Two pieces of very good news emerged from the Big Sky Conference annual kickoff held in Spokane that wrapped up this weekend.

Sports Information Director for football Eric Taber shared the news with KGVO on Monday.

“We're over here in Spokane,” began Taber. “It's the Big Sky kickoff and the big news this morning is that the Montana Grizzlies were picked by both the league's media and the coaches to win the (Big Sky Conference) title this year. Coach Houck always talks about the RTD, the return to dominance, that's what he means. That's the place the Montana Grizzlies want to be as number one in the poll, but at the same time, this is just talking, right? We have to go out there because our players and our coaches know that it's the poll at the end of the season that matters.”

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Taber explained the reasons why the University of Montana Grizzlies were picked to win the conference title.

“Montana returns some really good players this year,” he said. “I mean you look at our defense and we’ve got Patrick O’Connell, you’ve got Justin Ford back you've got Robbie Houck as well as a lot of really good players that are coming back. On offense, a lot of people forget about Marcus Knight. A couple of years ago Marcus Knight was breaking school records for touchdowns and he's returned back from his injury now and so we're hoping to have him back.”

Another piece of good news also included Grizzly linebacker Patrick O’Connell.

“The other big news is that just mentioned a second ago that linebacker Patrick O'Connell who was a finalist last year for the Buck Buchanan Award. Well, Patrick was named the league's preseason defensive MVP. He’s a linebacker and that's kind of cool, because four of the last five preseason defensive MVP’s have been Montana linebackers, so it's pretty neat to have Pat earn that distinction. He's a very good player and he's going to have a very good year.”

Taber said the cupboard is full when it comes to good preseason news for the Montana Grizzlies.

“We also have five guys in total picked to be on the preseason team,” he said. “Malik Flowers, our kick return specialist has broken several records, and he's just a star. He's on the preseason, all Big Sky team along with Justin Ford, who I mentioned is a cornerback. He had nine interceptions last year. He's also on the preseason team. Alex Gubner is a defensive tackle and he's a junior this year, so being a preseason pick is a big accolade for him. And then there’s Robbie Houck. Of course, he's poised to become Montana's all time leading tackler his senior season.”

Click here to see the entire All-Big Sky preseason team.

The Grizzlies open their season at home on Labor Day weekend at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 3 as they will host the Northwestern State Demons from Natchitoches, Louisiana.

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