HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Montana State.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Big Sky (MSU finished T4th in 2018)
COACH: Jeff Choate – At School: 4th year (17-18) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2018 (Second Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 28.5 ppg (52nd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 28.5 ppg (65th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 16 @ UC Davis: At this point in the season, we expect both of these teams to be nationally ranked and in the hunt for a playoff seed. This is a matchup that will shake up the Big Sky Conference standings and impact the playoff field.
SUM IT UP: The Bobcats returned to the national picture last season with their first playoff appearance since 2014. It's a spot where a program like Montana State belongs. Now, this team wants to take it a step further than a second-round exit.
With eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense, the expectations are massive in Bozeman. We at HERO Sports have the Bobcats preseason ranked No. 14. And on our preseason All-American teams, three Bobcats make an appearance: linebacker Troy Andersen, offensive lineman Mitch Brott and running back Isaiah Ifanse.
The roster is loaded with talent and experience. But the No. 1 storyline surrounding the 2019 squad that is being talked about ad nauseam is who the starting quarterback will be. Chris Murray started in 2016 and 2017 before sitting out in 2018 due to academic issues. It was announced last month that Murray would not be returning to the team because of those same academic issues. In stepped Andersen last year and he went on to be an All-Big Sky First Team quarterback. But the hope is he'll return to his more natural position at linebacker while also getting some touches on offense.
That is if redshirt freshman Casey Bauman or sophomore Tucker Rovig can earn the coaching staff's trust as QB1. Both were highly-touted recruits, are 6-foot-5 and more traditional quarterbacks than the running styles of Murray and Andersen. Rovig looked impressive in a start versus Wagner last year, throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns before he got hurt and Andersen returned behind center.
If MSU wants to take that next step, it needs to threaten a defense more with its passing attack. The rest of the offense is solid with one of the top offensive lines in the Big Sky returning four starters, Ifanse rushing for 1,025 yards last year as a freshman and Kevin Kassis being an extremely underrated wide receiver.
On defense, the unit looks to be much stronger than its 28.5 points allowed a game last year indicates. Adding Andersen to a defense that features Braydon Konkol, the team's leading tackler last year, is a scary duo. Bryce Sterk was a big disrupter last year with 17 tackles for loss and the secondary has a ton of starting experience.
All three starting specialists are back as well with kicker Tristan Bailey, punter Jered Padmos and long snapper Logan MacDonald.
OUR TAKE: The Bobcats have a chance to do some special things in 2019. Not only does the starting lineup remain mostly intact, but the schedule is quite favorable. Opening the season at FBS Texas Tech will be a challenge. But they have a good shot to go 3-0 against FCS nonconference opponents versus Southeast Missouri State, who also made the second round last year, at Western Illinois and versus Norfolk State. Then in the Big Sky, the Bobcats avoid Eastern Washington and Weber State, two playoff seeds last year. They also get Montana at home. Not only would missing the playoffs be a massive disappointment for MSU, but this team could earn a playoff seed if it avoids letdown performances.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./LB Troy Andersen (HERO Sports Preseason 1st Team AA, started at QB last year)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./OL Mitch Brott (HERO Sports Preseason 2nd Team AA); So./RB Isaiah Ifanse (HERO Sports Preseason 3rd Team AA, 1,025 yards rushing and 7 TDs); Jr./OL Lewis Kidd (HERO Sports Sophomore AA); So./OL Connor Wood (HERO Sports Freshman AA); Sr./DE Bryce Sterk (All-Conference 2nd Team, 17 TFLs and 8.5 sacks); Sr./DB Greg Filer (All-Conference HM, 8 PBUs); Sr./S Jahque Alleyne (All-Conference HM, led Big Sky with 5 INT); Sr./S Brayden Konkol (All-Conference HM, top tackler with 93); Sr./WR Kevin Kassis (55 rec. for 663 yards and 3 TDs)
TOP NEWCOMER: Sr./DL Jason Scrempos (Washington grad transfer, 6-foot-6 and 299 pounds, played in eight games last year)
THE QUOTE: "I thought the offense moved the ball pretty good once we got into the play-it period. In that first play-it period the offense moved the ball right down the field, did some nice things after a little bit of a shaky start in the red zone period. I thought Tucker (Rovig) did some nice things." — head coach Jeff Choate said after the spring game
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Montana State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Big Sky
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast