BOZEMAN — After 10 weeks of winter workouts, Montana State returned to the football field Tuesday afternoon for their first of 15 spring practices.
As coach Brent Vigen enters his third season at the helm, the approach this spring is nearly identical compared to last year's camp, which is centered around the continuation of building depth.
"That’s not just your young guys continuing to develop," Vigen stated during Monday's spring preview press conference. "It’s your older guys, your experienced guys continuing to become the best versions of themselves so that on any given Saturday we’re able to play the number of guys that we want to play. I felt like last year in a couple of spots we were a little short of that.”
Spring ball in Montana is blue skies with a side of snow piles from earlier that morning 😂#MSUBobcatsFB kicked off their first of 15 practices this spring period. Preview coming soon with this camp’s storylines 🔜 pic.twitter.com/GHffFbFOep— Ashley Washburn (@ashleyjwashburn) March 21, 2023
Vigen shared that he was referring to a lack of depth in the secondary and in the interior defensive line last year, but with 35 players returning from the two-deep roster, continuity isn’t an issue this spring — especially at the line of scrimmage.
“If you look at both sides of the ball we return a lot of key players, and that starts up front on both sides," Vigen explained. "We really return everybody that played significant time … We need to make gains there. I think we left that field in Brookings feeling like we lost the line of scrimmage on both sides and we need to put ourselves in position up front to win ball games.”
The Bobcats do have a new face however in its offensive line room with the addition of Al Johnson, who was hired this past January to take over for departed line coach Brian Armstrong.
“That was a tough loss in losing Brian," Vigen added. "I think the way we were able to replace him with a guy like Al ... he brings a wealth of experience that I don’t think we could have found anywhere else.”
One of the additions this offseason that Vigen addressed early in his press conference was one of his 2023 walk-ons, defensive end Zac Crews.
#MSUBobcatsFB’s Brent Vigen addressed the addition of Zac Crews this spring in his opening statement earlier today: pic.twitter.com/fL9oGqGDgL— Ashley Washburn (@ashleyjwashburn) March 20, 2023
The Missoula native was originally committed to the University of Montana with the intent to join the Grizzlies in 2022, but his offer was rescinded after he used a racial slur on a Venmo transaction from 2020 became public.
Crews ultimately enrolled at Montana State last fall and is receiving a second chance this spring with the Bobcats.
“I think as 18, 19, 20, 21 — and we have some 23-year-olds all the way up on our roster right now — I think they all recognize that they’ve made mistakes," Vigen stated. "The light maybe isn’t as shined on those mistakes quite like it did in Zac’s situation. Hopefully, you move on and become a better person on the other side of it. I think that’s the message we’ve continued to pound to them.”
Montana State shared earlier this week that nine of its veterans will not be practicing this spring due to both injuries sustained last fall and offseason surgeries but that he’s looking forward to getting them back this summer:
- LB Nolan Askelson
- DT Sebastian Valdez
- DT Blake Hehl
- DE David Alston
- OL Jacob Kettels
- TE Treyton Pickering
- RB Lane Sumner
- RB Kaegun Williams
- QB Sean Chambers
“We have numbers this spring that should allow us to practice the way we want to as long as we possibly can," Vigen concluded. "I think providing a really competitive environment is the key to guys getting better.”
Montana State will culminate its spring practice schedule with the annual Sonny Holland Classic spring game on April 22. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.