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For Delaney, retirement can wait Great Falls GSA BBQ Article

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For Delaney, retirement can wait

A year ago Mick Delaney came to Great Falls for the Grizzly Scholarship Association Coaches Barbeque as a recently unretired, 69-year-old charged with saving a floundering program in his first head coaching position in two decades.

Now 70, the University of Montana head football coach was back in the Electric City Wednesday for this year’s event with one year left on his contract and the always-high expectations of Griz Nation hoping last year’s 5-6 record was merely an aberration.

And Delaney has more energy now than ever and hopes to once again postpone retirement.

“If we’re very successful this year, as long as my health stays where it is now and my energy level stays where it is – which is better now I think than when I was 65 – I’d like to continue on for another year or maybe two,” said Delaney, who coached football and wrestling at Great Falls High several decades ago. “If we’re not as successful as I or the administration thinks we should be, then obviously they’ll bring somebody else in that is quality and I’ll retire to the golf course.”

Meadow Lark Country Club was the golf course Delaney played Thursday as athletic director Kent Haslam and women’s soccer coach Mark Plakorus joined others from the UM athletic department for the annual event. The evening culminated with a barbeque and auction at the Great Falls Civic Center.

SCOTT GRAGG, Montana’s new co-offensive coordinator along with Kefense Hynson, has always been home away from home in the Great Falls area.

His roommate at UM back in the day was Chris Halko of the Sand Coulee area. Another great friend of Gragg’s is Brant Davis, the rancher from the Gulch who is a talented roper in the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit.

Halko is now a pharmacist in Fort Benton.

GRAGG , the former Grizzly All-American offensive lineman and pro star with the Giants and 49ers, said he believes the co-offensive coordinator system will work just fine.

“The guys know us and trust us,” said Gragg. “The guys can connect to us and relate to us.”

Who’s going to call the plays and make other important decisions related to the offense?

“You’ve got to have special people and not a lot of egos,” Gragg said with a laugh. 'You can usually spot the offensive coordinators. They’re the guys with the briefcase and the ones with all the answers. Kefense and I aren’t that way.

“Kefense will call the plays. He'll be up in the box and coach the quarterbacks. My input is going to be more of, what are we going to do on 3rd-and-2? What about 1st-and-10? What about our opening series? What protections do you like and what run plays do you like?”

THERE’S been some consternation throughout the Football Championship Subdivision since it was announced that Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are moving up to the FBS level.

Montana plays App State, which won’t be eligible for the FCS playoffs in 2013, this fall in Missoula.

In addition, the Big Ten recently announced that its teams will no longer schedule FCS teams.

That means the end of lucrative “guarantee” games, not to mention memorable trips for players and fans.

“There’s no doubt that the national landscape is changing,” said UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam. “We don’t rely every year on those guarantee games, but they are important.”

The Griz are scheduled to play at Washington in 2017. Haslam said Montana will play at Wyoming in 2014 and will start a home-and-home series with defending FCS national champion North Dakota State in Fargo in 2 014 .

“We’ll go to Laramie and Fargo in back-to-back weeks in 2014,” Haslam said. “We’ll go to Liberty (in 2015) and we’ve got North Dakota State coming to our place in 2017. We have one date to be filled in 2014, and it needs to be a home game. So we’re out shopping right now.”

HASLAM also offered some men’s basketball scheduling news for next season. He said coach Wayne Tinkle’s defending Big Sky Conference championship team will play at South Dakota State and on the same trip will meet the Minnesota Gophers in Minneapolis. Montana will also play at Washington and at Hawaii around Thanksgiving next year. “We’re working on a home date with San Francisco and a few other home dates with Division I opponents,” Haslam said. “It’s important to get good home games.”

JORDAN JOHNSON’S

return from suspension after being acquitted of rape charges in March gave the Grizzlies a much-needed boost during spring drills.

“You could tell he was a little rusty and pressing a bit,” Delaney said. “Then that last week he just relaxed and it was like Jordan Johnson from two years ago. He took command and control of the offense and did some really good things.”

The quarterback led the Griz to the FCS semifinals as a sophomore before he was charged and missed the 2012 season.

He tweaked his hamstring right after his return, but regained the starting role amd was recently named one of four team captains for the 2013 season.

“Jordy’s the guy,” Delaney said. “There’s no sense telling people that he isn’t. We’ve still got great competition, I think, for the No. 2 (spot) with all three guys that are there.”

Last year’s starters Trent McKinney and Shay Smithwick- Hann join redshirt freshman Brady Gustafson in battling for the backup role. Delaney anticipates an intense battle when fall camp begins in August.

“Those three are still battling like heck for the No. 2 spot and obviously Jordy has to do what he has to do all summer to stay where he’s earned to be, but he’ll do that,” Delaney said.

FORMER C.M. RUSSELL

High star Gavin Hagfors is slated to play fullback this season along with Joey Counts.

Hagfors played a hybrid ‘H-back’ position in some sets last year because the coaches wanted to get him on the field.

He caught a touchdown pass at Appalachian State and is likely to be used more this season.

“He’s just adds so much to the passing game because he’s such a good receiver out of the backfield and he is an excellent blocker,” Delaney said.

“Gavin is going to be a big part of what we’re doing and have a big role.” Fellow former Rustler Jordan Harper has joined the fold after serving a twoyear Mormon mission and Delaney expects Harper to contribute immediately at receiver or tight end. And of course there is incoming CMR star Josh Horner. Delaney doesn’t know where Horner will play, but said Horner is the sort of athlete who will see the field somewhere. “Maybe inside wide receiver, maybe tight end,” Delaney said. “It depends how he matures. I know he could go in and play defensive end too.”

LIKE DELANEY , Plakorus has extensive Great Falls roots.

Plakorus attended school in the Electric City from kindergarten through fourth grade while his father was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Plakorus played soccer in college at Kansas and later returned to Great Falls when he was in the Air Force.

“It’s always nice to come back to Great Falls,” Plakorus said. “It brings back a lot of memories and it’s kind of where I got started. It’s always good to come back and see the city and be around and see people that I know.”

Plakorus recently finished his second season as head coach and signed a recruiting class of eight players. There are also eight players from Montana on the UM women’s soccer roster, and Plakorus said he makes a point to recruit the state – not necessarily known as a soccer hotbed.

“I think it’s important that it’s the first place I look,” he said.

“It’s a matter of if I can find players who fit in with what we do and be able to play at that level. We always look here in Montana and go from there.”
 
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