The practice fields of the University of Montana and Missoula Big Sky High School are separated by hardly four miles geographically. Yet philosophically, they might as well be decades apart.
But that’s an exciting prospect, said Big Sky senior tight end Colin Bingham, who Saturday committed to play football for the Grizzlies following his official recruiting visit to the campus. A new offense under pass-happy head coach Bob Stitt gives a recruit a lot to think about.
“Personally, I like running routes out of the slot more than a three-point (stance as a down lineman),” said Bingham, who will transition from the traditional blocking TE that the Eagles molded into a big-bodied slot receiver at the college level in Stitt’s spread offense.
“I might miss the bangin’ in the trenches, but I’m sure there might be a little of that still.”
Bingham, a 6-foot-3, 235-pounder, helped lead Big Sky to the State AA semifinals this past fall, primarily as a run blocker in the Eagles’ ground-heavy scheme. Big Sky ran the ball on more than 75 percent of its plays for more than 250 yards per game on the way to earning Missoula’s first AA playoff victory in a decade.
The tight end did catch 20 passes along the way for 176 yards and five touchdowns.
Bingham chose the hometown Grizzlies over their in-state rival Montana State Bobcats. He’d narrowed his commitment list to just the two schools after dropping his interest in other suitors, fellow Big Sky Conference program Northern Arizona and South Dakota among them.
The Eagles’ standout visited the Bobcats’ Bozeman campus the weekend before and -- although he had been leaning toward UM -- left once again feeling undecided.
“My visit to the Cats made the decision a lot harder,” Bingham said. “I did really like it, but it finally came down to the Griz.”
After a tour of the campus and inside the team’s facilities -- Bingham attended numerous football games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium from the fan’s side growing up -- he made a verbal commitment Saturday evening. He will receive a full scholarship.
Bingham also said the university’s academic programs appealed to him, especially UM’s physical therapy school.
The recruit will be a second-generation Grizzly, following in the footsteps of his father, Guy Bingham. The elder Bingham played on the offensive line at Montana and was chosen in the 10th round of the 1980 NFL draft by the New York Jets. He also went on to play for Atlanta and Washington over his 14-year pro career.
But neither Bingham let Guy’s history play a role in Colin’s decision, the junior Bingham said.
“I don't think he would have minded too much if I'd went to the Cats,” Colin said of his father’s input. “He was interested more in what I wanted to do, which was really nice in the whole process.”
Bingham is one of two area tight ends from the class of 2015 that the Grizzlies are after. Also in Missoula this past weekend for an official visit was Corvallis prospect Jesse Sims, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound former Oregon State commit.
Sims, who de-committed from the Beavers following the school’s coaching change in December, said he has narrowed his choices to the Grizzlies and the Bobcats. The Bitterroot Valley standout had also drawn interest from Arizona State, USC and Nebraska.
Recruits can make their commitments official on national signing day Wednesday, Feb. 4.
Notes: Running back Kamron Johnson of Tempe High School in Tempe, Arizona, also committed to Montana this weekend following his official visit.