Bobcats stage first full scrimmage Saturday

BOZEMAN — Rob Ash cautions Bobcat football fans that Saturday’s first major scrimmage of the spring won’t feature much of a “game-like flow,” but Montana State’s seventh-year head coach said that the session remains an important evaluation tool for the team’s coaching staff just past the halfway point of MSU’s spring practice session.

Ash said that a primary focus will be to evaluate his team schematically, particularly on offense. “We want to see what works best with our personnel, how we’re lined up, our combinations and calls,” he said. “We’ll definitely evaluate scheme.”

Saturday’s full-contact scrimmage offers Ash and the Bobcat coaching staff the opportunity to see how its run game stands up in a tackle-to-the-ground setting. “Our offensive line is really making some good strides and blocking the tough looks our defense gives us,” he said. “We’re consistently one of the toughest teams to run against nationally at this level. Jamie (Marshall, MSU’s defensive coordinator) really is an expert at stopping the run.”

MSU’s first-year offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey knows MSU’s defense from having faced it two seasons ago as New Hampshire’s play-caller, and he doesn’t hesitate when asked goals for the Bobcat offense Saturday. “We want to put guys in position to make plays,” says Montana State’s first-year offensive coordinator, “then see if they make them. Things are different when you go live, and I want to see how they respond.”

Like Cramsey, veteran defensive coordinator Jamie Marshall plans to take a big-picture look at tomorrow’s scrimmage. “I want to see us play fast,” he says. “I want to see us rally to the ball and play hard.”

Ash takes the same point of view, saying that evaluation of details – fitting fronts and coverages to offensive looks, getting “a hat on a hat” in the run game, and reads and routes in the pass game – takes precedent over moving the ball up and down the field and figuring out which side of the ball wins. “There’s plenty of time for that” late in the spring, he said. “(Saturday) won’t be about offense against defense or getting a game flow. It’s about evaluating personnel and evaluating scheme.”

Both coordinators plan to train their attention toward the handful of personnel battles playing out this spring. “I want to watch (receiver) Kurt Davis, and a guy like (receiver) David Dash, to see how they perform,” Cramsey said. “I look forward to watching them compete under game conditions.”

Marshall, too, looks forward to monitoring competition at positions where departing stars such as Caleb Schreibeis (defensive end), Jody Owens (linebacker) and Darius Jones (cornerback) once shone. “(Interior defensive linemen) Taylor Sheridan, Taylor Dees and Craig Ashworth have all worked hard, and (defensive end) Preston Gale is playing well,” Marshall said. “We know what (linebacker) Alex Singleton can do, and Sean Gords has played well.”

For his part, Ash looks forward to watching the competition on the offensive line, where the first order of business is to replace three-year starting center Shaun Sampson. “I think (offensive line coach Jason McEndoo) will rotate seven or eight guys into the first unit,” Ash said, “to get a look at a lot of different combinations. But I think the offensive line is making good strides in blocking some tough looks. I think they’re making progress against a very good concept across the ball.”

Ash indicated MSU’s Saturday’ scrimmage is likely to last around 100 plays.

— MSU Sports Information