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A breakdown of the defense for the 2023 Montana Grizzlies

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Posted at 10:29 PM, Aug 24, 2023

MISSOULA — When you lose three All-Americans on the defensive side of the ball on any football team in America, it can be a little scary. But the Montana Grizzlies always find a way to reload, and this year's Griz defense is looking strong again with a lot of key returners as it gets set for the coming fall.

It's tough to replace three stalwarts like Justin Ford, Patrick O'Connell and Robby Hauck, but that's what the Griz defense is tasked with this fall.

Luckily, they've still got a core group of returners who are plenty experienced who have been successful on the field.

"I think that a key aspect of our defense is our seniority, the amount of seniors we have on there," senior safety Garrett Graves said. "We lost a lot of really key aspects, but we have a lot of old guys playing so it's really nice, they have a lot of experience with the plays, a lot of experience talking with each other. We've played a lot as a group so our communication is looking really good."

Look no further than UM's safety room, where seniors Graves, Nash Fouch and TraJon Cotton all headline that group as three players with multiple years of experience and starts under their belts.

Other players like cornerback Corbin Walker, linebackers Levi Janacaro and Braxton Hill and defensive tackle Alex Gubner have all seen their fair share of playing time, and who will now be tasked with leading this unit as a whole.

"I think maybe the most exciting part for me is I've played with these guys a lot and just being able to watch us all be out there and having the seniors be kind of the people to look at and look to, on the field, is going to be pretty fun to take charge and kind of head that," Graves said. "And then also a lot of these guys that haven't seen a lot of reps yet are going to get the opportunity, and I've just seen them working super hard and I'm going to be really excited to see them play."

Outside of that core, there's plenty of opportunity to be had for some new faces.

Guys like linebacker Tyler Flink and corner Trevin Gradney are expected to see their workload increase, and same goes with defensive linemen like Kale Edwards and Noah Kaschmitter.

Plus, there's some unknowns, but excitement around some of the incoming transfers and younger players who round out the Griz defense.

"I think the defense has been going great," Janacaro said. "I think that, the transfers, we've got new guys, we've got young guys, that are stepping into new roles. We got guys that have been here that are stepping into roles with more responsibility and watching them over the past two and a half weeks grow and acclimate to their new roles has been fun to watch and it's been encouraging."

Montana's defense always finds a way to be impactful and one of the best in the FCS.

And this group is confident that they'll pick up where they left off, and not skip a beat.

"I just think that there's a lot of guys that make a lot of plays on defense so I'm just excited to, besides the playmaking, the football part, I feel like we've got a bunch of guys that just love each other so I'm excited to see the celebrations on big plays and everybody celebrating one another and being happy for each other's success," Janacaro said.

Griz offensive players on the 2023 roster by position and number

Defensive line
No. 0, Kale Edwards, R-JR, 6-5, 235 pounds, Coeur D'Alene, ID
No. 46, Wyatt Wegener, R-SO, 6-3, 226 pounds, Algona, IA
No. 47, Kellen Detrick, R-SO, 6-3, 244 pounds, Havre, MT
No. 48, Hayden Harris, R-JR, 6-5, 252 pounds, Mill Creek, WA
No. 56, Garrett Hustedt, R-JR, 6-2, 245 pounds, Omaha, NE
No. 69, Noah Kaschmitter, JR, 6-3, 245 pounds, Grangeville, ID
No. 90, Jareb Ramos, R-FR, 6-4, 265 pounds, Centennial, CO
No. 92, Will Jenkins, FR, 6-5, 220 pounds, Everett, WA
No. 93, Sloan McPherson, R-SO, 6-4, 245 pounds, Savage, MT
No. 94, Brendan Murphy, FR, 6-2, 227 pounds, Seattle, WA
No. 95, Dylan Smith, R-SO, 6-4, 241 pounds, Whitehall, MT
No. 96, Henry Nuce, JR, 6-4, 241 pounds, Kalispell, MT
No. 98, Matai Mata'afa, R-SO, 6-1, 230 pounds, Lahaina, HI
No. 99, Alex Gubner, R-SR, 6-3, 284 pounds, West Hills, CA
NA, Jaxon Tucker, FR, 6-3, 240 pounds, Billings, MT

Linebackers
No. 31, Geno Leonard, R-SO, 5-11, 228 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 33, Carson Rostad, JR, 6-3, 229 pounds, Hamilton, MT
No. 34, Asher Croy, R-SO, 6-0, 225 pounds, Bozeman, MT
No. 35, Braxton Hill, SR, 6-2, 225 pounds, Anaconda, MT
No. 37, Levi Janacaro, R-SR, 6-0, 235 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 38, Marcus Evans, R-FR, 6-0, 226 pounds, Helena, MT
No. 40, Cooper Barnum, JR, 6-2, 222 pounds, Vancouver, WA
No. 42, Riley Wilson, R-SO, 6-2, 224 pounds, Prosper, TX
No. 44, Ryan Tirrell, R-JR, 6-2, 230 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 45, Vincent Genatone, R-FR, 6-1, 218 pounds, North Platte, NE
No. 49, Cooper Walton, R-FR, 6-1, 218 pounds, Johnstown, CO
No. 50, Erich Osteen, R-JR, 6-2, 214 pounds, Simi Valley, CA
No. 52, Cy Stevenson, FR, 6-2, 201 pounds, Libby, MT
No. 54, Tyler Flink, R-SR, 5-11, 225 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 58, Clay Oven, FR, 6-2, 194 pounds, Billings, MT
No. 59, Hayden Opitz, FR, 6-2, 214 pounds, Helena, MT

Safeties
No. 3, TraJon Cotton, R-SR, 6-1, 204 pounds, Sacramento, CA
No. 4, Nash Fouch, R-SR, 6-2, 207 pounds, Woodinville, WA
No. 5, Garrett Graves, R-SR, 6-3, 210 pounds, Eureka, MT
No. 9, David Koppang, R-SR, 6-0, 215 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 10, TJ Rausch, R-SO, 6-3, 203 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 11, Gabe Longin, R-SO, 5-11, 194 pounds, Great Falls, MT
No. 13, Ryder Meyer, R-JR, 5-9, 184 pounds, Fairfield, MT
No. 16, Tanner Barbour, FR, 6-2, 171 pounds, Pullman, WA
No. 17, Kade Boyd, FR, 6-0, 188 pounds, Billings, MT
No. 18, Chase McGurran, R-FR, 6-0, 186 pounds, Helena, MT
No. 19, Padraig Lang, R-SO, 6-1, 186 pounds, Bozeman, MT
No. 25, Jaxon Lee, JR, 6-1, 211 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 32, Tyson Rostad, R-FR, 6-1, 198 pounds, Hamilton, MT

Cornerbacks
No. 2, Ronald Jackson, R-SO, 6-1, 190 pounds, Detroit, MI
No. 6, Lamar Campbell, R-SO, 6-1, 193 pounds, Lacy, WA
No. 7, Jelani Warren, R-JR, 6-0, 194 pounds, Oakland, CA
No. 8, Corbin Walker, SR, 5-11, 183 pounds, Renton, WA
No. 12, Elijah Brady, FR, 6-1, 157 pounds, Seattle, WA
No. 14, Robert Whitehead, SR, 6-1, 182 pounds, El Cajon, CA
No. 27, Trevin Gradney, R-JR, 6-0, 188 pounds, Billings, MT
No. 29, Tanner Huff, R-SO, 6-0, 209 pounds, Butte, MT
No. 39, Jace Klucewich, R-SO, 5-10, 171 pounds, Frenchtown, MT