Bobcats open football camp next Monday

BOZEMAN — Rob Ash knows that all eyes will be on the quarterback position when he presides over his eighth preseason camp as Montana State’s head football coach beginning Monday, Aug. 4. His will be, too.

Fall Camp Prospectus

But does not want the focus on what is new in his program to obscure what isn’t. “We have a lot of experience returning, and I’ve been very pleased with the work of the 18 seniors over the summer,” he said. “I think the feeling outside the program is that we’re rebuilding or that we’re young, but we have a lot of proven experience and I’m excited to watch those guys.”

Ash’s excitement is rooted in the numbers. MSU, picked to finish third in the Big Sky by both the coaches and media members, returns 13 starters from a year ago. More importantly, the Cats enter fall camp with only one player – cornerback Bryson Keeton – who didn’t play at MSU last fall.

“We had a good spring, and the continuity from one season to the next is very important in our program,” Ash said. And while many focus on what is missing – offensive cornerstones DeNarius McGhee at quarterback, running back Cody Kirk, and receiver Tanner Bleskin – Ash is pleased with what returns. “At every position, we have players who have been in the program, who have learned from our coaching staff, and who are ready for their turn.”

That starts, Ash knows, at quarterback. The picture cleared a little in late July when Tanner Roderick moved back to his 2013 position of receiver, but that didn’t make the evaluation less crucial.

“The no. one priority is to choose a quarterback,” Ash said, “and that’s an unusual feeling. It’s reminiscent of 2010. It feels eerily similar to then, when we were making that decision.”

While Ash and offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey won’t put an exact timetable on the competition at quarterback, both indicate that the evaluation will be comprehensive but expeditious, and will conclude when certainty emerges. The team faces two dozen practice sessions over 25 days between camp’s opening on August 4 and the team’s first game at Arkansas State on August 30. The best guess is that one of the three becomes the starter near August’s mid-point.

The timeline for the offensive line opening, according to 12th-year assistant Jason McEndoo, is likely quicker. Three men compete for two positions. Senior captain Quinn Catalano will start at center or tackle, with center Joel Horn and tackle Alex Eekhoff battling for the other position. The receiver position is also open, according to assistant coach Cody Kempt, but Brian Flotkoetter is a returning starter and Tanner Roderick’s supreme athleticism both seem destined for head starts in the race.

While lower-profile intrigue exists at a handful of positions – receiver, defensive line, and the secondary all have spots featuring players without proven track records – Ash is most interested in seeing something quite different as camp dawns. “I really want to see how they compete,” Ash said of his 2014 players. “I’ll be intrigued to watch the 18 seniors and their leadership style. We have a lot of positions that are very experienced and talented. I’ve heard very good things about the leadership of this senior group that has emerged this summer, and I’m excited to see that when practice begins.”

MSU’s first scheduled practice of the fall is August 4 at 2:30 pm.

— MSU Sports Information

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