University of Montana senior backup quarterback Gerald Kemp could return to the Griz lineup, interim football coach Mick Delaney said Saturday.

A day after interim athletic director Jean Gee told the Missoulian that Kemp was no longer member of the football team following an unspecified violation of team rules, Delaney clarified the university’s position and said Kemp is “indefinitely suspended” – but still could return to the squad.

Speaking via phone while en route to Park City, Utah, for the Big Sky Conference Summer Football Kickoff meetings, Delaney confirmed that Kemp is off the team roster for now.

“He is suspended indefinitely, pending some things that would have to happen on both his side and our side to reinstate him,” Delaney said. “It’s not 100 percent either way.”

The interim head coach also reiterated the suspension was his decision entirely and that it had nothing to do with Kemp’s arrest last October.

Kemp and former teammate Trumaine Johnson were detained – and tased – by Missoula police after authorities responded to a noisy late-night house party and later pleaded no contest to charges of disorderly conduct.

“It was a situation between Gerald and I and team policies and team rules with us,” Delaney said. “I won’t divulge exactly what that was, but I can tell you that there were not multiple incidents that led to his suspension.”

Kemp, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound backup quarterback and receiver from San Diego, passed for 218 yards and rushed for another 223 last season.

His omission from an updated UM roster submitted to the league and released to the media Friday made Kemp’s suspension public knowledge. There was no formal announcement of the suspension made by the university.

Without Kemp, the Griz are somewhat thin at the quarterback position behind returning junior starter Jordan Johnson.

After fifth-year senior transfer Nate Montana left the program for West Virginia Wesleyan in May, the only other QBs listed on the UM roster are sophomore Shay Smithwick-Hann from Kalispell, redshirt freshman Trent McKinney and true freshman Brady Gustafson. Not one of them has completed a pass in a college game.

In addition, Johnson’s status with the team has been in limbo recently after he was accused in March of sexual assault. Charges have not been filed and Johnson remains on the current Grizzly roster.

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Regardless of the situation at quarterback, Delaney said he was hoping the majority of Kemp’s playing time this fall would come as a wide receiver.

“Gerald has been one of the better athletes on the team for four years,” he said. “It’s been just a matter of finding a position where he can help the team and still be happy. We’ve felt for the last year, with the situation the way it was, that he could help us a tremendous amount at wide receiver or safety and we settled at wide receiver.”

Delaney was also quick to note that he and his staff have not looked to fill Kemp’s roster spot with another quarterback or a comparable athlete.

“When you have a situation like this you always try to be prepared to at least investigate what might be out there,” he said. “And at this time, we have not done anything as far as replacing anybody on the roster.”

Kemp’s suspension is the latest blow to a UM football program that’s had more than its share of off-the-field issues the last year.

The school is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for its response to allegations of sexual assault by members of the football team and the NCAA has opened its own investigation into the program.

In March, the university dismissed head football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day without stating specific reasons.

In addition, the timing of Kemp’s suspension will make it difficult for Delaney to put the situation on the back burner while attending this week’s league meetings.

Still, Delaney said he’s looking forward to getting the Griz back on the practice field when they begin preseason drills Aug. 6.

“It’s probably going to be in front of us all weekend,” he said. “That’s just part of the deal, you know? We’re just anxious to get started and get down to playing football again.”

Michael Heinbach can be reached at 523-5209 or michael.heinbach@lee.net.

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