(Editor’s note: Story by Griz Communications)
MISSOULA — It all starts up front, and Montana head coach Bobby Hauck didn’t shy away from acknowledging that fact earlier this week at the Big Sky Conference media days in Spokane.
With that cliché ever-present in the back of his mind as the 2019 season approaches, Hauck and his staff have gone a long way to bolster the offensive and defensive lines with the addition of offensive guard Moses Mallory and defensive end Ryder Rice.
Rice, a 6-6, 220-pound native of Savage, Montana, comes to UM as a graduate transfer from Rocky Mountain College in Billings where he was an NAIA All-American and two-time first-team All-Frontier Conference D-end.
Mallory, a 6-3, 335-pound junior guard from Herriman, Utah, comes to Montana from Eastern Arizona College where he earned All-WSFL honors as a sophomore and helped the Gila Monsters to a conference championship and appearances in two bowls.
Rice will have one year of eligibility remaining, while Mallory will have two years with the Grizzlies.
As an All-American and two-time all-conference performer, Ryder Rice achieved nearly every individual accolade possible both on the field and in the classroom at the NAIA level, helping the Battlin’ Bears win the Frontier championship last season to make the NAIA playoffs.
“Ryder is an outstanding young man from eastern Montana. He has a fantastic academic record and was an NAIA All-American on the field,” said Hauck. “We’re excited to have him as part of the team this fall.”
Seeking a new challenge and a personal affirmation of his abilities, Rice now crosses the Continental Divide to Missoula this season looking to earn playing time in his favorite FCS venue, Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
“I just want to prove to myself that I can play at this level. Even though I’m light for my position, it’s just a personal thing more than anything,” said Rice.
Since arriving in the Garden City in late May, Rice has had a sneak-peak of his new home stadium, putting himself through individual workouts and joining the Grizzlies for player-run practices in preparation for upcoming fall camp.
“Every day, just walking to practice out that tunnel and walking in that huge stadium is surreal. I can’t wait for the first day, it’s going to be such a great experience and so different than Rocky,” added Rice. “It’s going to be powerful.”
With only two seniors on the roster to lead the 2019 Grizzly offensive line, the addition of Moses Mallory will add much-needed size and experience to UM’s front five.
Tipping the scales at 335 pounds and possessing the speed to run track in high school, Mallory will compete for a starting job at Montana following an all-conference sophomore season.
“Moses is a great young man who will be a terrific addition for us late in the year,” said Hauck. “He will add a needed veteran to a young offensive line group.”
After earning a starting spot as a true freshman at Dixie State before suffering an injury, Mallory helped Eastern Arizona to a pair of bowl games as an all-conference guard.
That experience led to an offer to play at West Virginia in 2019. But when that plan changed due to a Mountaineer coaching change, Mallory chose Montana over offers from Jacksonville State, North Alabama, Weber State and more, after a recent campus visit.
Mallory says it was the family atmosphere that made him choose to be a Grizzly.
“My visit was great. The coaches made me and my family feel at home. My mom really liked the place. She was getting emotional talking about it, and seeing me in a home where she knows I’m going to get taken care of and where she’ll love to come see me play football. That’s what made me commit,” said Mallory.
“Being close to family, and having a family environment, that’s what it’s about.”
Mallory is rated a three-star prospect and the No. 8 JuCo guard in the country by 247Sports.com coming out of EAC. Scout.com also ranked him the No. 15 best overall JuCo prospect in the state of Arizona.
Accolades and awards don’t mean much to him, however. Now with his future set, Mallory is ready to get down to business when fall camp starts in August.
“It’s a blessing to have the backing of the Griz and Griz nation. I’m ready and excited to get to Missoula and get to work,” added Mallory.
“They brought me up here for a reason, so I’m going to do my job and start winning some games.”