UMW News BureauThe University of Montana Western Bulldogs opened spring football drills on Wednesday, March 14 under second-year head coach Ryan Nourse. The Bulldogs finished last season with a 2-9 overall record (2-8 conference) and look to improve on that record in 2012. By Lowell Peterson The University of Montana Western Bulldogs opened spring football drills on Wednesday, March 14 under second-year head coach Ryan Nourse. The Bulldogs finished last season with a 2-9 overall record (2-8 conference) and look to improve on that record in 2012. Nourse added former Montana State Bobcat Clay Bignell as the new linebacker coach and made some coaching assignment changes for next season. Sean McKinney has been assigned to coach the running backs, tight ends and H-backs. Wes Warren will be the defensive line coach and Jason Thier will coach the defensive backs. Montana Western graduated six seniors from both the offensive and defensive two-deep list. Key losses are quarterback Zach McRae, running back Charlie Dotson (the record holder for rushing attempts in a season with 197 set last year), nose tackle Peni Tuifua and punter Deryk Van Zee. The Bulldogs return eight players who saw extensive time on offense and five on defense last season. Key returning players are running back TJ Leep (Bozeman, Mont.), wide receiver Rashad Peniston (Graham, Wash.), offensive lineman Matt Rundle (Butte, Mont.), defensive back Jesse McCloud (Manhattan, Mont.), linebackers Ryan Otto (Great Falls, Mont.) and Kasey Griffith (Emmett, Idaho), defensive lineman Phil Selin (Great Falls, Mont.) and kicker Yim Sribenjakul (Superior, Mont.). Redshirt players showing promise in spring practice so far are quarterback Matt Lickfold (Post Falls, Idaho), nose tackle Jake Lippel (Graham, Wash.), defensive end Dylan Donahue (Billings, Mont.), running back Tyrell Braun (Weiser, Idaho) and wide receiver Jordan Pastras (Post Falls, Idaho). With the graduation of McRae, this spring features a battle for the starting quarterback position between senior Jeff Logan (Graham, Wash.), sophomore Tyler Hulse (Helena, Mont.) and redshirt freshman Matt Lickfold. Coach Nourse said his focus this spring will be on competition, skill base development at all positions, finding the best 11 players on each side of the ball and building a strong, unified team. The offense will focus on the vertical passing game, executing the team’s base schemes at a high rate of speed and developing a fundamental base for all positions. The defense will focus on tackling and playing assignment football. Spring practice will conclude with a scrimmage game on Saturday, April 21 at Vigilante Field in Dillon, Mont. at 12 p.m.