MISSOULA — Believe it or not, it's only two weeks away from the Montana Grizzlies officially kicking off the 2023 season. And the Grizzlies bring a lot of talent back on the offensive line and at the skills positions, and could be a potent offensive firepower this coming fall.
The offense always starts up front, and the linchpin of this year's Grizzly squad is the big boys on the line.
Montana returns all five of it's starting offensive lineman from last year, in Chris Walker, Hunter Mayginnes, AJ Forbes, Journey Grimsrud and Brandon Casey. Add in Liam Brown who also saw starting time last year before he dealt with injury.
Having that core unit back sets the tone for the Grizzlies, and gives them plenty to be excited about.
"Offensive line is definitely a position where the success is within the unit," Forbes said. "The chemistry is there. People ask what does that chemistry mean? It's knowing where your partner in a certain scheme is going to be without having to communicate. Having that camaraderie and chemistry with the offensive line right now is pretty sweet."
Not to mention UM has other backup linemen who have starting experience as well.
Having that cohesive unit in the trenches is a positive as UM continues the quarterback competition, knowing that whoever gets the starting nod will be in good hands come the season's start.
"Since I've been here, this has the potential to be one of the more explosive units that I've been able to be a part of," Forbes said. "And so you can expect a lot of guys flying around, you can expect a high-tempo offense and you can expect us to be able to run the ball so I'm excited about it."
The question at QB remains to be solved, as head coach Bobby Hauck has yet to name a starter.
But elsewhere on the offense, there's talent aplenty.
In the backfield, Nick Ostmo is set to lead running backs, which is deep with veterans Xavier Harris and Isiah Childs likely to figure into the mix, and young talent Eli Gillman also expected to take a larger role.
"We all have a good relationship together and it's all fun, happy times with each other so it's been good spending this time together," Ostmo said of the running backs. "But I feel like everybody's kind of up to the standard right now and we have like four or five guys that can really go into a game and play good right now."
The Grizzlies will be without All-American tight end Cole Grossman this season, so that position will also need shoes filled, with Erik Barker expected to lead the way.
At receiver, the Grizzlies have a stable of talents, with Junior Bergen, Aaron Fontes and Keelan White slated to lead the way, while Ryan Simpson, Drew Deck, Nick Williams and Sawyer Racanelli all could play into the mix and add depth.
It's a talent-laden and experienced side of the ball for UM, and it's about putting it all together come Saturdays this fall.
"We're at a point where we've been together for a while and we can be comfortable going into a game and we can run the ball and throw the ball and move people off the line and protect the quarterback and catch all of the balls that are thrown to us," Ostmo said. "I feel like everybody on the offensive side of the ball is pretty accustomed to doing that already and I feel like we should be going in strong this year."
Griz offensive players on the 2023 roster by position and number
No. 7, Sam Vidlak, R-SO, 6-1, 201 pounds, Applegate, OR
No. 8, Keali'i Ah Yat, FR, 6-1, 181 pounds, Kaneohe, HI
No. 12, Kris Brown, R-JR, 6-4, 216 pounds, Bozeman, MT
No. 16, Kaden Huot, R-FR, 6-4, 217 pounds, Helena, MT
No. 17, Clifton McDowell, SR, 6-4, 224 pounds, Spring, TX
No. 19, Gage Sliter, FR, 6-1, 187 pounds, Kalispell, MT
No. 10, Eli Gillman, R-FR, 6-0, 206 pounds, Dassel, MN
No. 13, Xavier Harris, JR, 5-10, 180 pounds, Oxnard, CA
No. 21, Iverson Young, FR, 5-10, 195 pounds, Waxahachie, TX
No. 23, Beau Dantic, R-FR, 5-9, 192 pounds, Laurel, MT
No. 26, Nick Ostmo, SR, 6-0, 218 pounds, Portland, OR
No. 28, Isiah Childs, JR, 6-1, 212 pounds, Manhattan, KS
No. 30, Colter Janacaro, R-SO, 5-11, 207 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 2, Drew Deck, R-SO, 5-9, 165 pounds, Kalispell, MT
No. 3, Nick Williams, R-SO, 6-5, 204 pounds, Oceanside, CA
No. 4, Ryan Simpson, R-JR, 208 pounds, Bozeman, MT
No. 5, Junior Bergen, JR, 180 pounds, Billings, MT
No. 6, Keelan White, R-JR, 6-2, 185 pounds, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
No. 9, Sawyer Racanelli, R-JR, 6-3, 204 pounds, Brush Prairie, WA
No. 14, Aaron Fontes, JR, 6-1, 170 pounds, Oxnard, CA
No. 18, Sam Alford, R-FR, 6-3, 186 pounds, Park City, UT
No. 24, Cameron Gurnsey, FR, 6-0, 188 pounds, Butte, MT
No. 27, Jordan Dever, FR, 6-0, 164 pounds, Spokane, WA
No. 80, Brady Lang, R-SO, 6-1, 180 pounds, Bozeman, MT
No. 82, Ian Finch, R-FR, 6-3, 202 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 83, Drew Klumph, R-FR, 5-11, 184 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 89, Lucas Pendergast, FR, 6-4, 214 pounds, Seattle, WA
No. 11, Cole Grossman, R-JR, 6-4, 225 pounds, Vancouver, WA
No. 81, Joseph Grezmak, SO, 6-5, 249 pounds, Pilot Mountain, NC
No. 84, Evan Shafer, JR, 6-5, 278 pounds, Connersville, IN
No. 85, Micah Ashton, R-SO, 6-5, 240 pounds, San Diego, CA
No. 86, Joe Weida, R-FR, 6-4, 222 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 87, Jake Olson, R-SO, 6-7, 254 pounds, Butte, MT
No. 88, Erik Barker, JR, 6-4, 245 pounds, Keizer, OR
No. 51, Austin Buehler, FR, 6-5, 243 pounds, Helena, MT
No. 53, Braunson Henriksen, R-FR, 6-5, 254 pounds, Polson, MT
No. 55, Chris Walker, R-SR, 6-6, 304 pounds, Lincoln, NE
No. 57, AJ Forbes, R-SR, 6-2, 300 pounds, Bellevue, NE
No. 60, Dillon Botner, R-JR, 6-6, 285 pounds, Whitefish, MT
No. 61, Hunter Mayginnes, R-SR, 6-5, 317 pounds, Chandler, AZ
No. 63, Dylan Cohen, FR, 6-1, 257 pounds, Seattle, WA
No. 64, Ethan Barney, R-FR, 6-4, 290 pounds, Sumner, WA
No. 66, Brandon Casey, JR, 6-5, 305 pounds, Sandpoint, ID
No. 69, Cannon Panfiloff, R-SO, 6-6, 285 pounds, Roy, UT
No. 72, Tate Templeton, FR, 6-3, 291 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 73, Colin Dreis, R-JR, 6-7, 270 pounds, Tucson, AZ
No. 74, Kukila Lincoln, R-SO, 6-5, 285 pounds, Kamuela, HI
No. 75, Declan McCabe, R-SO, 6-4, 290 pounds, Waco, TX
No. 76, Journey Grimsrud, R-SO, 6-3, 291 pounds, Huntley, MT
No. 77, Michael Ray, R-FR, 6-3, 271 pounds, Yakima, WA
No. 78, Lucas Freitas, FR, 6-6, 312 pounds, Snoqualmie, WA
No. 79, Liam Brown, R-SO, 6-5, 301 pounds, Beaverton, OR