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032410 griz practice 2 mg
Montana quarterback Andrew Selle uncorks a passs during during spring drills. Photo by Michael Gallacher/Missoulian

A new offense, a mostly new offensive line, same Chase Reynolds.

The Montana Grizzlies' first spring drills under coach Robin Pflugrad have been a learning process for everyone involved, given that the offense is changing, the defense is new and the tempo has been different.

"We have a high-paced drill we open up with every day," says Pflugrad, who gets things going with a thud-tempo, two-minute drill, up and down the field at the River Bowl. "It's a speed drill, it's a tempo drill, it's an alignment drill and it's a finish drill. And I'm not completely satisfied with it right now, because we get too tired to finish the drill."

Through it all Reynolds, Montana's senior running back, has been the steady practice performer his coaches hoped he'd be. There are new pass protections, new routes to run, new responsibilities.

"But for the most part, it's still just playing football," the 195-pounder from Drummond says.

"We have a few more pass protections than we had last fall, and probably the season before that for him," said Pflugrad. "Those are learning-curve deals, but he's done a great job.

"I think he's really only had one bust, and he's had a whole bunch of plays."

Reynolds has 3,085 career rushing yards, all in the past two seasons. He had 321 carries last fall, which stands as Montana's single-season record. It doesn't seem likely he'll get that many in 2010.

One thing the Walter Payton Award candidate hasn't often been in two seasons is a safety valve. That can change.

"Maybe a couple less carries and a couple more tosses, I would say," said Reynolds, who has three career receiving TDs compared with 44 running the ball. "There is a lot quicker checking, and I'm out (in a pattern) right away. That's probably the biggest difference. If something goes wrong, I'll be there to dump."

"We do have a lot of different protections," added Pflugrad. "And we will move the quarterback around a lot more and make those defensive linemen run after him. Chase has got some new routes to learn, too.

"We're either going to get him the ball or he's going to be a pretty good decoy if he doesn't have it. Somebody's got to be assigned to him. If nobody is assigned to him, I feel really good about that game, I think."

Reynolds is the key returnee among a corps that includes Peter Nguyen, Dan Moore, Beau Donaldson and Chase's brother Tel Reynolds, a 190-pound sophomore.

All have shown signs of greatness in the early going. Nguyen, who dazzled at times as a true freshman last fall, had a strong Monday.

"He made some cuts and he did a great job of finishing plays," Pflugrad said. "Toward the end of practice he took the first inside run and broke it 50 yards. He has great pad level to begin with, and he'll get down and dirty. He'll get some first downs for us."

At the other end of the spectrum from the 175-pound Nguyen are Moore and Donaldson, 230-pound bruisers who are working their way toward prime time.

"In the barn, but not in the stable," said Pflugrad.

"Tel's done a nice job," he added. "He had a great winter. He's starting to look more like a college football player."

QUICK KICKS: Rob Overton caught a touchdown pass and Trumaine Johnson made an interception as the Griz concluded Tuesday's practice with a red-zone drill: Third-and-goal from the 6. Brody McKnight drilled a few field goals in between. ... Chase Reynolds' 321 carries in 2009 include 70 playoff rush attempts. Yohance Humphery's 303 carries in UM's 2001 national championship don't include 89 postseason totes. ... Corner Brandon Dodson dislocated a finger Tuesday, but had it popped back into place and returned to action. ... The Griz plan a scrimmage of undetermined length for Friday. ... Big Sky Conference rival Sacramento State is installing Field Turf for the 2010 season, at the cost of $1 million. The newly relocated California Redwoods of the fledgling pro UFL are chipping in $500,000, according to the Sac State student newspaper.

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