Practice begins Sunday for the Montana Tech football team.
The defending Frontier Conference champion Orediggers will hit the field at 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Sunday for the first workouts of training camp.
Tech’s big scrimmage of will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug, 22 on the new Bob Green Field.
The Orediggers open the season Sept. 7 at Eastern Oregon. After playing at Carroll College on Sept. 14, Tech plays its first home game Sept. 21 against Montana Western.
The Orediggers will officially dedicate the field, which is named after its long-time coach, during its first game. The school will also host an all-class reunion that day.
As the Orediggers set out on the 2013 campaign, they are hoping Sept. 21 will just be one of many big days at Alumni Coliseum this season. Last year, Tech made the playoff for the first time since 2005, and Tech fell in the first round at Morningside College, learning the importance of home-field advantage along the way.
“It’s huge. Monstrous,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said.
Right now, though, the Oredigger focus is on the Mountaineers. “The only thing that matters to us is Eastern Oregon,” the coach said.
The Orediggers lost just six players from last year’s team that went 8-3 in Morrell’s second year as head coach. They add in a strong recruiting class that includes 16 guys who played in this year’s Montana East-West Shrine Game.
Senior quarterback Brian Schwarzkoph, the backup last year, leads the Orediggers into action in 2013. The Billings native takes over for Nick Baker, who elected to forgo his senior season to attend graduate school.
Schwarzkoph takes over a team that has lots of weapons.
Morrell says his receiving corps is eight deep — at least. That group will likely include true freshman Zach Bunney, who rushed for 1,000 yards during Butte High’s state championship run last season.
True freshman Nolan Saracini, a star from Billings Senior, will also likely see time along with an improved Taylor Rowe behind Pat Hansen at running back. Hansen, a junior, is coming off back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 yards.
Morrell is excited about his many threats on offense.
“Now people can’t just say ’24 is getting the ball’ every single snap,” Morrell said. “They have to defend the whole field, and that is going to make Pat ever better.”
Defensively, the Orediggers are particularly strong in the front seven, led by experienced defensive linemen Mike Waldman, Jacob Workman and Logan Sims.
Mike Touzinsky and David Meis are coming off big seasons at linebacker. They’ll get a boost from the return of senior Ryan Jones, who missed last season with an injury.
Tech’s secondary took a big hit last year, but the team has solid returners in Nate Thompson and Luke Seubert.
Tech is hoping cornerback Devonte Craig can return after blowing out his knee in the middle of last season. Morrell called Craig probably the bet defensive back he has ever coached.
The Orediggers enter the season ranked No. 7. That’s as high as Tech was ranked all of 2012.
That ranking is also something Morrell isn’t focused on right now.
“You throw that right out the window,” the coach said.
The Tech players have been in town all week, checking in, taking conditioning tests and undergoing physicals.
Starting Sunday, it is all about football.