where it goes from here is anybody's guess. After Saturday's spring game on a pleasant Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Hauck talked about how pleased he is with the way his troops have bought into his style, which was summed up by wideout Samuel Akem as "high intensity."
Underneath Hauck's more-happy-than-last-time demeanor lies the same fiery competitor that left Missoula nine years ago after a loss to Villanova in the FCS title game. You saw a glimpse of it after Saturday's scrimmage when the coach, unhappy with his team for lollygagging to the middle of the field for his post-game speech, made everyone go back to the sidelines and try again.
Hauck comes well-equipped to fix Montana football with his attention to detail, advanced knowledge of X's and O's and ability to motivate young men. But let's get this straight: The Grizzlies have a lot of work to do and Bobby is short on battle-tested Clydesdales and Greyhounds.
There are no Lex Hilliards, Marc Marianis, Cole Bergquists, Colin Dows and Levi Horns — guys who not only dominated in maroon and silver under Hauck, but went on to enjoy productive pro football careers. There's major rebuilding to do, especially on the offensive line.
"We've got a little ways to go. We've got some liabilities," Hauck said. "We're a couple years away from being a complete football team like we maybe had here in the past.
"But we'll have a good football team because they're competitive, they're tough and they want to work at it ... I like what we have to work with. To me it goes back to the character and want to give effort and invest."
If anyone was wondering why Hauck brought in transfer quarterback Dalton Sneed to challenge incumbent starter Gresch Jensen, that question was addressed Saturday. Sneed was the star of the scrimmage with his accuracy, quick release, quick feet and general air of confidence.
But the Grizzlies' quarterback — whoever it may be — is going to need some blocking. And Montana is going to need to get better defensively, especially in the secondary.
Back when Bobby coached Montana the first time, the rest of the Big Sky Conference was largely intimidated by the Grizzlies. It's going to take a while to get back to that place.
"Culture is thrown around a lot and it's not like flipping a light switch," he said. "You want to change the outlook and how you operate a football program, it's an evolution. It's not, 'We're going to come in and our culture has changed.'
"We need to work on that and nurture it every day. It'll be a multi-year project. That's just what it is. That doesn't mean we can't win games."
For now, the best that can be said about Hauck and his staff is they're off to a good start. Though most of his players didn't choose him when they came to Montana, they're loving the changes he is implementing.
"Bobby is a great guy," offered senior defensive end Jesse Sims of Stevensville. "He brings a lot of intensity and blue collar-ness as a coach, which is exactly what we need around here."
This is going to be fun, folks.
It's just not going to happen overnight.