The Montana Western football team has been going through spring practices for the past two weeks. This past Saturday they held their first spring scrimmage, which was also roughly the halfway point. The scrimmage gave the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate and look at how the players would respond in “live” situations.
With some changes in the coaching staff with a new offensive coordinator, the spring allows players to learn new schemes without the pressure of preparing for a game. Along with learning new schemes they have the opportunity to play and familiarize themselves with new teammates. The players who red-shirted and have been chomping at the bit since arriving on campus in August are given an opportunity to show what they can do as they compete for spots against returning players and transfers alike.
Following the initial two weeks the defense has gotten the better of the offense. This can be somewhat expected as the offense is learning a new game plan. New UMW offensive coordinator Bruce Carpenter is installing his offensive system. The offensive players have had about a month of meetings prior to stepping onto the field. Meanwhile, the defense is gaining speed as they continue to learn and play in second year defensive coordinator Rob Goode’s system.
“As we near the halfway point in spring ball I'm pleased with the energy, effort, and attitude guys have brought each day. This being our first spring ball together the guys have done a great job of adapting to our expectations,” said Bulldog head coach B.J. Robertson. “The defense has had the upper hand thus far and I look forward to seeing the offense battle in the second half to bring a competitive balance. The main thing is we are getting a good look at a lot of guys because thankfully we are staying healthy. Mother Nature has also treated us very well allowing us to stay on schedule and have great conditions to work in.”
Defensively, some of the players who made an impact in the scrimmage were linebackers A.J. Wilson and Dakota Wainwright. Wilson continues his physical and solid play while Wainwright added an interception to his spring totals. Other defensive players who had an impact were first team all-conference safety Jesse McCloud and Dakota Pineda. McCloud picked up where he left off in 2013 patrolling the Bulldog secondary and making it difficult on the opposing teams’ passing game. McCloud and Pineda each had interceptions. Pineda is returning this spring after sitting out all of the 2013 season following shoulder surgery.
UMW is led offensively by junior guard Will Thacker. Thacker was a second team all-conference performer following his sophomore season. He is the anchor and a dominant force on the interior line for the Bulldog offense. Junior running back Dylan Kramer, from Laurel, Mont., continues his consistent play breaking out on a couple long runs during the scrimmage. Freshman running back Hunter Thomsen from Great Falls, Mont., was able to show what he can do by scoring a touchdown in his first career spring scrimmage. Connor Fuller is a senior tight end who continues to learn his new position. This offseason he was asked to move from his defensive end position to the tight end position and has gained some traction and is making the transition relatively smoothly.
Carpenter commented after the scrimmage, “being new to Montana Western I’m excited about the work ethic. The guys get after it on the field and in the weight room. It has been fun being around guys who are excited about football. As far as the offense, the kids are doing a nice job picking things up. From an assignment standpoint we have a lot of work to do on the finer points, we have some work to do on fundamentals and technique. The scrimmage Saturday, offensively we came out strong and then the defense took over. We have some work to do to be consistent as a group. This gave us an opportunity to evaluate the kids. There’s beginning to be separation in some positions on who is stepping up. Overall, I’m excited to get back on the field and continue spring and look forward to the spring game.”
The Bulldogs have a little more than two weeks remaining in their spring practice season. They will bring spring practices to an official close April 26 at 11 a.m. with a spring game at Vigilante Field as part of UMW’s Alumni Weekend.