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Montana senior offensive tackle Mike Ralston is playing at his fifth position for the Griz in the past four years. He's currently vying for the starting right tackle position. 

KURT WILSON, Missoulian

MISSOULA — As head football coach Bob Stitt walked into Washington-Grizzly Stadium for Montana’s second day of preseason practice on Wednesday, he donned a maroon shirt with “DOLA” scrawled across the front in white block letters.

DOLA — or Dominant Offensive Line Attitude — has been around the Griz program since before offensive line coach Chad Germer wore the copper and gold as an All-American center from 1989-1991.

“That's even something that started with the guys when I came in as a freshman,” Germer said. “Kinda the way they went about business is something that I really took note on as a young player. It wasn’t just how they played on the field, but their demeanor and their attitude and their tempo. You have to be a go-getter and have a short memory. You gotta be ready to go back to battle and it can’t waiver. The biggest thing is you gotta be consistent.”

The offensive linemen are taking Germer’s coaching and experience to heart.

To them, DOLA means different things, but the commonality in their personal definitions is to not give up on plays before the whistle is blown.

“DOLA means finishing,” senior left tackle David Reese said, “being nasty on the field and giving a ton of effort in everything you do and finishing on the field. Finishing every block violently.”

Senior center Cooper Sprunk had a similar interpretation.

“A nice way it to put it, it’s just being mean on the field,” Sprunk said. “Just finishing every play. Trying to get into a fight with the other guy, but making him more mad at you, I guess. Germer would say ‘be a (jerk),’ basically. I think it’s playing with a chip on your shoulder, honestly, having that drive inside you being ‘I’m not gonna let this guy beat me, and if he does, he’s gonna have to work his butt off.’ Honestly, even after the whistle a little bit, just finishing your block and make sure they know that you’re there all game.”

Recently, the tenacity the Griz offensive linemen were known for hasn’t manifested like it used to, but this season DOLA is making a resurgence.

“We’re doing it more in practice, getting in shape for it, just being able to do it every game,” Sprunk said. “If you do it every other play, it’s not really being DOLA. You have to do it every single play of every single game. Every drill too.”

Through the first week of practice, Germer said he’s happy with the energy his offensive linemen have put into everything.

And that high level of energy has a direct influence on DOLA.

“It’s something that’s gotta be consistent,” Germer said. “It’s gotta be something that’s a part of the way they go about their business all the time. You can’t flip it on and off. It’s gotta be part of what they are and that’s a constant, constant reminder of the responsibilities they have being an offensive lineman at Montana and the reputation of the people who’ve played it before them and what they’ve gotta live up to.”

***

On a position-by-position basis, the offensive line is as experienced as it’s been in years.

At left tackle, Reese has started 35 straight games. That’s the longest active streak of any player on Montana’s roster.

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Next to Reese, redshirt-sophomore Angel Villanueva started all 11 games last season.

“Angel, I’d call him a senior at this point,” Sprunk said, laughing. “He’s started more games than I have.”

Sprunk’s been the go-to guy at center since Ben Weyer sustained an injury early last season.

Next to Sprunk at right guard is senior Robert Luke. He didn’t start last season, but he started all 13 games in 2015 at center.

The right tackle battle is currently between redshirt-senior Mike Ralston and redshirt-freshman Thayne Jackson. Ralston is new to the offensive line, but his experience at other positions, like tight end, defensive end and wide receiver, are playing in his favor.

“He’s steadily improved every practice,” Germer said. “The fact that he’s been around it, in the program for so long and playing the other positions can actually help him, even though he hasn’t played offensive line all the way through. He’s played tight end and to play that, you need to know what your tackles are doing. And playing D-line has given a pretty good reflection as what the defense is trying to get accomplished as he’s trying to block them.”

But even with the offensive line’s experience, Sprunk touts their relationship as being even more valuable.

“We’re really good friends with each other,” Sprunk said. “We just kinda mesh together really well and know what each other’s gonna do. We really mesh together as brothers instead of teammates.”

DOLA  — and the rest of the Griz — get back into action on Monday with the first scrimmage of the preseason at 4 p.m. in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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