Cats Weidenaar earns national honor

BOZEMAN — Rob Ash knew he had something special in John Weidenaar, Montana State’s 6-foot-7 freshman from Manhattan, when he plugged him in at left tackle to begin the 2012 season. He just didn’t know how quickly it would become apparent to the rest of the college football world.

The answer came Monday morning, when Weidenaar earned National Freshman of the Week honors from The Sports Network after helping MSU to a school-record 695 total yards in Saturday’s 55-10 win over North Dakota. Weidenaar has started all eight of MSU’s games this season.

“We threw John into action right away and he’s gotten better every single week,” said MSU coach Rob Ash. “The game moves so fast, and he’s been able to pick up on all that movement and become a really effective blocker. He has great physical attributes, and I believe he will continue to be an outstanding player for us throughout his career.”

On an offense that has missed at least two starters in the last five games, Weidenaar’s presence has helped the Bobcats emerge as one of the top offenses in the FCS. Montana State enters this weekend’s game at Sacramento State as the Big Sky’s top scoring offense (37.8 points per game), and second in total yards per game (457.9). MSU is among the top 15 teams in the FCS in each category.

The man who has engineered Weidenaar’s transition from small-school Manhattan High, a Class B power 15 miles west of Bozeman, to starting left tackle on a nationally-ranked Division I FCS squad says his protégé has the tools necessary for the job.

“There is a reason the left tackle position is the second-highest paid position on NFL teams behind quarterback,” says long-time MSU offensive line coach Jason McEndoo, himself an NFL veteran. “It is extremely important, because the left tackle protects the quarterback’s blind side and goes against the opposing team’s best defensive player the whole game. It takes a balance of athleticism and physicality, which John possesses.”

Weidenaar’s emergence as a top-flight offensive tackle is rare. He is one of only two freshmen starting at left tackle among the teams ranked in The Sports Network’s top 25 poll this week, joining Eastern Washington’s Clay DeBord.

But even Weidenaar’s path to a Division I starting job is unconventional. “John played mostly defensive end and tight end at Manhattan High,” McEndoo said, “and played some offensive guard his senior year. John has come a long way in just two years in our program, and the sky is still the limit for him. He has a work ethic second-to-none and a burning desire to be the best on the field. He is a lunch-pail guy who comes to work every day and tries to get better.”

Weidenaar and the Bobcats face another stern challenge this weekend, visiting Sacramento State this weekend, one week after the Hornets upended 11th-ranked Cal Poly. Kickoff is 5:05 pm MT on ROOT Sports.

— MSU Sports Information




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