MISSOULA — Montana's spring football slate is nearly complete.
Fourteen practices for the Grizzlies are in the books and there's one left: Saturday's spring game.
Most of those 15 allotted practices are for the team, but Saturday is slightly different.
"The reason we have a spring game is for our fans," Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said. "We can actually probably get more work done just doing practice out here and doing things more specific, but come out here and scrimmage, we kind of do that for our fans. I sure hope they'll show up."
Offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach said the team has shown him what he's needed to see, and from here on out, it's all about getting better.
"Now we just need to focus on getting better in all aspects of the offense and understand where we line up and how we get to that spot and the terminology and the language," Rosenbach said. "The more you hear it, the better you're going to get at it and so Saturday to us, has to be in the mindset of another opportunity at the things we've been doing all spring."
Many schools around the country are getting fancy with their spring game formats, but not Hauck.
Saturday will be similar to a traditional game with four, 10-minute quarters. The first half will be like a true game, where the team will run through scenarios — similar to the last scrimmage — in the second half.
"We're just going to go play a little bit and call it good," Hauck said. "That's what we need to do. We need to play."
Five incoming transfer players have been a part of the team through the spring.
Those players are: junior quarterback Dalton Sneed, sophomore safety Gavin Robertson, redshirt-freshman safety Robby Hauck, redshirt-freshman running back Adam Eastwood and freshman defensive end Eli Alford.
Coach Hauck has been pleased with their integration with the team so far.
"I think all those guys will contribute for us," Hauck said. "They've assimilated well. I think they've been well-received by their teammates, which is good. It's a sign of a good, strong locker room when guys aren't intimidated by newcomers. I think it's been all positive."
The transfers aren't the only new ones. There are five walk-ons fighting for roster spots as well.
Carroll transfer-to-walk-on safety Connor Fohn, Townsend safety Trey Owens, Billings Senior safety Blake Chase, Kalispell Glacier linebacker Pat O’Connell and Peter Kolokotrones, a cornerback from San Francisco.
And some of them had some productive reps in the last scrimmage.
Fohn made three tackles and Kolokotrones and O'Connell each had one tackle.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
There are plenty of players to keep an eye on come Saturday.
Quarterbacks: There's a bit of a quarterback battle going on in the pocket between last season's starting freshman phenom in Gresch Jensen and the newcomer in junior Dalton Sneed, who wears No. 11. They've split reps down the middle all spring, and are likely to continue that trend on Saturday.
In last week's scrimmage, the pair had similar stat lines. The one discrepancy was Jensen's completion percentage compared to Sneed's. Jensen hit on 53 percent of his passes, while Sneed completed 34 percent of his.
Running backs: Redshirt-freshman Adam Eastwood, senior Alijah Lee and sophomore Rey Green had the lion's share of the carries out of the backfield last week. Expect that again on Saturday. But don't be surprised to see redshirt-freshman Terron "Tuk" Moses lined up out there too. The 5-foot-7 back packs a punch: he had five carries for 11 yards last week with a touchdown.
Wide receivers: Expect to see all the key players from last season involved here too. Junior Justin Calhoun, sophomore Samori Toure, sophomore Samuel Akem, junior Jerry Louie-McGee and senior Keenan Curran were all involved last week. Calhoun led the charge last Friday with 47 yards on four receptions with two touchdowns and Toure went a perfect three touchdowns on three catches.
Offensive line: The offensive front returns just one starter from last year in junior Angel Villanueva. The depth chart here appears to be relatively fluid in some spots, but watch for sophomore Conlan Beaver, Villanueva, junior Dallas Hart, sophomore Dylan Eickmeyer and redshirt-freshman Colton Keintz to be running with the ones.
Defensive line: The defensive line brings back some familiar faces too in senior David Shaw and junior Jesse Sims — who have 27 starts combined. Tucker Schye's departure on the end has made room for some young talent to burst through in redshirt-freshman Braydon Deming.
Deming, a Billings West grad, had a team-high seven tackles in the last scrimmage alongside fellow young player in redshirt-freshman linebacker Marcus Welnel. Deming also added a tackle for loss and a half-sack.
Linebackers: Welnel, a Helena Capital product, had seven tackles last Friday in the public scrimmage, but he's not the only one to watch out for. Make way for junior Dante Olson. Olson's danced around the defense this spring, moving from middle linebacker to defensive end and then back again. Olson's ferocity has been well-documented, as he's won the team's special teams player of the year award two years in a row.
Secondary: Transfer safeties in redshirt-freshman Robby Hauck and sophomore Gavin Robertson have been lighting up the backfield all spring long, as has Kalispell Glacier's senior safety Evan Epperly and Bigfork's junior safety Josh Sandry.
Keep an eye on No. 38 — last season's second-string long snapper — sophomore Caleb Mitchell too. He's been grinding with the secondary this spring and had the third-most tackles in last Friday's scrimmage with four.
Senior punter Eric Williams — a Loyola Sacred Heart alumnus — picked up where he left off last season. He punted twice in the last scrimmage, one going for 40 yards and the other for 38.
Junior kicker Tim Semenza is looking to bounce back from last week. He made one of three field goals in the last scrimmage — connecting on a 27-yarder — and made four of his five PATs.
Several different players have been holding for Semenza, with Robby Hauck and quarterback-turned-tight end Caleb Hill getting some time there.
What side will win?:
Montana has held two scrimmages so far this spring.
The defense reportedly won the closed-door scrimmage before spring break and the offense won the open scrimmage last Friday.
Hauck's been a fan of the competition between the two sides.
"It's been terrific," Hauck said of the battles. "The guys have embraced working hard against each other, competing, and then they go have fun together off the field. The competition's been good, and as far as which side of the ball is winning, that's a little bit how spring ball goes."
Two-time Grizzly defensive MVP Josh Buss will not be suiting up, as he has spent all spring rehabbing an injury.
He's not the only starter from last year who will be out.
Last season's leading running back in Jeremy Calhoun has also spent the spring in injury rehab.
Kicker Brandon Purdy, who scored 89 points last season on 15-of-17 field goals — for a third-best mark in the FCS — and 44-of-47 PATs, has also been nursing an injury this offseason.
Some of the other injured players who will not be getting reps on Saturday are wide receiver Lamarriel Taylor, offensive lineman Thayne Jackson, running back Cody McCombs, cornerback Josh Egbo and tight end Matt Rensvold.
There's a surprise scheduled to be unveiled at halftime of Saturday's spring game, so fans in attendance: make sure to stay in your seats during the break.
(Beat writer's note: No, I don't know what the surprise is. I can make some educated guesses, but what's the fun in that?)
Tickets, which cost $5, will still be available the day of the spring game, but purchasers will need to bring cash.
Pre-game festivities include a GSA-sponsored tailgate party that begins at 11 a.m., as well as activities for kids, like a bouncy house. After the game, kids are welcome to go through football drills on the field and get autographs.
The weather forecast for Saturday looks pleasant for the game. There's a high chance of precipitation in the morning, but once the tailgate starts around 11, the showers should be gone. The projected high for Saturday is 57 degrees.