Griz fans will see more zone defense next season

Montana's new secondary coach, Dave Doeren, traded life in the big city for life in the Big Sky.

Doeren spent the last two seasons as the assistant secondary coach for the University of Southern California Trojans.

It wasn't a real difficult decision for him to leave Los Angeles when he was offered a job with the Grizzlies.

"My wife and I had just had a child and we were looking for a great atmosphere to raise him in," Doeren said. "I heard a lot of great things about the city of Missoula. The second factor was the opportunity to work with Coach (Joe) Glenn and his staff. The third was the winning tradition at the University of Montana."

Not that his time with the Trojans wasn't rewarding. The 1994 graduate of Drake worked along side Dennis Thurman, a former standout defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys.

The Trojans finished first in the nation in interceptions in 1998 and third in picks and turnover margin last season.

"It's a high-pressure environment," said Doeren, who served as the defensive coordinator at his alma mater from 1995-97. "Los Angeles is probably the media capital of the world. Everything you do there is under a microscope. We had helicopters hovering over practice. Everything we did was in the paper. You had to be on the ball whatever you were doing. It made me a much better coach being there."

Doeren likes what he sees from UM's veteran secondary, where all four starters and several key reserves return.

Calvin Coleman and Damon Parker are back at corner and strong safety Vince Huntsberger won the Big Sky Conference defensive MVP last season.

Because of a rash of injuries at the safety spot, sophomore Jeff Shoate and senior Tony Brown, both corners last season, are learning to play safety this spring.

Starting free safety Jason Miller, and backups John Hefty and Trey Young are not competing in spring drills because of injuries.

"I'm going to have a lot more fun in the fall," said Doeren, who earned a bachelor's degree in pre-med/biology and holds a master's in secondary science. "It's going to be great. I'm going to be out there with loads of guys who know how to play a lot of different spots.

"I'm going to put the best guys on the field. This spring has given me the opportunity to do that by teaching other guys the entire secondary. They need to know where the help is and they are learning that by playing both positions."

Griz fans can expect to see a lot more zone defense next season. That doesn't mean that UM's corners won't be put in a lot of one-on-one situations.

"There will have a lot more help than they had last year. We will play some man, because they are good at it. Playing zone is easy for these guys, they just need to work at it."

Doeren's wife, Sara, is a nurse at St. Patrick's Hospital. Their son, Jacob, is 7 months old.

(Jon Kasper can be reached at 523-5247 or by e-mail at jkasper@missoulian.com).

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