MISSOULA — For college football fans, the holiday season came early on Wednesday with the early signing period for college football players. And the Montana Grizzlies added 12 new players to their program on Wednesday, 10 of whom hail from the Treasure State.
A Montana-heavy class is what the Grizzlies were looking for, and they got just that on Wednesday with their signees.
"We've always, always emphasized starting our recruiting here in Montana," Griz coach Bobby Hauck said. "We have extremely high regard for the coaches in the state. We like who these kids are coming out of these small towns or some of the bigger towns, I mean, there aren't real big towns in Montana. So we think they have the right mettle about them and have a chance to be successful."
Helena High produced 3 signees in quarterback Kaden Huot, linebacker Marcus Evans and wide receiver/safety Chase McGurran, while the the Grizzlies also stayed out west and locally in Missoula with Missoula Hellgate's Ian Finch, a wide receiver, Missoula Sentinel tight end Joe Weida and Glacier's Patrick Rohrbach, a punter and kicker.
Hamilton's Tyson Rostad, Polson's Braunson Henriksen and Laurel's Beau Dantic were the Class A signees and Jefferson's Joey Visser rounded out the Montana crew. Rostad, who played quarterback and defensive back for the Broncs on their way to winning the Class A title in 2021, was recruited as an athlete as was Dantic. Henriksen was recruited as a defensive lineman while Visser was recruited as a safety.
Rostad also joins his older brother, Carson, who is a linebacker for UM. Evans' older brother, Zac, is a defensive lineman with the Grizzlies while Weida's father, JC, is the head athletic trainer at UM.
Eli Gilman, a running back from Minnesota, and Sam Alford, a wide receiver from Utah, rounded out the class as a whole. Alford joins his older brother, Eli, who is a defensive tackle with the Grizzlies.
Griz running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Justin Green said there's a special element to recruiting local players to their program.
"You're recruiting a young man who's been wanting to go to Montana since he was knee-high," Green said. "He wanted to be here and when he got the opportunity to be here he did everything he could to be here. No one may know him outside the parameters of the state but they become household names quickly because they love this place they've been wanting to come to this place and here they are to show that. That's worth recruiting."
Sentinel's Zac Crews, one of the state's top recruits who verbally committed to Montana in August, did not sign with the Griz on Wednesday.
MTN Sports was told that Crews is still weighing his options, but this comes in the wake of an unearthed Venmo post from 2020 that Crews made that contained a racial slur that received heavy backlash on social media over the Thanksgiving holiday. The message that was posted was from former Griz player Brennan Corbin who brought the comment to Twitter, resulting in many voicing their displeasure with Crews.
Crews has since publicly apologized for his comments, but has not signed with UM as that remains unclear going forward.
The early signing period ends on Friday. The regular signing period begins on Feb. 2, 2022. The Grizzlies recently ended their season at 10-3 after falling to James Madison in the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs.
The following is a breakdown of Montana's 2021 early signing period class from Wednesday from a UM media release:
2022 Early Signing Period Bios
1: Sam Alford, WR, 6-3, 190, Park City, Utah / Park City HS
2022: An early graduate of Park City High School, Alford will join the team in time for spring drills in 2022.
High School: Named a three-star wide receiver… Led Park City to their first playoff victory as a 5A School after bumping up from 4A… A key player on offense with 347 yards receiving and three touchdowns as a senior… Averaged over 15 yards per catch in 2021… Finished his high school career with 39 catches for 730 yards and seven touchdown catches… Also served on kick return teams to bring his career all-purpose yards total to 890.
Personal: Late father, Aaron, was a coach at Southern Utah, Western Illinois, Wyoming, Akron and Utah… Uncle is Coach Tony Alford, RBs Coach at Ohio State… Brother, Eli, plays on the D-Line at UM… had offers from Air Force, Army, Dartmouth and Idaho.
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Sam is a big framed outside receiver that runs and catches well, and goes and gets the ball. He also has family ties to our program with his brother Eli playing on our defense, so we're glad to have him here at UM."
2: Beau Dantic, ATH, 5-9, 173, Laurel, Mont. / Laurel HS
2022: Dantic will join the Grizzlies as a true freshman in the fall of '22.
