MISSOULA — There's always more work to be done, but so far, so good, for the Montana Grizzlies.
Thursday marked Montana's second practice of the preseason slate.
"We've had our ups and downs," transfer quarterback Wheeler Harris said. "I'm definitely still trying to learn this playbook and all that, but as a group it's a really intense practice. I really like that. It's been good."
Fellow quarterback Cam Humphrey agreed.
"They've been choppy, but so is everyone's first two practices," Humphrey said of the first two days. "We're making strides. We made big strides from (Wednesday) to (Thursday). We're just focusing on getting better each and every day and moving the ball down the field."
Thursday's Griz notebook catches up with four new faces who have ties to Division I football programs.
Junior PK Gabe Peppenger — Montana State
Peppenger is in rare territory. Few football players have made the jump from Montana State to Montana or vice versa in the 100+ years of the two programs. The most notable to switch from the Cats to the Grizzlies was Kalispell's Grady Bennett in the mid-1980s.
"What does he add? Another leg. Hopefully somebody who can put it through the posts and kick it in the end zone," Montana's head coach Bobby Hauck said of bringing Peppenger aboard.
Peppenger was on kickoff, PAT and field goal duty for the Bobcats for the last two seasons. In 2016 and 2017 combined, Peppenger made 98 percent of his PATs, 9 of his 15 field goal attempts and booted his 78 kickoffs for an average of 58.3 yards with 22 touchbacks.
But Missoula is once again home for the Sentinel alumnus.
"It feels pretty great," Peppenger, a business finance major, said of being back in Missoula. "I wanted to play here my whole life, but Bozeman was a great opportunity. Things just didn't work out and this is better for my future here, academically and football wise."
Due to the NCAA's intra-conference transfer rule, Peppenger will sit out the 2018 season, but he's still making the most of the preseason practice slate.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Peppenger knocked down several practice field goals on Thursday and said he's forming friendships with his fellow specialists.
"Being at another school and being rivals, you always kinda get competitive," Peppenger said. "I was skeptical coming in as to how they'd treat me and what kind of relationship we'd have, but these past couple days it's been like I'm one of the team. We're friends now."
Senior S Reid Miller — Arkansas
Miller — a scholarship safety with the Razorbacks — arrived in Montana in June, road tripping for 24 hours from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Missoula.
The 5-foot-9, 202-pound graduate transfer used the extra two months to learn the defense and build up relationships with the rest of the team for his final season of eligibility.
"It's all about relationships when you go to a new place and you meet new people," Miller said. "I've already developed relationships here that will last a lifetime. The guys I've met so far, the guys on the team, they're second-to-none. They're great people. They're good human beings, great football players and it's awesome to go out here and play with them every day."
Miller primarily played on special teams for Arkansas, played in all 12 games as a junior, racking up nine tackles and recovered one fumble. Miller also played in all 13 of Arkansas' games as a sophomore and totaled nine tackles.
He walked on to the Razorback program in 2015 and earned a scholarship from Bret Bielema before his sophomore campaign. Miller earned that scholarship after playing in 12 of Arkansas' 13 games as a true freshman.
"He's a mature individual," Hauck said of Miller. "He's a great guy. He's the kind of guy you want in your locker room, first of all. He's a physical guy."
Hauck added of what Miller can add to the secondary: "Hopefully a lot of plays."
Sophomore QB Cam Humphrey — Boise State by way of Saddleback College
Coming out of Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, Humphrey wanted to find a place that was the right fit.
Montana was just that place.
"Montana hopped on me early and really showed that they cared about me as a player and as a person," Humphrey said. "I took my trip up here and I felt like it was everything I wanted. I really couldn't ask for anything more so I pulled the trigger and here I am."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Humphrey led the Gauchos to an 8-3 record and a playoff berth. He ended the season with 2,187 yards passing with 19 touchdowns for an average of 198.8 yards per game.
"(I've) coached numerous guys over the years out of there. Hopefully he's the next good one," Hauck said of Saddleback and Humphrey.
Before Saddleback, Humphrey took his redshirt at Boise State in 2016. And being back at the Division I level means everything to Humphrey.
"DI is where everyone dreams of being. Going to (junior college), it's definitely a reality check," Humphrey said. "It makes you work for every little thing. You're down there looking up. Being here, it's super exciting and I'm going to take every advantage and every opportunity I can."
And he has. Junior quarterback Dalton Sneed — also a Division I to junior college bounce back — said Humphrey has been a "tremendous competitor."
R-Freshman QB Wheeler Harris — Alabama
These days, programs don't get much better than the University of Alabama. And that's where one of Montana's newest quarterbacks comes from.
Harris walked on to the Alabama program last season ahead of the Crimson Tide's second national title in three years.
"It was a great experience," Harris said of his year at Alabama. "Going from high school to there was a huge jump in pace and how fast guys are. I learned a ton about coverages, playbooks, coaching and things like that. It was good. It was a lot of fun."
Harris said he learned a lot from Tua Tagovailoa, the freshman quarterback who led the Crimson Tide's comeback in the national championship game.
"He's quiet, but he led by example. After every practice every day he would help me with plays, coverages and things like that," Harris said.
Harris, a 6-foot-3, 198-pound pro-style quarterback, said he started talking to Montana in May. Harris already had an existing relationship with UM's offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach. Harris said Rosenbach offered him a spot at Division II Adams State.
"I was just talking with Coach Rosy and Coach Hauck, I liked their trust and they sounded excited," Harris said of his recruiting process. "It was a better fit than any other place I was going to go to. That's why I came here."
He added: "I never actually got a recruiting trip so my first time up here was this past Saturday night."
Sneed's only known Harris for a few days, but he said he likes what he sees from his new teammate.
"I just met Wheeler two days ago, but so far what I've seen from Wheeler, he's hungry to learn," Sneed said Wednesday. He's hungry to learn the offense and everything that's going on."