BOZEMAN — As we count down the days until Montana State's season opener against McNeese State, two of the Bobcats' most intriguing position groups to look at are along the line of scrimmage.
Not only does each line return just one lone starter, but since their obvious mismatch against North Dakota State in the FCS Championship, there’s been an added emphasis on each group.
On defense, the Bobcats lost production up front with Amandre Williams, Chase Benson, and Daniel Hardy all graduating, but in the eyes of rising sophomore Sebastian Valdez, rebuilding this offseason has been productive.
“We’re more connected with each other than we were last year," Valdez stated. "Yeah, we lost some good guys, but we also have some good guys coming up as well. Expectations are always above and at the end of the day we want to be a national championship defensive line.”
Valdez is the lone starter to return up front and has taken that veteran role seriously.
Since January, the defensive tackle has put on nearly 30 pounds - a healthy weight he’s seen transition nicely onto the field.
“It was just consistency and doing everything right," Valdez explained. "I think it’s a really good weight, and I think I’m more powerful. I’m faster, and I like it.”
"He played light once we moved him inside, so put that weight on so that he could really be a force this year," MSU head coach Brent Vigen added. "He was effective last year and really emerged through the course of the season, but it will be interesting to see him continue to grow into that as the season moves on.”
While Valdez may be the only starter returning, there’s still a lot of experience in that unit because of the defensive line rotation they used last fall.
On the edge, sophomore Brody Grebe and junior Ben Seymour both have high expectations, as well as redshirt freshman Blake Schmidt in the interior.
“There’s a lot of continuity, and I think those guys learned so much from the way we did things last year and they were just kind of on the other side of those roles," Vigen said. "They’ve taken those urgings back in January and ran with them ever since.”
However, on the offensive line, Vigen shared this week that the group is still in the thick of a position battle.
“We have several guys in the running and no one in that group has just locked it down," Vigen explained. "I think the guys that played - Justus [Perkins] and Rush [Reimer] - certainly have a leg up, but I think we have enough guys and some good position flexibility.”
Their center Justus Perkins is the lone returner, and while that starting front is yet to be determined, his message at the start of fall camp was very clear.
“We see what’s been said on social media or whatnot about how we’re going to be young, we’re going to be inexperienced, there’s only one starter returning, so it’s something we use as fuel and something that’s going to be continued to use as fuel throughout the season," Perkins stated.
However, one guy to keep an eye on is Marcus Wehr. The former defensive lineman made the switch to offense earlier this spring and has been playing right guard.
“He looks like an offensive lineman that can dominate," Valdez boasted. "He’s heavy to move. He’s hard to block, hard to get past him. He’s pretty good.”