High School: Named First Team All-Conference at Running Back in 2021 and 2020, as well as First Team All-Conference Outside Linebacker in 2021 and Second Team in 2020… Led Laurel to a state title in 2020, and a 17 game win streak from 2020-21… Rushed for 1,629 yards and scored 22 TDs during his career… Also received interest from Montana State, Carroll College, and University of Mary
Personal: Son of Brian and Toni Dantic… Has a sister, Kaitlyn… Great-Grandfather, Robert, played at UM from 1952-54… Great-Uncle, Brad, suited up for the Griz from 1980-83... Will be one of just 12 Laurel graduates to play for UM… Major is undeclared, has an interest in both sports medicine and business
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Beau is a good, versatile athlete, has good tape, and is good with the ball in his hands. I think he's one of the better players in the state of Montana, so I think he's a good get."
3: Marcus Evans, LB, 6-0, 190, Helena, Mont. / Helena HS
2022: Evans will enroll at UM in the fall of 2022.
High School: Named First Team All-State Linebacker and Special Teams in 2021 and Second Team linebacker in 2020... Led Helena High to a 9-3 record and a playoff appearance, leading the team in tackles with 130 as well as 3 sacks... Also rushed for 477 yards and 6 TDs as a running back in 2021
Personal: Parents are Scott and Krista Evans of Helena, Mont.... Plans to study exercise science at UM... Brother, Zac, plays Defensive Line for the Griz... Also received interest from Montana State, Montana Western, and Carroll College.
Quoting Coach Hauck: "We're excited about Marcus. He brings toughness to the field every time he takes it. He comes from a football family with his dad coaching at Helena High, and his brother Zac is already on our team."
4: Ian Finch, WR, 6-3, 195, Missoula, Mont. / Hellgate HS
2022: Set to join the team as a true freshman in the fall of '22.
High School: Named First Team All-State Receiver in 2021 and 2020… Eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving for the Knights as a senior, with 14 touchdown receptions… A three-year starter, Finch recorded 162 receptions and 28 TDs in his career… Also started for Hellgate at Free Safety… Lettered in Basketball and Track
Personal: Son of Dan and Leslie Finch… Has a younger brother, Jacob… Also received interest from Montana Tech and Carroll College
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Ian came to our summer camp and was just a great player. He made all kinds of plays this fall and is good at going up and getting the ball in traffic He's a quality outside receiver and a terrific guy."
5: Eli Gilman, RB, 6-0, 200, Cokato, Minn. / Dassel-Cokato HS
2022: Gilman is set to enroll at the University of Montana as a true freshman in the fall of '22.
High School: A two-time All-District RB… Accounted for 43 TDs during his senior season and ran for more than 1,900 yards… Led Dassel-Cokato to their first undefeated season and state championship in program history… Named one of the 10 finalists for the Minnesota "Mr. Football" Award… Totaled 21 touchdowns and 1,585 total yards in 2019 as a sophomore. Went on to total 1,205 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns in eight games as a junior… Also lettered in basketball for the Chargers.
Personal: Son of Brian and Dawn Gillman… One of five children… Brother, Monte, plays football for Dassel-Cokato… Also held offers from Central Michigan, Northern Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Georgetown, and Dartmouth, with interest from Iowa.
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Eli is another kid who came to camp this summer and he really looked the part. He's got great film and was a player of the year in his conference. We're excited to get him here to Missoula."
6: Braunson Henriksen, DL, 6-5, 230, Polson, Mont. / Polson HS
2022: Expected to enroll at UM in the fall of '22 and join the team for fall camp
High School: Named First Team All-State and All-Conference Defensive End in 2021, as well as Second Team All-State in 2020… Recorded 19.5 TFLs, 8 Sacks, and an interception as a Senior Defensive Lineman for the Pirates, leading the team to a 10-1 record and a playoff run… Also started on the Offensive Line for the Pirates… Earned letters in basketball as well
Personal: Son of Nicole Camel. Has a younger brother, Brock, and a younger sister, Josie…Also received interest from Montana State and Montana Western
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Braunson showed up and played really well at our camp last summer and has developed his level of play over the past 12 months. He had a really nice fall so we're excited to have him."
