Montana State football signs 3 defensive players, Pac-12 transfer

Posted at 2:32 PM, Apr 17, 2018

(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)

BOZEMAN – Montana State fortified its defense and special teams for 2018 and beyond Tuesday, adding a pair of transfers and a regional prep standout, Bobcats head coach Jeff Choate announced Tuesday.

Defensive end Dante Sparaco (from Colorado) and linebacker Daniel Hardy (from Siskiyous Junior College in California) transfer to MSU as sophomores. Freshman defensive end/long snapper Todd Payne joins the Bobcats from Idaho Falls (Idaho) High School.

Sparaco (6-5, 245 lbs) played in seven games at linebacker and on special teams for the Buffalos as a freshman last season. Before suffering a season-ending injury, the Englewood, Colorado, product registered four tackles, including two against Northern Colorado and one each against Colorado State and Texas State. Sparaco enrolled at CU in January of 2017 and participated in spring drills after a successful prep career at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida (2016), Cherry Creek High School in the Denver area (2015), and Glenwood Springs High School (2014). Sparaco’s father Dino played for the Bobcats from 1990-92.

“Dante is a big, physical, athletic player,” Choate said. “He has excellent size and length, is a strong player, can play multiple positions, and saw significant time in the Pac-12 at Colorado last season. Dante is a legacy and I think he’s an excellent fit for our program.”

Hardy, originally from Beaverton, Oregon, recorded 66 tackles, 12.5 for a loss, and nine sacks as a freshman at Siskiyous in 2017. The 6-3, 205 lb linebacker forced three fumbles and recovered one. A standout in football and basketball at Valley Catholic High School, Hardy earned all-state honors in football at receiver and linebacker as a senior, and played in the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association’s All-Star basketball series.

“Daniel is a tremendous athlete, 6-3 with a wingspan of almost 6-10, and he’s explosive, fast, and has huge upside,” Choate said. “He’s a guy that we evaluated numerous times and we kept coming back to the fact that if we tried to wait a year we wouldn’t have a chance. After his visit here he visited Fresno State, and when he called to let us know he’s becoming a Bobcat we were pretty excited.”

Payne was a standout defensive lineman and wrestler at Idaho Falls High, earning first team all-conference honors on the gridiron last fall. He joins the Bobcat program with the opportunity to compete for playing time early in his career as a long snapper while developing as a defensive lineman, Choate said. “Given time I think Todd can become a quality defensive end in our program, but he adds value as a long snapper. He gives us quality depth there.”

Choate said that while each of the newcomers bolster the Cats during the 2018 season in areas of strength, they also fortify the Bobcats into the future. “Dante and Daniel each have the opportunity to impact us in the front seven this year, and that allows us to distribute talent in a way that we get good players where they help the most. There is a lot of positional versatility with both. But when you look at the talent we lose after this season it was important to add an infusion of longer-term talent in the front seven.”