MISSOULA — Bobby Hauck's first recruiting class back at the helm of Montana is finally complete.
Half of the class signed their National Letter of Intent during the inaugural Early Signing Period in December, while the other half signed on Wednesday's National Signing Day.
"I'm excited about the class," Hauck said at a press conference Wednesday. "You can see there's a lot of Montana kids in here. A lot of size, a lot of big frame guys. We feel good about this group, certainly most of the guys who are going to play for us in the fall are guys that are already in our locker room but this was a good haul for us and it speaks well to lend you to say the future is bright in Grizzly football."
Eleven players — including Loyola Sacred Heart's David Koppang — signed their NLIs on Thursday.
Of those 11, four are transfers — including Hauck's son Robby — and seven are high school prospects.
"Transfers, all of them are brought in to compete," Hauck said. "Everybody's going to get a chance to compete in the fall, including freshmen, but the vast majority of the freshmen will redshirt. Generally speaking, the more true freshmen you play, probably you haven't recruited well in the past. We're counting on the transfer guys. We didn't bring them here to sit."
David Koppang & 'local guys'
Koppang, a second-generation Griz football player and multi-sport athlete at Loyola Sacred Heart, put the the pen to paper on Wednesday to make his commitment to Montana official.
"It's a relief," Koppang told 406mtsports.com. "It makes me that much more excited for the future. I want to get it started. I want this school year to fly by so I can get there as fast as I can."
Koppang is the third Missoula native to ink with Montana in this recruiting class.
Big Sky's Levi Janacaro and Sentinel's Germer signed in December.
"I think it means a lot because all three of us grew up Griz fans and we know what the Griz tradition's about. It's winning," Koppang said. "We all know that and it's nice to ... be lucky enough to have one of those attitudes, let alone we have three coming in. It's really nice to have three kids from in town know what Griz football is all about."
On Wednesday, Hauck said having hometown kids on the roster is definitely a good thing.
"It's fun to have local guys," Hauck said. "That's not always the case. Just historically here. I can go back to the '80s, all right, in terms of sometimes there's some kids from Missoula to recruit and sometimes not.
"And just Montana kids in general, obviously Missoula kids fall into that subset, but we are going to take every Montana kid that we can get that we think can help us win a championship. And then we'll go elsewhere."
Robby Hauck & the safeties scenario
Robby is one of two incoming transfer safeties that Montana brought in. The other is Gavin Robertson out of Auburn Mountainview in Auburn, Washington — the same high school as Gresch Jensen — by way of Arizona.
The reason Montana took two transfer safeties is because there's minimal depth at the position.
"Both Robby and Gavin are guys I think will have good careers here," Hauck said. "Both are physical players. We're really short handed at safety.
Excluding the two incoming freshmen safeties, there were only three on the roster after last season after half the position group — Korey Alexander, Justin Strong and Mick Delaney — ran out of eligibility.
The dwindling safety depth was a problem against Weber State. Going into the game, Strong was serving a two game suspension and Delaney was injured. And in the first half, Alexander was booted for a targeting call.
"We were drastically underpersonnelled at the safety spot," Hauck said.
But not everything is full sails ahead, for Robby, at least not yet.
Bobby said in the press conference that Robby's transfer from Northern Arizona hasn't been cleared yet.
"Even though we took those two, Robby's still got some eligibility issues with the NCAA, so we'll have to see if common sense prevails there or not," Hauck said. "That's not always the case."
He added: "When we ended up taking the job, there's no way he was going to stay at NAU. ... That just wasn't tenable for him down there, no matter how much he loved the coaches. He loved the school. He loved the town."
Regardless of eligibility for next season, Robby is the second coach's son in this recruiting class. Chad Germer's son, Nick, signed his NLI back in December.
Bobby said he took the notion of coaching his son seriously.
"I've actually consulted a little bit with some friends of mine that have done the same thing," he said. "If he was a quarterback, I think I would have put the kibosh on that. I don't think we would have done that."
Other notable takeways:
Champions Center effect
Recruit after recruit credited the newly-built Champions Center for aiding them in making their decision to commit to Montana.
Hauck said the Champions Center is the biggest change in his recruiting process.
"The addition of the end zone facility, we used to recruit to the plan for it," Hauck said. "Now they actually have it, they can walk through it. That certainly is a great, big thing for us.
"... We've gotta get back to where we're recruiting against the Mountain West teams and that building gives us, facility-wise, a chance to do that."
But the facility is more than just a recruiting tool.
"From a functional standpoint, it's, in terms of getting the job done and winning football games, it helps a tremendous amount too," Hauck said. "Whether it's the locker room, the weight room, the meetings rooms, that we utilize every single day.
"The stadium's beautiful and while we were here before we expanded it twice. That was great, but the stuff where our players spend 95 percent of their time was substandard. So the ability to have that for our team gives us the ability in terms of player development, the education piece, all those things, it's compelling."
Not only is the safeties' room depleted, the defensive backs unit as a whole is lacking depth. There are currently five cornerbacks on the roster after Markell Sanders left the team in December. No corners were taken in this class.
To circumvent that depth issue, Hauck said that Montana will "have to" flip some wide receivers.
"There's going to have to be some shifting," Hauck said. "Some guys can and some guys can't. That will be determined during spring ball. We can't determine that when we're lifting weights or running around.
"... There's going to be a lot of shifting around on our roster. We can't have good players sitting around watching other good players."