Delaney pleased with Griz secondary

MISSOULA — A couple of defensive positions that were much maligned a year ago – cornerback and safety, have both made huge strides so far in fall camp, according to Griz Head Coach Mick Delaney.

Delaney, his staff and players went through their seventh straight day of practices today and once again it was a hot session in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees on the rubber-based playing surface.

“They’ve really improved and there’s a lot of competition with five experienced players at corner and some young guys too,” Delaney said.  “It’s the same way at the safety position too, where we have five guys who have played.  I think we’re getting better in the secondary because of day-to-day competition.”

The corners had their difficulties last season, but the four players who combined to start in all 11 games in 2012 are back this season.  That group includes Joshua Dennard (5-11, 185, Jr., 2V), Anthony “Chief” Goodwin (6-1, 180, Sr., 1V), Nate Harris (5-10, 180, So., 1V), and Sean Murray (6-1, 190, Sr., 3V) who all started last season.

Murray started in 10 contests, and tied for sixth on the team with 50 tackles, and was an honorable mention all-league selection.  Dennard and Goodwin started five contests each.  Dennard, who has been out recently due to a minor injury, was UM’s eighth leading tackler (46 total tackles), while Goodwin was 10th with 38 stops.  Harris (two starts) was 14th on the squad with 26 tackles.

“I feel like we’re all very experienced coming back,” said Harris, who played running back and cornerback in Chino High School in Calif., and rushed for 1,169 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.  “We are trying to perfect our technique.  We learned it all last year, and now we’re tweaking things and learning even more, and working on different schemes.

Aric (Williams, UM’s cornerbacks coach) has been coaching us up,” Harris said.  “We are also competing hard, and the two starting spots are still wide open.  The key (to his position) is confidence.  All the guys have the athletic talent, but it’s the most confident guys who can rely on their technique and play with confidence, who get the most done on the field.

“I thought we played good as a group (in Sunday night’s scrimmage), but we made a couple of mental errors,” Harris continued.  “I think we are playing much better so far this fall.  When we get beat it is usually because we make a mental error, and that’s what makes our technique so important at our position.”

Adding depth along with those veteran starters are redshirt freshman J.R. Nelson (6-0, 177) and sophomore transfer Jamal Anderson (5-11, 180, So., JC), although Anderson has been slowed by an injury in fall camp.

Also in the mix at cornerback are three very talented true freshmen Ryan McKinley (6-1, 187, from Boulder Creek HS in Anthem, Ariz.), Chris Parker (6-0, 175, from Washington HS in Sioux Falls S.D.), and Marquin Russell (6-0, 185, from Lakes HS in Lakewood, Wash.).

The Griz have excellent experience at the safety position, as free safety Matt Hermanson (6-1, 198, Jr., 2V) and strong safety Bo Tully (6-2, 199, Sr., 3V) combined for 111 tackles a year ago, which ranked them four-five on the team.   Hermanson started 10 games a year ago, while Tully started all 11, and each of them had two interceptions, tying them with Murray for the squad lead.  Hermanson was an all-conference honorable mention pick.  Senior Steven Rominger (5-10, 186, 3V) had the 16th most tackles on the squad with 23 and started in a game.

Sophomores Jake Dallaserra (5-11, 180, SQ), Herbert Gamboa (6-1, 195, 1V), Zach Gratton (6-1, 195, 1V), and Justin Whitted (6-1, 191, 1V) should all see action as well.  Dallaserra is a Butte High graduate.

Delaney said that his primary goal in the last two weeks of fall camp, which include five two-a-day sessions, is to keep his team healthy and get some of his players back on the practice field.

“My main focus is to keep the guys out of the training room and on the playing field,” he said.  “It’s hard right now.  Heck, I’d like to take a day or two off right now, but we’ve got to keep rolling.  We’ve got a few players with some dings, but I don’t think any of them are too serious.  I’d like to get some of those (injured) players back, and I think we will, starting tomorrow and on Wednesday.”

CAMP NOTES: Sophomore wide receiver Jamaal Jones made a nice diving catch in the right side of the end zone for a 6-yard TD on a pass from junior QB Jordan Johnson during the red zone drills, but that was the only score the defense allowed in three series.

SOME SKELLY HIGHLIGHTS: Quarterback Trent McKinney connected with connected with fellow sophomore Chase Naccarato on a 25-yard touchdown pass.  Junior defensive tackle Trevor Rehm stopped the hard-to-bring-down junior halfback Travon Van for a 2-yard loss.  Harris had a pair of pass break-ups.  Senior linebacker John Kanongata’a made a nice diving play when he deflected as pass which stopped a large gain by the offense.

 The schedule (Aug. 13-17):
Tuesday, Aug. 13: 2-a-day schedule.  Practices start at 8:30 a.m. and at 7:45 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 14: 1-a-day schedule.  Practice begins at 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 15: 2-a-day schedule.  Practices start at 8:30 a.m. and at 7:45 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16: 1-a-day schedule.  Practice begins at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday; Aug. 17: Scrimmage at 10:10 a.m.

— UM Sports Information

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