MISSOULA — Depth is always a must-have in football at every position, and the Montana Grizzlies were in need of that at offensive line last season.
They didn't have to look far to fill that need. Before fall camp began, the Griz coaching staff switched Journey Grimsrud from the defensive line over to offense, and the learning curve quickly began.
"It wasn't new totally, but it was a change that's for sure," Grimsrud said with a laugh.
The Huntley Project product and rising redshirt sophomore was thrown into the fire as he learned his new position at right guard.
While he had experience on the offensive line from high school, he still had plenty to figure out, and it was a crash course in the fall.
"It was rough and I kind of felt like I had a time crunch just in case I had to play, which ended up happening, so I'm glad I took it serious and learned everything," Grimsrud said. "The coaches are just phenomenal, and those upper classmen who helped me out and told me pretty much everything even during the games so it worked out."
Physically, Grimsrud was tasked with putting on about 30 pounds to get bigger, and he currently weighs 290 pounds. Mentally, the learning curve and combating nerves was also an obstacle.
"It was nerve-wracking, so just have to try not to think about people watching and what people think and try and stick to what you know and make it happen," Grimsrud said. "Coaching-wise just the learning of everything. There's just so much to learn switching up, and then just player-wise, talk to (center) AJ (Forbes) about our double teams and (right tackle) Brandon (Casey) about our double teams and then during the game actually talking about it and figuring it out kind of as it went along, but it all ended up working out pretty well."
It proved to be the right move at the right time.
When the season got underway, UM's offensive line dealt with injuries midway through the year, so Grimsrud got the chance to play early, but eventually slid into the starting role and never let go, as he started six games for the Griz last season. After guard Liam Brown was injured against Idaho State, Grimsrud found himself thrown into heavy minutes, and he ran with it.
It took a long time to feel any sort of comfort at the position, but as the season went on he took advantage of his opportunity at each turn.
"Meant a lot for sure," Grimsrud said. "Growing up, you know, just trying to get to the college level and then getting here and working your way up, and then finally getting a shot and it kind of pays off and it means a lot for sure.
"It was kind of a confidence booster for sure. Kind of getting the trust and camaraderie by the older guys and kind of just getting thrown in and making it happen."
Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said Grimsrud had the size and athleticism to make the change, and took to the position once he got his feet under him.
"It's so different technically, and then you've got to learn the offense too so the learning curve is really steep," Hauck said. "And so the first couple of weeks were really uphill for him, but then once he settled in and knew what he was doing, then it became understand the game plan, know the calls that are on the call sheet, and keep refining technique and he's done that throughout.
"He did it through the season, he's done it this winter and watching him this spring you wouldn't know he wasn't a veteran at the position."
Not to mention having a player willing to switch it up to help the team as needed.
"I think we have a good team and the team concept and doing what's best for the team is not lost on anybody," Hauck said. "When you have a lot of guys that feel that way, and Journey probably exemplifies that, then you have a chance to have a good football team."
With spring football winding down for the Grizzlies, Grimsrud has used this time to hone his craft and continue to grow heading into next season.
"Get my footwork down and be confident," Grimsrud said. "I've got so much of the small stuff still to perfect I guess like footwork and tempo and learning everything and all of it really so still have a long way to go but got time.
"I just want to be able to play as confident as I can and have no stress during these games because that was the issue last year but just keep getting better and being confident."