Bobcat agenda is ‘more of the same’

BOZEMAN — Rob Ash’s agenda during the second week of Montana State’s spring practice session is pretty simple.

“More of the same,” the Bobcats’ eighth-year head man said.

Early in the spring that amounts to a lot of installation, which Ash said goes hand in hand with lining up against unfamiliar schemes and formations. “We’ll have some new install on defense,” he said. “They’re looking at some different alignments, brand new, and offense is still doing install. (The offense will) have to block a different look than last week, so that will be the challenge there.”

Second-week tweaks and additions come on the heels of Montana State’s first live scrimmage action of the spring, last Saturday in Bobcat Stadium. As is normal during the spring, Ash saw plenty to like on both sides of the ball.

“The defense started out ahead a little bit, made some good plays, played real physical with good tackling,” he said. “Maybe it was a little bit of a surprise because you think of the offense as a real veteran group and the defense as having lost all those guys, but they came out and played really well. The offense rallied and put together some big plays, I think the offense had five or six explosive plays and some good outcomes later on, so it was one of those typical spring scrimmages that had a little bit to show for both sides.”

Ash remains pleased with the pace and tempo his squad practices with, particularly on defense. “I thought the hustle and pace of the defense was a bright spot. The offense, in 40 plays, had one fumble, but the offense recovered so there were no giveaways, so that was good ball security by the offense.”

The ground game always comes into sharper focus when live contact is introduced, and that has been the case this week, Ash said. “As always when you tackle you work on running the ball and stopping the run, and that was kind of a mixed bag. The defense had a number of good run stops, but the offense also busted a couple out for big plays.”

MSU’s offense and defense each has questions to answer in the run game. Offensively, the Bobcats return the line and running back groups mostly intact. Still, one of the team’s two electric offensive forces last season – running back Shawn Johnson – graduated, leaving the team in search of a big-play presence.

“The running backs ran really hard,” Ash said. “We are really deep at that position. Nick LaSane looked really good, Tavon Dodd had some good runs. He’s battling in there, with a tough group of guys ahead of him. Anthony Knight is in great shape, he’s in much better physical condition than a year ago.”

One of the few additions to the offense this spring, redshirt freshman running back Tavon Dodd, brings the kind of home run threat to that position that Ash craves. “Tavon is a big play waiting to happen, in a different way maybe than Shawn,” he said. “It isn’t just about breakaway speed, he can make people miss and make a short run become a long run. He’s got the ability to make big plays to help compensate for losing Shawn.”

Defensively, plugging in a trio of new safeties this spring could help fortify the defense. Transfers Bryson McCabe and Desman Carter and freshman Demonte King have each shown positives. “I thought our new safeties played well,” Ash said. Bryson McCabe and Demonte King have both looked really good, and when Desman Carter has been in there he’s been impressive.”

The Bobcats’ normal week precedes the first major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. MSU takes the Bobcat Stadium turf Thursday at 3:45 pm before Saturday’s scrum, which Ash said “will be significantly more plays than last week.” The team takes the field at 12:45 pm, with the scrimmage beginning at 1:15 pm.

— MSU Sports Information 



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