FCS Top 10 Commentary: Montana State Football Preview #4

The momentum is building for Montana State, both on and off the court. Whether it’s facilities, a NIL collective, or a talented team led by head coach Brent Vigen, the Bobcats have become a national contender.

After a run to the national championship game in Vigen’s first season, MSU is ranked No. 4 in the Stats Perform Preseason Top 25 media poll. With a superb senior class gone, can the Bobcats continue to build on last year’s success? Let’s take a look at the team and chat.

FCS 2022 Pre-Season Preview Center

last season

The Bobcats finished 12-3 overall and 7-1 in the Big Sky conference. They received the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, beating UT Martin 26-7 in the second round, No. 1 seed Sam Houston 42-19 in the quarterfinals and South Dakota State 31- 17 in the semi-finals. MSU lost 38-10 to NDSU in the championship game.

MSU ranked No. 43 in FCS scoring offense (28.7 PPG) and No. 6 in scoring defense (15.1 PPG).

List 2022

While Vigen and his staff deserve a ton of credit for taking MSU to the national championship game in their first season, a huge nod goes to the senior class as well. Now the 2022 squad is tasked with replacing those seniors and keeping the momentum going.

The Bobcats are losing eight of their 13 All-Conference players, three All-Americans on defense, their go-to WR and four key starting offensive linemen. Additionally, first-team All-American RB Isaiah Ifanse is recovering from offseason surgery and will miss the start of the season.

But the roster is still full of talent. Former head coach Jeff Choate was one hell of a scout. And Vigen rotated a lot of players last year and also implemented the double-repeat training system to create depth, which basically means there’s very little time during training and that 2s and 3s get as many reps as 1s with equal level of coaching. .

Tommy Mellott’s rise as a starter in the playoffs makes the 2022 offensive outlook brighter. Touchdown Tommy became a State of Origin legend by leading MSU to the championship, rushing for 411 yards and six touchdowns and throwing for 499 yards and four touchdowns in all three playoff wins. He injured his ankle in the title match and was sidelined after the first practice, which required surgery in the offseason.

Ifanse is ranked HERO Sports’ No. 1 returning RB, but his workload will drop even when he returns from injury after recording an FCS-record 280 carries in 14 games for 1,623 yards (No. 2 in FCS ) and 10 touchdowns. Lane Sumner is a veteran RB. And MSU brought in San Diego State transfer Kaegun Williams for more depth. MSU must replace Lance McCutcheon’s 1,121-yard reception. The No. 2 WR Willie Patterson (375 yards) is back this season. Two transfers appear to be impacting WR in Ravi Alston, who was a D3 All-American at St. John’s, and Kentucky’s Clevan Thomas.

OL, MSU’s strength in recent seasons, is a question mark. Justus Perkins (center) is the only returner with significant starting experience. From left to right across the starting OL on the depth chart, MSU goes: sophomore (302 pounds), sophomore (280 pounds), sophomore (282 pounds), junior (290 pounds) and sophomore ( 290 pounds).

The defense should be a force despite losing massive names like Chase Benson, Daniel Hardy and Troy Andersen. Safety Ty Okada is a HERO Sports Second Team All-American and LB Callahan O’Reilly is a third team. The secondary is talented and experienced with guys like Okada, safety Jeffrey Manning Jr., CB Simeon Woodard and CB Tyrel Thomas. Replacing Andersen in the middle of defense will be impossible, but O’Reilly is a multi-year starter. Nolan Askelson was also expected to be a big contributor last season before missing most of the year through injury. He will be a key player in 2022.

The DL loses several starters. But the rotation was strong last year, and the guys seem ready to take on bigger roles. A prime example is DE Brody Grebe, who was named to the All-Big Sky preseason first team after not even starting last year but playing plenty of snaps and totaling six TFLs and five sacks.

In special teams, kicker Blake Glessner returns after an All-Big Sky Third Team selection. Punter Bryce Leighton and long snapper Tommy Sullivan have been named to the 2022 All-Conference Preseason Squad.

Calendar 2022

  • against McNeese
  • against Morehead State
  • @ FBS State of Oregon
  • @ #13 East Washington
  • against No. 25 UC Davis
  • against Idaho State
  • @ Northern Colorado
  • vs. State No. 20 Weber
  • @ Northern Arizona
  • @CalPoly
  • against No. 3 Montana

Frankly, MSU shouldn’t need Ifanse until Game 4. McNeese and Morehead State will be big wins, especially at home. And Oregon State is a beatable FBS team, but a loss there won’t hurt anything. A win, however, is a big bonus in the ranking and recruiting discussion. The Big Sky schedule, despite having four ranked teams, is a very good draw. MSU avoids last year’s champion Sac State. The Bobcats go to EWU, which is probably ranked too high. And they get the other three ranked opponents (UC Davis, Weber State and Montana) at home.

Season outlook

Only two unnamed NDSU teams have made consecutive trips to the championship game in the Frisco era (since 2010). Sam Houston did it in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. James Madison did it in 2016 and 2017. There have been plenty of one-hit wonders over the past decade, teams that haven’t challenged at a high since the title game (Towson, Illinois State, Jacksonville State, Youngstown State).

MSU doesn’t appear to be a one-hit wonder. The Bobcats are expected to be among the best in FCS going forward, not just because of recent departures from the FCS program at FBS, but because they have so much momentum on and off the field. field (facilities, resources, NIL collective, etc.).

When it comes to the 2022 FCS season, no player faces more pressure than SDSU QB Mark Gronowski and Mellott. Both have talent around them and both play for programs/fanbases with gigantic expectations. Gronowski wonders if he can replicate his stellar freshman season in the spring after missing all of last year with an ACL injury. Mellott wonders if he can replicate his stellar first year when his play was simply magnificent in the playoffs.

To add to the similarities between Gronowski and Mellott, both were injured early in the FCS title game.

There’s a chance that Mellott will come down to earth and have teams discover his strengths and exploit his weaknesses now that more movies are about him. If that happens, MSU is still likely a playoff team with an early exit. There’s also a chance that Mellott will continue to have that ‘it’ factor about him and be the best offensive player in Big Sky. If that happens, the Bobcats should be back in the semifinals with a chance to reach the national championship again.

NEXT: FCS jersey countdown

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