GRIZ GRIT: First Impressions of Pflugrad

By Beacon Staff

A change of regime – a head coaching change in this case – at the top of any organization ultimately requires a change in routine, focus and sometimes even personnel.

The tenure of new head football coach Robin Pflugrad at the helm of the University of Montana football program is no different.

And while he has enjoyed a lengthy and successful career in various capacities as a D-I football assistant, this is Plfugrad’s first opportunity to put his imprint on a program and incorporate what he’s learned in stops at Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon.

Those positions came since leaving Don Read’s UM staff after the 1994 campaign, after working with quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers before being named assistant head coach for the final three years of his tenure.

Pflugrad, of course, returned to Missoula to join Bobby Hauck’s staff last season as the wide receivers’ coach.

And while it is his inaugural head job, it’s not for a lack of trying to gain the top position.

Pflugrad interviewed and reportedly was a leading contender both when Joe Glenn and Hauck were hired and beat out a strong contingent of applicants to secure the job this time around.

While the team’s offensive philosophy has yet to be revealed, suffice it to say when you have an All-American running back like Chase Reynolds, recently named to the Walter Peyton watch list, and a veteran returning senior quarterback like Andrew Selle, any coaching staff is going to get them the ball and let them perform.

But there is one thing for certain in the days before fall practice begins: players better be on their game, as the eyes of this veteran coaching staff expects nothing less than 100 percent focus, enthusiasm and performance.

That’s not to imply that wasn’t true of Hauck’s staff, but with a new group there are no givens and the price of poker has substantially increased.

After spring practice there were a dozen or so scholarship players who either were encouraged to take their wares elsewhere or who took the cue themselves and left the program.

Part of that I’m told by a senior member of the coaching staff was the increased tenor of practice, which focused on complete attentiveness and game-type speed with little chance of taking a play off.

And as with any change, some players either didn’t like it, saw the writing on the wall as far as playing time was concerned or even didn’t like the manner of their position coach.

Of course, players leaving the program opened up additional scholarships which enabled the program to attract some D-I dropdowns, who rules now require to have two years of eligibility remaining, and junior college transfers, who may have needed summer school to complete their associate degrees and qualify through the NCAA Clearing House.

Some of the transfers will be called upon to immediately contribute and ply for starting roles while others will back up at key positions as they work their way into the program.

One thing is for certain, with road games against Cal Poly and Eastern Washington in two of the first three weeks, this is a national runner-up program that needs to hit the ground running with little time for adjustment.

The bar is set high as are expectations and anticipations. So let Plfu Time begin.