7: Kaden Huot, QB, 6-4, 200, Helena, Mont. / Helena HS
2022: Will join the team for fall camp in '22
High School: Three-time All-State selection dating back to 2019… Named First-Team All-State in 2021… A three-star prospect, Huot was the top-ranked recruit in the state of Montana… Rewrote the Helena High record books with many milestones, including career offensive yardage and passing TDs, with 6,977 and 61, respectively… Led the Bengals to a 9-3 record and a deep playoff run in his senior season under center.
Personal: Son of Tony and Julie Huot… Has a sister, Taylor… Dad and Uncle Cory, both played football for Oregon State in the 90s… Also received interest from Oregon State, Fresno State, and North Dakota State
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Kaden is a good athlete. He's got all kinds of ability to run and can make all the throws. He's the best quarterback in the state and we're excited he decided to come to Montana."
8: Chase McGurran, S, 6-0, 175, Helena, Mont. / Helena HS
2022: Will join the team in the fall of '22.
High School: First Team All-State Defensive Back and Second Team Receiver in 2021, with Second Team honors on Defense in 2020, … A key member of Helena High's defense, recording 75 career tackles and 6 interceptions… Made an impact on offense as well, with 54 catches for 777 yards and 10 TDs as a senior
Personal: Brother, Ty McGurran, also played football at Helena High and Currently plays for Montana Tech… Also received interest from Montana Tech and Carroll College.
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Chase is the third player off Helena High's team. They had a great season. Chase is a guy that really came on his senior year. He was great in our passing tournament, he was great in our summer camp, and then he played really well this fall."
9: Patrick Rohrbach, K/P, 5-11, 157, Kalispell, Mont. / Glacier HS
2022: Will join the Griz in time for fall camp in '22.
High School: Three-time All-State honoree as a Kicker and Punter for the Wolfpack, dating back to 2019… First freshman ever to letter in football for Glacier High… Kicked a 51-yard field goal during his senior season against Butte High.
Personal: Son of Kelly and Suzy Rohrbach… Has a Brother, Klaus… Initially intended to play quarterback for the Wolfpack, transitioned to kicker and punter after a strong showing as a freshman.
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Pat came to our specialists camp and was just terrific. Kicking off, kicking, and punting it, he's the best guy I've seen in Montana in a long, long time."
10: Tyson Rostad, ATH, 6-1, 195, Hamilton, Mont. / Hamilton HS
2022: Will come to Missoula and enroll at UM in the fall of '22.
High School: First Team All-State and All-Conference Quarterback and Safety for Hamilton in 2021… Led the Broncs to a perfect 11-0 and a Class A state championship… Passed for over 2,000 yards and 27 TDs as a senior, as well as adding 18 rushing TDs in 2021
Personal: Son of Craig and Lanell Rostad… Brother, Carson, is a linebacker for the Griz
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Tyson is a two-way player at Hamilton who had a great season, and played against Beau Dantic in the Class A state championship game. He's going to play on the defensive side of the ball, and he looks the part. He's a tough kid."
11: Joey Visser, S, 6-1, 175, Boulder, Mont. / Jefferson HS
2022: Will join the team in the fall of '22.
High School: Named Second Team All-Conference Defensive Back in 2020… A key two-way starter for a Jefferson team that finished 5-3 in the regular season and made a deep run into the class B playoffs … also lettered in basketball.
Personal: Played Baseball for the Helena Reps in the spring… Plans to study Criminology and Criminal Science
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Joey really showed up in our summer camp. He was great in all the drill work, and he's got the ability to go get the ball. We liked his willingness to tackle on his high school film, so we're glad he's joining us."
12: Joe Weida, TE, 6-4, 225, Missoula, Mont. / Sentinel HS
2022: Set to join the team for fall camp in '22.
High School: First Team All-State Tight End in 2021… Caught 20 passes and 4 TDs in 10 games as a senior for the Spartans… A key player on offense for Sentinel's second consecutive state championship in 2021.
Personal: Son of JC and Renn Weida… Has two sisters, Isabella and Maggie, and a brother, Ezra… Father, JC, is the head athletic trainer in the Grizzly Athletics Department.
Quoting Coach Hauck: "Joe is a guy who has really emerged. You don't see a lot of high school Tight Ends that show-up. He kept showing up. He really improved from his sophomore year, and this year he was a major player in Sentinel's state championship.