MISSOULA — Montana’s young offensive line just got more inexperienced.
Sophomore Dylan Eickmeyer is expected to make his first start at center on any level and just his third collegiate start on the offensive line when the Griz take on North Dakota on Saturday. He’ll replace first-year starter Cody Meyer, who left Saturday’s game with an apparent injury.
“He’s played center every day since the start of practice in the spring,” Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said of Eickmeyer. “We just don’t have any depth, so we have a multitude of guys that play multiple positions … The next best player’s got to go in and play any one of those positions.”
The line shuffling comes against a North Dakota team that is heavy on blitzing the quarterback. North Dakota ranks third in the country with 4.2 sacks per game and is tied for fifth with 8.8 tackles for loss per game.
Eickmeyer said staying composed will be the key for him against the Fighting Hawks’ 3-4 defensive front.
“We practice, we know what we’re supposed to do and you just got to believe in what you do, believe in what the coaches give you and just execute it,” Eickmeyer said.
The change also comes as the Griz head into a dome that Hauck expects to be sold out. That means communication, especially of the non-verbal type, will be key.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” Eickmeyer said. “It’s just getting my calls down is the biggest part. Communicating with the whole offensive line, getting everybody set up. Knowing where all of our tasks are, where men are and just running the plays.”
Eickmeyer didn’t play any center in high school and first learned the position during his redshirt season. He was a backup last year and was a substitute in two games, one of which was at center.
This year, Eickmeyer started the first two games at right guard before junior Cy Sirmon took over. He moved to backup center after that.
“I’m very excited,” Eickmeyer said of starting at center. “First few games I started at guard this year, I got the nerves out. But once that first play’s over, you just lock in and you do what you need to do to get the win.”
Three of Montana’s linemen have started all six games: Conlan Beaver at left tackle, Angel Villanueva at left guard and Colton Keintz at right tackle. Sirmon has started the past four at right guard.
Meyer had started at center in all six games this season and is listed as the backup center on the two-deep. Hauck declined to comment on the injury.
Lamarriel Taylor leaves team
Junior wide receiver Lamarriel Taylor has left the team for personal reasons, according to Hauck.
“He had a family deal he had to take off and take care of,” Hauck said.
Hauck added that he doesn’t expect Taylor to return to the team this year.
“He’s got a family crisis he’s dealing with,” Hauck said, emphasizing ‘crisis.’ “It’s a personal issue.”
Taylor played on special teams this season but didn’t record any stats. Last year, he had four receptions for 39 yards to go with one tackle. As a redshirt freshman, he had one catch for 16 yards along with two tackles.
A native of Chula Vista, California, Taylor spent a redshirt season at the University of Massachusetts before coming to Montana.
Jeremy Calhoun’s status unknown
Hauck said after Saturday’s game that running back Jeremy Calhoun had dealt with a “setback” during the week that didn’t allow him to play in the game.
Calhoun is listed as the backup running back this week, but Hauck wasn’t sure on Wednesday of his availability to play in Saturday’s game.
“Like I said last week, I thought he was going to play, and we ended up not putting him in. So, I don’t,” Hauck said when asked if he had an update on Calhoun’s status. “Now, I will tell you if I think they’re going to play or not, which I think he is, but I don’t know.”
In 33 games with the Griz, including one this year, Calhoun has rushed for 1,640 yards and 25 touchdowns. He has 204 receiving yards and one touchdown.