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Griz notebook: Montana gets commitment from Washington WR transfer

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Washington Sawyer Racanelli

Washington wide receiver Sawyer Racanelli, right, runs with wide receiver Puka Nacua during practice on Oct. 16, 2020, in Seattle. Racanelli announced on Wednesday that he's transferring to Montana with three seasons of eligibility remaining.

MISSOULA — Montana is bolstering its receiving corps with the addition of a transfer from the Washington Huskies who was a three-star athlete coming out of high school.

Sawyer Racanelli, who announced his commitment on Wednesday via Twitter, has four years to play his remaining three seasons of eligibility. The move to Missoula, which comes after UW hired Kalen DeBoer to replace head coach Jimmy Lake, reunites him with tight end Peyton Brammer, who was his teammate at Hockinson High School in Brush Prairie, Washington.

“All glory to God, GO GRIZ. Let’s run it back @PeytonBrammer3,” Racanelli wrote in a tweet.

Racanelli is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound wideout who spent two years at UW before entering the transfer portal on Dec. 13. He played in two games as a true freshman in 2020 and played in 11 of 12 games in 2021, primarily on special teams. He tallied five tackles and didn’t catch a pass during his two seasons with the Huskies, who got upset by UM in the 2021 season opener, 13-7.

Coming out of high school, Racanelli was the No. 21 athlete in the nation by 247Sports and the No. 50 athlete by ESPN despite missing his senior year because of a knee injury. He eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards all three seasons, helped Hockinson win back-to-back Class 2A state titles and was named the Associated Press Class 2A state player of the year as a junior.

Racanelli’s father, Josh, played quarterback at Portland State for Chris Petersen, a former head coach at Boise State and Washington. Racanelli is the first known transfer addition this offseason for the Griz, who signed 12 high school players in the December early signing period.

Buck stops here

Florida A&M linebacker Isaiah Land received the Buck Buchanan Award, topping fellow linebackers Troy Andersen of Montana State and Patrick O'Connell of Montana.

The 27th annual Buchanan Award, given to the best defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision, was announced during the FCS Awards Banquet. Land received 125 points, Andersen had 103 and O'Connell finished with 83.

Andersen received the most first-place votes at 15, while Land and O'Connell both got 11. Land finished with nine second-place, eight third-place, four fourth-place and two fifth-place votes. That distribution was five, two, zero and two for Andersen, while O'Connell had one, four, four and four.

Land, a junior from Buffalo, led the FCS with 25 1/2 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. The Southwestern Athletic Conference defensive player of the year also had 43 tackles.

O’Connell has gone from a two-sport Division II athlete to one of the top defensive players in the FCS.

O’Connell, who was a junior in 2021, earned three first-team All-America honors and two second-team All-America honors this fall. Voting for the Buck Buchanan Award was conducted after the regular season, during which he collected 91 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, a Big Sky-best 13 sacks, three forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown.

After playing in two playoff games, O’Connell ended the season with 22 tackles for loss and 14 sacks, which are both most by a UM player since Tyrone Holmes had 24 TFLs and 18 sacks in 2015. His TFLs and sacks are most by a Griz linebacker since 1994, the farthest back online records go, while his TFLs are fifth overall and sacks are sixth overall in that stretch.

O’Connell began college as a two-sport athlete playing football and baseball at Division II University of Mary in North Dakota because he wasn’t recruited by then-Griz head coach Bob Stitt coming out of Kalispell Glacier. He walked on with the Griz after coach Bobby Hauck was hired in December 2017, was named UM’s defensive scout team player of the year in 2018 while redshirting and became a starter in 2019 as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker.

Former Griz players to win the award are linebacker Dante Olson (2019) and defensive end Kroy Biermann (2007); Holmes (2015) won the award when it was the Stats FCS defensive player of the year award.

Showcase time

Omar Hicks Onu and Dylan Cook, who were seniors on UM’s 2021 team, will participate in The College Gridiron Showcase from Saturday through Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

The CGS puts college seniors from the FBS, FCS, Division II, Div. III and NAIA in front of over 100 pro scouts from the NFL, CFL and other professional leagues. They get to perform team and individual drills, participate in 1-on-1s, attend meetings and possibly interview with scouts.

Hicks Onu, a cornerback, totaled 43 tackles, 11 pass breakups and one interception in 13 games in 2021, his lone fall season at UM after transferring from Oregon State. Cook was a two-year starter at right tackle after he transferred from MSU-Northern, where he was a quarterback.

Going elsewhere

Colorado State quarterback transfer Todd Centeio, who received an offer from UM on Dec. 21, signed with James Madison on Thursday for his final season of eligibility.

Centeio went 3-10 as a starter at Colorado State in 2020 and 2021 after being a backup at Temple from 2017-19. This past fall, he completed 60.3% of his passes for 2,960 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while he ran for 437 yards and two scores.

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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