The annual February signing day for college football used to be a really big deal, fraught with superlatives and last minute faxes.
Minus the drama Montana football coach Bobby Hauck still made the trip up Highway 93 to first, Polson, and then Kalispell to talk about this year’s recruits.
“Obviously we’ve had a lot of players come from the Flathead Valley and from the Kalispell high schools in particular,” Hauck said Wednesday, before speaking to a couple hundred fans at the Hilton Garden Inn. “This is a recruiting base for us, whether it’s Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Eureka, the two Kalispell schools, Bigfork, Polson or Ronan.
“We’re going to have kids that are from these parts. Certainly to add these two is going to be big deal for us.”
The two he referred are Glacier High products Drew Deck and Henry Nuce.
“We’ve got Jerry Louie-McGee going out the door and Drew Deck has shown some of those same abilities,” Hauck said of the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Wolfpack receiver.
All Louie-McGee did was become Montana’s leader in career receptions and be a terror on punt returns with three touchdowns.
“We’re hoping (Deck) is a guy that fills all or part of that role for us,” Hauck said.
Hauck noted both the 235-pound Nuce and Deck have been working with his former strength coach Mike Gerber, from Hauck’s first tenure at Montana from 2003-09.
“As (Nuce) has matured physically he’s made huge jumps in terms of strength and speed,” Hauck said. “He went from being a guy that probably was not a guy you would recruit at our level to being a guy that’s a definite dude and a great prospect.”
Montana had three new names to its signing day roster: Tight end Matt Simkins of Butte, tight end/receiver Peyton Brammer of Brush Prairie, Wash., and long snapper of Grayson Pibal out of Clackamas, Ore.
Things being they are, Pibal is the highest-rated recruit – and he can zip the ball.
Brammer is an intriguing story in that he missed a good chunk of his senior year with a torn knee ligament – otherwise he might have gone to a higher level.
“We’ll see how his knee comes along,” Hauck said. “He may not start until next January but he’s a really good get for us. He had a pretty significant injury and we hung in there and some didn’t.”
The list is also notable for transfer cornerbacks TraJon Cotton and Omar Hicks Onu, who came over from Oregon State in January. Their arrival comes as Billings’ Jesse Owens and 2019 starter Dareon Nash leave the program – Owens to play basketball at Montana State and Nash as a graduate transfer.
Hauck wouldn’t necessarily make the connection.
“We’ve had a shortage of corners from the day we’ve walked in the door and we’ve been in a scramble mode to catch up,” he said. “Everyone that’s played in a game for us, except for true freshman (in 2019) Corbin Walker, has been a converted wide receiver.
“We’re looking forward to continuing to recruit some young corners, and whether it’s via transfer or developing our young guys we need to get guys that can cover on the field.”
The Grizzlies begin spring drills on March 2, with 15th and final session taking place April 10 in Hamilton: the annual spring game will be under lights.
Their 2020 regular season starts with a Sept. 5 home game against Division II Central Washington.
2020 Signing Class
Peyton Brammer, TE, 6-5, 205, Brush Prairie, Wash.
Gryson Pibal, LS, 6-3, 20-5, Clackamas, Ore.
Matt Simkins, TE, 6-4, 190, Butte
TraJon Cotton, CB, 6-1, 187, Sacramento
Robbie Patterson, QB, 5-11, 200, Medford, Ore.
Omar Hicks Onu, CB, 6-1, 192, Carrollton, Texas
Eric Barker, TE, 6-4, 225, Keizer, Ore.
Brandon Casey, OL, 6-5, 265, Sandpoint, Idaho
Asher Croy, LB, 6-0, 206, Bozeman
Rishi Daniels, S, 5-11, 175, Seattle
Drew Deck, WR, 5-9, 150, Kalispell
Aaron Fontes, WR, 6-1, 170, Oxnard, Calif.
Kevin Good, OL, 6-4, 270, Rocklin, Calif.
Journey Grimsrud, DL, 6-3, 240, Huntley
Xavier Harris, RB, 5-10, 185, Oxnard, Calif.
Chase Johansen, LB, 6-1, 215, Park City, Utah
Jaxon Lee, RB, 6-1, 183, Missoula
Kila Lincoln, OL, 6-5, 250, Kamuela, Hawaii
Henry Nuce, DL, 6-4, 235, Kalispell
Guido Ossello, WR, 6-3, 195, Butte
Carson Rostad, QB, 6-3, 215, Hamilton
Autjoe Soe, CB, 6-1, 161, Murray, Utah