BUTTE — The Montana Tech Orediggers have one mission entering the first practice of the season, and head coach Chuck Morrell was very clear in expressing it.
“We’re expecting to get ready to win,” he said. “It’s been our focal point. Guys are hungry — they know it’s a new year. We got to start from scratch and start from the beginning.”
Tech begins its season as the class of the Frontier Conference, winning it for the second straight time in 2016. The success, mixed with limited turnover from last season, is giving the Diggers a field full of confidence.
“The last two years, we’ve come out here with a chip on our shoulder,” said defensive lineman Tyler Sanders. “We know we can play, we know we can produce, (and) we know we’re going to win games.”
But the use of ‘limited’ in regards to turnover is key. The Diggers will have some holes to fill, most notably on the defense. Tech lost all-American safety Gunnar Kayser and will sport a relatively inexperienced linebacking corps and secondary.
“Overall, we’ve got some depth (at secondary and linebacker),” Morrell said. “But we’ve got to find a couple of guys with some experience to help us out.”
The heart of the defense lies up front on the line. The front four are experienced and will anchor the defense.
“Everybody knows we are a veteran crew,” Sanders said. “We’re going to have to come out here and produce: make tackles, make plays, and get sacks on the quarterback, make it easier on everybody else out on the other end of the field.”
The ‘other end’ is the offense, which will be loaded this fall. The offense is centered around quarterback Quinn McQueary, who will be in the running for Conference Player of the Year come November, if healthy. The receiving corps is the deepest it has been during the run of conference championships, and there is a bevy of running backs ready to fill in for the loss of another all-American, Nolan Saraceni. Even though Saraceni’s cleats are tough to fill, Morrell is thrilled with the offense he has to work with this season.
“We also have a number of offensive linemen back, so that’s exciting for us,” he said. “I know our offense is going to be very effective and efficient.”