Fresh-faced PSU comes calling

2009-09-16T19:40:00Z Fresh-faced PSU comes callingBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian missoulian.com
September 16, 2009 7:40 pm  • 

Given the turnover on the Portland State roster, it isn't surprising the Vikings' offensive and defensive leaders met Jerry Glanville not during the recruiting process, but on the practice field.

Junior quarterback Drew Hubel preceded Glanville at Portland State, and senior linebacker Erik Pedersen beat the Man in Black to Hawaii, having been signed ahead of Glanville taking over as defensive coordinator.

But look at them now - especially the 6-foot-5 Hubel, the Big Sky Conference's top passer heading into PSU's game at No. 4 Montana on Saturday.

"When we came here they'd signed 22 players, so I had nothing to do with recruiting him," Glanville said of his QB. "Then he walked out on the practice field my first spring, and I went into shock because he weighed maybe 160 pounds.

"He was so thin we didn't allow anybody to take his picture."

Griz fans knew who Hubel was by the afternoon of Nov. 3, 2007, when he threw for 404 yards in the Vikings' 34-31 loss to UM. He had 318 by halftime; shortly after that he banged his throwing hand on a helmet and dislocated a thumb.

"But no excuses," says Hubel, who lit up Southern Oregon for four touchdowns in a 34-10 win last week. "We still had chances to make plays."

Now Hubel makes another visit to Missoula, but he is one of the few Vikings who can boast of a return trip.

"We're only bringing five kids back who played there in 2007," said Glanville, who also came into this season without offensive coordinator Mouse Davis, who retired. "Can you imagine? Only five players from two years ago are still with us. So here we go."

It'll be the first trip to Montana for Pedersen, a California kid who when he got to Hawaii was buried on the depth chart at safety. In came Glanville, who sized up the situation for the 215-pounder.

"I think I shocked everybody," said Glanville. "I said, 'I'm going to move him to inside linebacker.' Everybody looked at me like I was crazy."

After the 2006 season Glanville and Davis took off for PSU. Pedersen stayed behind and a new coordinator switched from Glanville's 3-4 defense to a 4-3.

"I tried it out for a year," said Pedersen. "We ended up going to the Sugar Bowl, and I ended up playing special teams."

So in the spring of 2007 he and his twin David, who was playing at L.A. Harbor Junior College, decided to head for PSU.

"Probably the best decision of my life," said Erik Pedersen, who wears No. 51 while David, a backup defensive end, wears No. 50 (standout outside linebacker Ryan Pedersen, no relation, wears 53). "I've gotten to start for two years, play with my twin brother, play for Jerry. It's a fun defense."

Cornerback Deshawn Shead, an all-Big Sky player last season, and nose tackle Jermaine Jacobs join the Pedersens as the most experienced defensive players. Glanville's goal is make the Vikings a fast, hard-hitting group. So far, so good, though PSU is young: Of 53 players who played in a 34-7 loss at Oregon State, 24 were seeing their first action.

There is more to like on the offensive side of the ball even with the retirement of Davis, the father of the run-and-shoot. Kevin Strasser moved up as passing game coordinator in Davis' absence.

The changes are subtle. Glanville admits a commitment to more of a run game, "If by emphasis you mean more than one or two carries a game."

Bobby McClintock is the 240-pound fullback and main running option, though backup QB Connor Kavanaugh is the Vikings' leading rusher. Both have more room behind four returning starting linemen, led by left guard Moses Punzal, who has 23 straight starts. The Vikings have given up one sack so far in 2009; they gave up 41 last fall.

The receiving crew could use speedy Mario d'Ambrosio, whose knee injury in the final game of 2008 has him sidelined. Aaron Woods is back, and Lavonte Kirven and Daniel Wolverton both made starts last fall. Transfer Ray Fry has a team-high 13 catches.

Will it add up to a landmark victory for PSU, which hasn't won at UM since the Vikings were a Division II power in 1987? Glanville won't call it.

"That would be rhetoric," said the former NFL coach, who is 0-2 against the Griz. "Before you can say you're going to change things, you actually have to do it."

So there they go.

Reporter Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247 or at fneighbor@missoulian.com.

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