BOZEMAN — It didn’t take Jeff Choate much time after accepting the position of head football coach at Montana State to figure out his top couple of priorities regarding his team’s roster. And it didn’t take much time for him and his coaching staff to positively address those needs.
Montana State fortified the core of its offense Sunday when Choate announced the signing of quarterback Tyler Bruggman to a National Letter-of-Intent and center Alex Neale to a financial aid agreement. Bruggman comes to MSU from Scottsdale Community College and Neale from UNLV, and each will enroll at MSU when the spring semester begins next week.
“I knew the second I got this job that we’d have to add some depth and experience in the offensive line, and that we’d have to fill the void of losing an upperclassman at quarterback,” Choate said. “And we didn’t want to just plug guys in, we wanted players with quality experience who had been highly-recruited out of high school. I think it’s great work by the coaching staff that we were able to bring in two quality players for the second semester.”
Bruggman, a 6-2, 190 lb junior originally from the Phoenix area, began his college career as a redshirt at Washington State in 2013 before transferring to Louisville for the 2014 season. Bruggman played at Scottsdale Community College last fall, completing 146 of his 299 pass attempts (48.8%) for 1,692 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He gained steam as the season progressed after two seasons out of competition, completing 62-of-106 passes (58.5%) for 677 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in the final four games.
Bruggman enjoyed a sensational career at Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix. He led his team to an 11-3 record as a senior, earning all-classification All-State Second Team honors by the Arizona Football Coaches Association. He was also All-State Division I Honorable Mention by the Arizona Republic, and was Division I Section III Offensive Player of the Year. He finished that season with 2,803 passing yards (177-of-323, .548) with 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions, throwing for at least 300 yards three times and throwing at least three TD passes seven times, and rushing for four touchdowns. He threw for for 368 yards and six touchdowns against Pinnacle High School, and earned Academic All-State First Team honors.
Bruggman led his team to an 11-1 record as a junior, earning Phoenix Metro Player of the Year honors. He completed 156-of-259 passes for 2,497 yards and 37 touchdowns with just two interceptions that season. Bruggman threw for 1,304 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions as a sophomore. Coming out of Brophy Prep he was rated as the 18th-best quarterback prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, and ESPN.com ranked him as the top quarterback prospect, and second overall, in Arizona.
“My coaching odyssey came in handy in recruiting Tyler,” Choate said, “because I was at Washington State when he was recruited there. We hit it off when Tyler and his dad visited campus, and I really liked Tyler’s demeanor and maturity and how he looked at things. When he was leaving Louisville I was at Washington and we had a conversation, but he needed to go to a junior college. I like his maturity. He’s a very level-headed, smart young man who is doing this for the right reasons. He’s already researched our business college and knows that’s what he wants to pursue. He’s a low-ego, high-output guy who is going to come in and work hard to earn playing time.”
Neale (6-3, 290) transfers to MSU from UNLV, where he saw action in five games as a true freshman in 2015. The Duvall, Wash., product was rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and Scout coming out of Eastside Catholic High School. The former team captain earned First Team All-State, All-Area and All-District honors as an offensive lineman, and Eastside finished his senior season with a 13-1 record and a state championship. His high school coach, Jeremy Thielbahr, is a former Bobcat assistant. Neale also lettered four times in wrestling, earning points at the state meet as a junior.
“Alex is an interior offensive lineman, he can play center or guard,” Choate said. “He saw significant playing time in the Mountain West Conference at a position where it generally takes time to develop. That is something that stands out about Alex, his experience at a high level. He comes from a really good high school program at Eastside Catholic where they expect to compete. With his wrestling background he understands leverage and he’s competitive and tough.”
— MSU Sports Information