Notebook: Montana State Workforce Rotation Continued Over Summer; players fill up on kilos | College Sports


BOZEMAN — The Montana State football team has won and lost a significant number of players since its spring game.

Rolling the roster from spring to fall is nothing new as many freshmen arrive on campus. But even more players have joined and left MSU this year because of the four-year-old transfer portaland the Bobcats won and lost a handful of other players for different reasons.

On Friday, MSU announced that junior defensive back Eric Zambrano left the team for personal reasons. Cats head coach Brent Vigen had no further comment during his meeting with the media on Saturday.

Zambrano is one of 13 players to leave MSU since the Sonny Holland Classic on April 23. Apart from starting right tackle TJ Session (who transferred to Cal), Zambrano was the biggest contributor of 2021 onwards.

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Zambrano played in all 15 games and started 14 at cornerback, compiling 26 tackles, one interception and nine pass breakups. The California native was a reliable contributor in a secondary that has played without injured corners James Campbell and Tyrel Thomas for much of the season.

Zambrano likely wouldn’t have played a corner this coming season had he remained on the roster. He made himself safe during spring camp.

Also on Friday, MSU defensive coordinator Willie Mack Garza said defensive back Dru Polidore was “nursing an injury” and did not know how long he would be out. Polidore, a freshman who air force red shirt last season, is one of four currently injured Cats. The other three are returning senior starters: running back Isaiah Ifanse, defensive tackle Kyle Rygg and wide receiver Coy Steel.

MSU is in “month-by-month mode” with Ifanse, Vigen said Wednesday. Ifanse is on the “back half of his recovery” and could miss MSU’s season opener against McNeese State on Sept. 3, Vigen added.

Ifanse is a 2022 preseason All-American who earned multiple All-America honors last year after rupture MSU’s single-season rushing record and leading the Cats to the Football Championship Division title game against North Dakota State.

“He’s been really diligent in his recovery,” Vigen said. “His operation going back to the end of winter was pushed back because of the end of our season. I don’t think we would trade that. He wouldn’t trade that. He came back and played in that league game for good reasons.

Vigen said either Rygg or Steel were “on the mend”. Both have suffered season-ending injuries in the first four games of 2021.

A pair of sophomore wide receivers, Cam Gardner and Andrew Patterson, aren’t on the fall camp roster because they’re “working on some things on the academic side,” Vigen said, adding that “we could see on the road.”

Gardner had five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in nine games last fall, while Patterson was in four games and had one reception for 44 yards.

A total of 29 players on the fall camp roster were not on the spring game roster. Twenty-three of them are real freshmen, five are transfers and one is a walk-on: defensive tackle Devin Slaughter.

The 6-foot-3, 281-pound Slaughter graduated from Sisters High School (Oregon) in 2016 and then attended Oregon State. He planned to join the Beavers football team, according to Vigen, but it didn’t work out. Slaughter enlisted in the US Army in 2018 and served for a few years, then went back to school, this time at MSU. He told MSU coaches last spring that he was interested in joining the team, and they welcomed him.

“I’m glad everything is lined up,” Vigen said on Saturday. “We’re still figuring out what he can and can’t do, but he’s a hard worker, and I think he has some ability.”

Another unannounced addition is running back Lucas Tuski. Like wide receiver Zachary Dodson-Greene, who signed up to MSU in May, Tuski is a fairly recent favorite, Vigen said. Tuski graduated from Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon, in the spring. The 6-0, 215 pounds initially hired in southern Oregon of the NAIA’s Frontier Conference.

Vigen, other MSU spokespersons and/or the players themselves provided the reasons (in parentheses) for the following additions, absences and departures since the spring game. One name not included is the class of 2022’s favorite linebacker Zac Waiblewho is in a gray shirt.


DT Ethan Abbott (Real Rookie), QB Luke Abshire (Real Rookie), OL Omar Aigbedion (Real Rookie), WR Christian Anaya (Real Rookie), DB Michael Armstrong (Real Rookie), DB Takhari Carr (Real Rookie), WR Zachary Dodson-Green (Real Rookie), WR Taco Dowler (Real Rookie), DE Logan Fredericksen (Real Rookie), WR Marqui Johnson (Transfer), K/P Casey Kautzman (Real Rookie), S Max Kimball (Real Rookie), LB Ryan Krahe (real rookie), OL Burke Mastel (real rookie), WR Malik Mullins (transfer), OL Conner Moore (real rookie), FB Max Murphy (real rookie), OL Tommy Nilson (real rookie), OL Bear Old ( real rookie), OL Jaden Perkins (real rookie), DT Jaren Perkins (real rookie), S Rhedi Short (transfer), DL Devin Slaughter (walk), WR Rylan Schlepp (real rookie), WR Dylan Snyder (real rookie), WR Clevan Thomas Jr. (transfer), RB Lucas Tuski (real freshman), DE Jake Vigen (real freshman), RB Jared White (real freshman), RB Kaegun Williams (trans fert).


