#17 Montana State FCS Football 2014 Preview

Montana State Bobcats

Overall Rank: #17
#3 Big Sky

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Montana State was going for their fourth straight Big Sky title in 2013. After a 5-0 start in conference play, the schedule caught up to the Bobcats. They lost their last three contests to Eastern Washington, Southern Utah and Montana and not only missed out on a conference championship, but also missed the playoffs. There is a bit of reloading to do this year, especially on offense, but Coach Rob Ash has the players to keep his playoff drought at one season.

2013 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2013 Postseason: None
Coach: Rob Ash (57-27 at Montana State, 182-90-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Cramsey
Defensive Coordinator: Jamie Marshall

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Shawn Johnson, RB, 609 yards
Passing: Jake Bleskin, QB, 733 yards
Receiving: Brian Flotkoetter, WR, 530 yards
Tackles: Alex Singleton, LB, 110
Sacks: Taylor Sheridan, DL, 4.5
Interceptions: Alex Singleton, LB, 3

Other Key Returnees: TE Tiai Salanoa, OL Quinn Catalano, LB Cole Moore, DB Robert Marshall, DB Deonte Flowers, DL Odin Coe

Key Losses: QB DeNarius McGhee, RB Cody Kirk, WR Tanner Bleskin, WR Jon Ellis, DE Brad Daly, LB Michael Foster, DB Steven Bethley, DB Sean Gords

The Montana State defense will miss end Brad Daly who recorded 14.0 sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss, but the defense as a whole is much more experienced now. The Bobcats will hope players like Taylor Sheridan and Odin Coe can at least do a little more on the line and get into the backfield on a consistent basis. The strength of the defense is at linebacker where Alex Singleton returns after totaling 110 tackles and a team high three interceptions. He will be joined by Cole Moore and Na’a Moekiola. Moekiola missed last season, but recorded 81 tackles back in 2012. The secondary will build around shutdown cornerback Deonte Flowers and safety Robert Marshall. Losing Daly is huge, but there are enough other pass rushers on the roster to keep this defense moving upwards.

The losses on offense are much more significant, beginning with four-year starting quarterback DeNarius McGhee. He threw for 2,087 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior season in which he missed a couple games due to injury. When injured, Jake Bleskin took over. In six total appearances, Bleskin threw for 733 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. But the job is not his with sophomore Dakota Prukop and freshman Quinn McQueary also in the mix. Prukop is an amazing athlete who is getting better at reading defenses. In the end, it may come down to who can avoid mistakes. Whoever is at quarterback will not have Tanner Bleskin, Jake’s brother, to throw the ball to. Tanner caught 64 passes for 969 yards. Brian Flotkoetter figures to move into the top receiver spot, but the unit is a little thin thanks to injuries and other graduations. Cody Kirk is the big loss at running back. He rushed for 1,088 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013. The good news is Shawn Johnson emerged as a quality secondary back last season. Now it is his turn to take on a bulk of the carries.

The Bottom Line:
Assuming the toughest decision for Coach Ash is picking a quarterback from two or three good options, the offense will be in decent shape. The talent is there across the board and for the most part Montana State has upperclassmen that are looking to fill holes instead of freshmen who have to come right in and play a big role on this team. That experience, even if it is limited as far as on-field playing is concerned, is extremely important. That’s the difference between reloading and rebuilding and this team is reloading for another push to the playoffs.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 183.6 (42nd in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 235.0 (42, 8)
Total Offense: 418.6 (37, 5)
Scoring Offense: 32.9 (30, 4)
Rushing Defense: 148.1 (45, 5)
Pass Defense: 224.4 (70, 5)
Total Defense: 372.5 (51, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.9 (48, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.50 (21, 3)
Sacks: 2.33 (31, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.25 (73, 9)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#82 Braelen Evans
#113 George Moeakiola


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