Right now the Cats and Griz are hard at work in fall camp, prepping for their respective season openers on Aug. 29 and 31. And there are plenty of storylines.
The most obvious and most important angle from Griz camp is the return of quarterback Jordan Johnson, who sat out last season fighting a legal battle against charges he was eventually acquitted of. But now that Johnson's back in the mix, Montana once again has a big threat at QB, one that can run and pass with effective precision.
During the first "State of Montana Football Media Day" in Billings a couple weeks back, Montana coach Mick Delaney spoke about the return of Johnson and what it means to the team -- and more specifically the offense. We have a lot of leftover goodies from both Delaney and MSU coach Rob Ash from that press conference.
The above video (put together by the Gazette's Slim Kimmel) gives you a glimpse of Delaney's thoughts surrounding Johnson's return.
Clearly, it's a big deal for the Griz. Johnson went on an offensive rampage during the last half of his sophomore season in 2011, nearly leading UM to the national title game. In his final seven games of that year, Johnson threw for 1,390 yards, rushed for 273 more and accounted for 17 total TDs with just three interceptions. In three playoff games, he threw for 608 yards, rushed for 176 and had eight touchdowns. Included in that was a dominant showing in a second-round blowout of Northern Iowa.
Johnson's talent isn't debated. The only question is how he'll perform in an offense that is transitioning to utilize more pro-style elements. Johnson was born and bred to run the spread, and he engineered the Grizzlies' zone-read running game to near perfection in 2011. Johnson has pretty much taken every live snap from the shotgun since high school, but now he'll seemingly be under center more often, turning and handing off, throwing shorter passes and utilizing tight ends and fullbacks. How will it look? Delaney said this during the press conference:
"Jordan grew up his whole life being in the gun, taking a direct snap from center. As we got into spring, obviously the first two weeks were just a general feel-out thing. But the more he worked under center the more comfortable he got. We're not making a wholesale change, but getting our quarterback under center allows us to be able to take advantage of what we think is a very, very good offensive line. (Johnson) brings an awful lot to the table with what he does mentally and physically from the gun. We'll still do some of that stuff, but we will have the capability of being under center also."
Be sure to watch the above video for more.