MISSOULA – Fans turned their attention back to Montana Grizzly football this week, as fall camp kicked off. One player, though, has created the biggest buzz going into this season, and for many very different reasons.
Star linebacker Josh Buss received nearly every honor possible. The Big Sky Conference picked him preseason defensive player of the year, and he joined the Buck Buchanan and Butkus Award watch lists.
But the Grizzlies also don’t know when the senior from Boise will be able to play. He sat out spring practice after shoulder surgery. Another undisclosed injury has Buss watching drills from the sideline, wearing a no-contact blue jersey.
Neither he nor head coach Bobby Hauck will give any details. MTN Sports had the following exchange with Buss after Montana’s first practice.
MTN Sports: “How do you feel right now? How are things going?”
Buss: “I feel good. That’s all I’m going to say. Sorry. I feel good though.”
MTN Sports: “Do you have a target in mind? Is there a timetable at all for (any return)?”
Buss: “I can’t comment on that. Sorry.”
“He’s got some injury problems, so that’s going to be in flux,” said Hauck. “You’re going to be able to ask him that question every day for a long time.”
With Buss out, linebacker suddenly becomes a position of concern for the Grizzlies, who have no other returning starters. Montana expects junior Dante Olson to become a star, but the Griz will need a couple more ‘backers to step up soon.
Griz fans have plenty of new faces and new coaches to learn heading into a new season, but even the returning players everyone remembers might find themselves in new roles if they don’t produce in fall camp.
Hauck inherited a team with five returning starters on offense and five on defense. But the coach says he won’t pay attention to game film from past seasons. He and his veteran coaching staff will only trust what they have seen since they arrived in Missoula.
“It’s all a clean slate,” stated the coach. “I mean, obviously winter conditioning, spring ball, summer training all play into that. Ground Zero starting in December, so everybody’s either gaining ground or losing ground daily between then and now. We know we’re short-handed on the offensive line, we know we’re short at linebacker, and we know we’re short in the secondary, so time to step up.”
Hauck liked what he saw on Day 2 of camp, saying Thursday’s practice looked a lot sharper than the first time on the field Wednesday.
Montana continues to work through the heat of the day with afternoon practices through the weekend. The Griz will take their first day off on Monday.