Montana's first fall football depth chart, released late Tuesday night ahead of Saturday's season opener against Saint Francis, came with a handful of surprises.
The Griz experienced several position battles during spring and fall camp while preparing to replace half of its starting offense and defense. Eleven players are expected to get their first career starts Saturday.
Alongside some those assumed to start -- like senior captains QB Brady Gustafson and DE Caleb Kidder -- a few young players are ready to make their starting mark. Here's some interesting highlights from Montana's two-deep:
• Redshirt freshman Justin Calhoun beat out veteran transfers senior Lane Hovey (Nebraska) and junior James Homan (Blinn College) for the starting Y receiver spot. Homan was injured for almost all of fall camp though.
• Redshirt freshman left guard Angel Villanueva will start over senior McCauley Todd, who started nine games there last year. Todd spent most of fall camp transitioning to tackle to add depth to that position.
• As senior Ben Weyer returns to his spot as starting center, last year's starter Robert Luke has dropped off the depth chart at the position entirely. The junior is now a backup at right guard while junior Cooper Sprunk is the No. 2 center.
• Senior Chad Chalich has edged junior transfer Reese Phillips (Kentucky) for the No. 2 quarterback spot.
• Redshirt freshman Jesse Sims is slated to start at defensive tackle despite entering fall camp as a defensive end. Sims has bulked up to 254 pounds and will start over senior Zach Peevey in the spot.
• None of Montana's three offseason transfers in the defensive secondary are projected to start with senior CB TJ Renard (Wisconsin), junior CB Korey Alexander (Los Medanos College) and junior FS Justin Strong (Oregon State) all listed as backups. Don't expect it to stay that way all season, though.
• In fact of the 13 offseason transfers that Montana brought in, only Juco transfer junior Brandt Davidson (Scottsdale Community College), a nose tackle, and Division III transfer sophomore Eric Williams, a punter, managed to grab starting spots.
• Redshirt freshman Jerry Louie-McGee and sophomore Caleb Lyons will handle kick and punt returns. The duo is also 1-2 at the top of the Z receiver depth chart.
• In all six redshirt freshmen will make their first ever appearances for the Griz as starters: WR Calhoun, WR Louie-McGee, LG Villanueva, DT Sims, SS Josh Sandry and K Tim Semenza.
• Offensive tackle Thayne Jackson is the lone true freshman to break into the two-deep. The 6-foot-5, 312-pounder will see the field should senior starter Jackson Thiebes falter at right tackler