Subscribe for 17¢ / day
Jordan Canada, Ryan Burke, Devon Dietrich

Devon Dietrich (77), pictured last season celebrating with running back Jordan Canada (center) against UC Davis, has played all camp at right guard, one of the only positions on the offensive line that doesn’t come with questions.

Nearly 900 pounds of Montana offensive linemen stood on the sidelines as the Grizzlies warmed up before practice Tuesday.

That'd be a bad sign for any football team and the results showed in Monday's scrimmage, Montana's first of the fall.

John Schmaing, the starting left tackle, and McCauley Todd, the backup on the right side, should both be back in a matter of days while dealing with minor injuries, Griz head coach Bob Stitt said. Center Ben Weyer, who injured his knee during Saturday's practice, will miss considerably more time.

Stitt declined to comment further Tuesday on the extent of any of the three's injuries while addressing his expectations for the patchwork offensive line in the second full week of fall practices. Whomever is available, well, that is Stitt's guy.

"If you're putting the jersey on, you've got to be ready to go," the coach said. "Anybody out here, we'll count on them to get the job done."

That'll be Robert Luke in the middle for the foreseeable future. The sophomore center saw action in 10 games in 2014 as a true freshman and got the promotional call from second-string to practice starter over the weekend.

"That can happen in the blink of an eye and you know you've got to be ready for it," said Luke, a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder. "When that happened to Ben, it was heartbreaking to me and when I see that, it hurts. But you've got to be ready for it."

Weyer, a 6-4, 270-pound junior, was on crutches at Monday's scrimmage. He was walking (slowly) on his own power Tuesday, though his right leg remained heavily supported.

Schmaing (6-7, 290), now a senior, did not play last year because of academic issues but started every game in 2013. Todd (6-7, 295) has been providing depth at right tackle. Both practiced over the weekend before being held out.

Luke's precision with snaps -- always in the shotgun in Stitt's spread offense -- left plenty wanting in his first day with the 1s, though rolled and short snaps weren't nearly as troublesome by Monday.

"The game speed is a lot faster, but I've been watching Ben and he's my mentor in this," Luke said. "Everything that he does I kind of try to implement myself."

Montana's current crew on the O-line also includes LT David Reese (6-7, 270), last year's starter as a freshman on the right side; starting RG Max Kelly (6-7, 290), a junior; starting LG Devon Dietrich (6-4, 270), a junior; and starting RT Jackson Thiebes (6-5, 280), a junior.


The offensive line had its issues Monday, yes, but Stitt won't let the big guys take all the blame for the offense's slow start. With starting quarterback Brady Gustafson getting most of the day off in the hunt for his backup, the reads weren't nearly as clean from the backfield.

"A lot of it's the offensive line, but sometimes it's the quarterback," Stitt explained. "Quarterbacks got to help things, receivers got to help things. If you're not getting off the line of scrimmage, it's holding up the quarterback and the quarterback is holding it too long.

"Sometimes I think the O-line gets the shaft a little bit because it looks like they're not doing their job and it's other people."

Quarterbacks Chad Chalich, Makena Simis and Eric Prater rotated through and got most of the scrimmage snaps.

Much as it did in the spring, when the defense manhandled the offense in the first scrimmage, Stitt expects considerable improvement by this weekend's second scrimmage Saturday at 9 a.m., which is open to the public. Both sides of the ball made strides forward during the summer, he said, but the ones coming from the D are always more noticeable at first.

And despite the string of injuries, Stitt was happy to point out the bright side of the whole situation. When players miss time, that's time for someone else.

"When you have a starter go down, it's a positive for a while in fall camp because that next guy becomes the starter and when that stater comes back, you've got great depth then," the coach said.

That's of course assuming that starter does come back, and in time for the crucial snaps.

The Grizzlies sent seven through their starting O-line rotation last year, another pair of backups seeing time in more than 10 contests, for a unit that fought to find its stride for most of the season because of similar circumstances.

And the season opener against North Dakota State is now hardly two weeks away.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.