When he was announced as Montana’s head coach on Dec. 16, Bob Stitt promised an exciting offense poised to move up and down the field and score points in bunches.
Still pending its Montana debut, Stitt’s offensive philosophy has already paid dividends on the recruiting trail.
Montana picked up a verbal commitment from prized in-state running back turned receiver Holden Ryan on Jan. 10. One day later, the staff learned that three-time All-State receiver Dalton Daum backed out of a verbal to Montana State to take a spot in Stitt’s offense.
The scheme continued to make an impact during Montana’s second-to-last weekend of official visits as commitments were made by Missoula Big Sky tight end Colin Bingham and Saguaro (Arizona) High running back Kamron Johnson.
As more recruits pour into Missoula for the final weekend before National Signing Day on Wednesday, the offensive gains could continue as three receivers and a few interior linemen will determine if playing at Washington-Grizzly Stadium is in their immediate future.
Sources close to the program said Montana is hosting 15 players this weekend, with the group split between skill-position players and linemen. Ryan and Daum are in attendance along with Mau Ena, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive tackle who has remained near the top of Montana’s recruiting board since Mick Delaney’s staff started charting its prospective recruits, Ena’s coach Dan Williams told the Missoulian on Friday.
“Montana has been on him from Day 1,” Williams said of Ena, who committed to Montana on Oct. 31. “My experience as a head coach, you make sure that you try to stay true to the guys that have been on you since Day 1.”
Ena was in Fort Collins last weekend visiting Colorado State, a Mountain West school and just one of the FBS programs that have expressed interest in the Vista (California) High product.
Williams said that Boise State has increased its pursuit of Ena within the past week. New Mexico and San Diego State have also been linked to the All-California Interscholastinc Federation first-team defensive tackle, as has FCS Southern Illinois.
“I’ve had hundreds of kids go on to play Division I football and I’ve put six kids in the league, so I know talent pretty well and he’s one of the top three D-line guys I’ve coached in my time here. He’s a special kid,” Williams said.
Despite the increased attention, neither the Rams nor the Broncos have offered Ena.
Williams believes that Montana, which projects Ena as a 1- or 3- technique tackle, is his best option.
“That’s a school that fits well in because I think the D-line coach is a really good D-line coach and he relates to him really well,” Vista’s coach said, referencing Legi Suiaunoa.
Offensively, Montana is courting a couple of receivers that could add to an already deep stable of pass-catchers.
Colin Morris, a 6-3, 180-pound wide receiver from Oklahoma City’s Casady High is in town with two of his teammates.
Morris is rated as a two-star prospect by national recruiting site Rivals.com. He caught 37 passes for 651 yards and eight touchdowns for the Cyclones before he was switched to quarterback during Casady’s playoff run. He also holds an offer from Air Force.
Casady coach Koby Scoville did not return a message seeking comment on his trio of players, which includes lineman Stelen Covel and quarterback T'quan Wallace.
Morris’s offers from Air Force and Montana nearly replicate the situation Donovan Rooks is in.
Rooks, who has been in contact with Griz outside receivers coach and passing game coordinator Nolan Swett since Swett was an assistant to Stitt at Colorado School of Mines, received an offer from the Falcons earlier this week. He is still waiting on an offer from Montana.
“Montana has not officially offered yet, but I'm praying they will soon,” said Rooks, who turned 18 on Tuesday, the same day he learned he would be making a trip to Missoula.
Rooks was supposed to visit Army this weekend, but that trip was cancelled. The Black Knights were the first Division I team to offer the 6-3 receiver. Rooks’ recruiting process got off to a slow start after he missed most of his junior season with an ankle injury.
As a senior at Yuma (Arizona) Catholic High, Rooks caught 55 passes for 1,262 yards and scored 21 touchdowns for the Arizona Division 5 state champions earning first-team All-State honors in the process.
“They should take him; they’re dumb if they don’t,” Yuma Catholic coach Rhett Stallworth said. “I think he’s a steal right now. … Does everybody in Arizona know who he is? Yeah, he’s kicking their butt.”
With limited scholarships stemming from self-imposed sanctions after an NCAA investigation -- Montana is down to 59 from 63 annaully for the next two seasons -- Grizzly recruiting coordinator Justin Green said the Griz had 10 scholarships to offer.