Rob Ash knows that there will be plenty missing from Montana State’s 2012 Big Sky Conference Championship team when the Bobcat football team opens spring drills on Tuesday afternoon in Bobcat Stadium.
He prefers to focus on what is present.
“The exciting part about spring is that wherever the vacant positions are in the spring is where the excitement is,” Ash said. “The guys that are competing to replace Zach Minter up front or Darius Jones at the corner are champing at the bit to get going. They see an open spot, they see playing time, they see the opportunity to be a starter.”
Ash likes his stable of young returners across the board, and says the position battles he most looks forward to watching are on the defensive line and the offensive line, and in the secondary. He also cites the definition of roles for transfers Tanner Roderick at receiver and Ijumaa Armstrong at cornerback as keys in the spring.
But what he’s most excited for is the return of a trio of skill position offensive stars and the core of a young offensive line.
“It’s always great to have a returning starter at quarterback, but a player as accomplished and experienced as DeNarius (McGhee, MSU’s fourth-year starting quarterback) is rare,” Ash said in a news release from Montana State University. “He really sets the tone on offense, but we have experienced receivers in Tanner Bleskin and Jon Ellis and a really productive running back in Cody Kirk. But any of those guys will tell you it starts up front, and we’re excited about our offensive line returners, as well. John Weidenaar at left tackle is the only player we have penciled into a certain spot, but we know Quinn Catalano and Kyle Godecke and Matthew Devereux will play. It’s just a matter of determining where.”
It’s rare that a defense can lose one player who was the Buck Buchanan Award winner in the previous season and another who was the Big Sky Defensive MVP, but that’s the Bobcats’ plight without defensive end Caleb Schreibeis and linebacker Jody Owens. All-Big Sky choices Joel Fuller (safety) and Zach Minter (tackle) are also gone, but a strong linebacker corps featuring the man Ash tabs as a strong choice to succeed Owens on the honor roll, Na’a Moeakiola, returns.
“We have a lot of experience returning on defense,” Ash says. “Who will replace the productivity of Minter and Owens and Schreibeis? That’s what we’ll try to determine starting this spring.”
Montana State practices Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 pm each week, along with Saturdays at a time yet to be determined, in Bobcat Stadium.
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