BRADEN SHAW Bozeman Daily Column
BOZEMAN — In some ways, it feels like the Montana State football team’s season just ended.
“It’s funny because going this far (in the playoffs) you’re not used to such a quick turnaround,” MSU offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright said Tuesday. “I think as coaches we just prefer to train all year round and play football.”
Following the 38-10 loss to North Dakota State in the FCS Championship Game on January 8, the team took a week off before returning to practices. In the relatively short break between the 2021 season, off-season strength and conditioning, and spring training starting this week, MSU has been ready to get back to work.
“I was actually talking to Coach (Brent) Vigen about it yesterday, I hate sitting around,” MSU senior safety Jeffrey Manning Jr. said. “So it’s just exciting to be back here with the guys, running around.”
Rising sophomore quarterback Tommy Mellott added that “it’s been a blessing” to continue training and practicing most of the year.
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“Everyone here loves football,” Mellott said. “They wouldn’t be here doing what they’re doing if they weren’t doing it. The less breaks we have, the more we look forward to (getting back there). »
Saturday’s practice marked the end of the first week of spring prom for MSU. And while all eyes are on this upcoming season, Mellott and Manning said there is no direct focus on returning to the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas.
“I think it should be a chip on everyone’s shoulder, but it’s not something we should necessarily look forward to being only day three at camp,” Manning said. “But I feel like it stings. It stings at the time and it stings for sure afterwards. But we’re in 2022 now, a new season. So I feel like we can’t really go on to dwell on it.
Mellott added: “If you focus on that end point, you will never be ready for that starting point. So our mind is not on this game of the past year or only on this game of the year to come.
Mellott is recovering from ankle surgery amid quarterbacking competition
After injuring his ankle in the first quarter of the FCS Championship game, Mellott underwent surgery this offseason. And after a week of spring training, he said his ankle “feels great” so far.
“My ankle, I have nothing to worry about with it,” Mellott said. “I’ve done a bunch of PT’s with it. I’ve been running all over the place. I haven’t had the most time to get in shape and build up all those muscles that I couldn’t use for a few weeks there. -low.
“But my ankle is definitely, if it’s not 100 per cent, it’s pretty much there. If not, it’s going to get there in a week or so.
To help that, Vigen said the Bobcats are focusing more on Mellott’s passing than his running at the moment.
“A week later, I like where he is,” Vigen said. “His understanding of everything we do, when it was good in December, he took that to another level.”
It also helped to have competition in the backfield. Wyoming transfer Sean Chambers, redshirt rookie Sean Austin and rookie Jordan Reed all took reps at quarterback this week. Mellott said he learned a lot from them, especially Chambers, and they were all focused on improving the group as a whole.
“I don’t think it’s good for anyone to sit complacently,” Mellott said. “Obviously I had no intention of doing that even though (Chambers) wouldn’t have been there. In every position, that’s what we do, do double reps, get a ton of reps. Everyone is improving and we’re developing that depth – exactly what we’ve been focusing on.
Vigen said he was especially proud of how Chambers has settled into the team — while learning a whole new offense — and how Reed and Austin have stepped up this week.
“We get reps, and that’s key to how we do things,” Vigen said. “This position as much as any of them, these guys need to learn by doing. And you can see real progress in all of them this week.
MSU veteran players move into leadership roles
One thing Vigen has asked of his veteran players is to continue in higher managerial positions.
It starts with the 14-player Cats Council, the Bobcats’ leadership group that includes both Mellott and Manning.
Manning said while he tends to lead by example, a focus this spring is being more of a vocal leader for his teammates.
“I feel like the most important thing is to step into that leadership role because now I’m officially the old guy in the room,” Manning said. “Which is crazy to me. So I feel like that’s something I really need to focus on.
Mellott also said he was working on becoming a more vocal leader. For example, that means cheering on both MSU’s offensive and defensive linemen while quarterbacks get extra reps in practice — especially with so few subs.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to get all of these reps,” Mellott said. “And just going to support those guys, because getting that many reps – 40, 60, 80 – in practice that’s more than some games. And we do it three times a week. So obviously just supporting these guys, helping them through and competing with each other and talking about it.
From a team perspective, Manning said the goal for the 2022 MSU team is to maintain the camaraderie that propelled it throughout last season.
“Last year I felt like the dressing room was really a cohesive unit,” Manning said. “I feel like we’ve always been together. I feel like that was the most important thing as a leadership group this year, we’re just trying to keep the same tight-knit mentality that we planes last year. And then carry it over to this year.
Players step up to add depth
MSU is notably without a few players this spring due to injury, including linebacker Callahan O’Reilly, defensive back Ty Okada and running back Isaiah Ifanse.
Instead, Vigen saw several players stepping in to add depth and enjoy more reps in practice. That includes linebacker Nolan Askelson and defensive backs Eric Zambrano and Air Force transfer Dru Polidore.
Vigen also highlighted how well the running back group are doing so far in practice.
“Elijah Elliott, DeMareus Hosey in particular, Lane Sumner as well, are guys that get, not necessarily a different workload,” Vigen said, “but just, ‘Hey, Isaiah’s out right now and that carrying position. relief balloon was a bit of a revolving door last year. And we need to solidify that. Spring is really when you have to do that.
Braden Shaw can be reached at [email protected] or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @ByBradenShaw