WR Cam Gardner (academics), RB Isaiah Ifanse (injury), WR Andrew Patterson (academics), DB Dru Polidore (injury), DL Kyle Rygg (injury), WR Coy Steel (injury), DB Eric Zambrano (personal reasons).


QB Casey Bauman (transfer), WR Charles Brown (transfer), DB Tadan Gilman (retirement), OL Jack Harlow (focusing on school), RB DeMareus Hosey (transfer), RB Nolan Iverson (unspecified), WR Jamahd Monroe (transfer), OL Conor Reitler (unspecified), RB Jaalen Rening (unspecified), OL TJ Session (transfer), WR Jaden Smith (transfer), OL Cole Snyder (transfer), WR Tanner Trafton (unspecified).

The Bobcats are hitched in the offseason

MSU linebacker Danny Uluilakepa shared a room with defensive tackle Sebastian Valdez last year when they were both redshirt freshmen. Valdez was listed at 251 pounds to start the 2021 season. He is now 278.

What did Valdez do to gain almost 30 pounds?

“I don’t know. Eating,” Uluilakepa said with a laugh on Saturday.

Sophomore defensive end Brody Grebe has gained about 10 pounds since last year, and he provided a more detailed explanation of his diet.

“You have to get a ton of calories, but you want to get the calories right,” Grebe said Wednesday. “The thing about summer is you train early, you have to eat before training, you have to eat after, you have to (drink a) protein shake here. You eat constantly throughout the day, and if you don’t, you don’t make the progress you need.

Beef has been Grebe’s go-to food for weight gain during his career at MSU. Second-year running back Elijah Elliott also used a high-protein diet to drop from about 175 pounds last year to 195 right now. Elliott was pounding creatine, protein shakes, sausages and a dozen eggs a day. Yes, a day.

“However I could do it, I wanted to do it,” Elliott said Wednesday. “It was my way.”

Elliott isn’t the first and won’t be the last football player to eat like a bear preparing for hibernation. Running backs don’t need to be as tall as linemen to be successful, but Elliott learned the importance of extra muscle during his injury-filled 2021 season.

“Running at 175 is not that. You get hurt a lot and I was getting hit,” he said. “So my main goal was to put on that weight so I could last longer.”

Montana State offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright (second from left) shouts instructions as Elijah Elliott (13), RJ Fitzgerald (41), Jared White and Lane Sumner (24) look on Friday at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman.

Rachel Leathe, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Manning enjoys reunion with his ‘best friend’

One of MSU’s newest players, Rhedi Short, has a close bond with fellow senior security Jeffrey Manning Jr.

Manning and Short graduated from Cathedral High in Los Angeles in 2017 and went on to play in the Pac-12: Manning at Oregon State, Short at Arizona. Manning transferred to MSU a year ago, while Short joined the Cats in June.

Despite their ties, Manning wasn’t the first person at MSU to gauge Short’s transfer interest. Manning said he first heard of the possibility in a meeting when defensive line coach Shawn Howe asked Manning about Short.

“I was like, ‘Rhedi Short? He’s my best friend. What about him?’ Manning said Wednesday. “Once they told me they were all on the bridge with him, I just did my part.”

Fall Football Camp, Media Day, Bobcat Football

Montana State Safety Jeffrey Manning Jr. talks to reporters during Fall Camp media day Wednesday at the Bobcat Athletic Complex in Bozeman.

Rachel Leathe, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

As seniors, Manning and Short helped Cathedral start the 2016 season 11-0, but the Phantoms ended their season in the CIF South Section Division 3 Quarter-Finals. Manning, who dyed his hair blonde because he is a fan of football star Neymar, carries that disappointment and loss of last year’s FCS championship into his final college season. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to win this elusive title with his best friend.

“It’s always been our goal, not just to play with each other, but also to play at the highest level, which obviously comes down to Frisco,” Manning said. “I feel like he has a great opportunity to do that with us this year.”