BOZEMAN — Montana State senior Daniel Hardy made the switch from outside linebacker to defensive end this season. After taking a lot of reps during the spring, he stood out to new Bobcats defensive coordinator Freddie Banks.
“I think he can be one of the most explosive defensive ends in the country -- in the FCS and that’s the expectation for him," Banks said before the season. "I think he’ll be a really good pass rusher and he’s really good at the point of attack and run game.”
In his first game at the position this past Saturday against Wyoming, Hardy notched his first sack of season. Now that Hardy made the switch in positions, he can do what he enjoys most -- getting after the quarterback.
“Getting a sack on third down and all your boys hyping you up and everything and the crow goes nuts. It’s probably one of the best feelings ever," Hardy said before the season. "I think I finally found my real position.”
Switching positions meant Hardy spent a lot of the offseason eating lots of food and hitting the weight room, specifically the squat rack to add healthy weight to play the position. He played outside linebacker at 225 pounds, but he's now up to 240 pounds.
“Just putting it on clean, getting more muscular and things like that, it was a struggle but it was definitely worth it,” he said.
Going from outside linebacker to defensive end isn’t an easy change, but going toe to toe with one of the best left tackles in the FCS during practice helps.
“You really got to be sound in your technique and especially here, I get to go against preseason all-American Lewis Kidd everyday," Hardy said. "If you don’t come right with him, you’re probably going to get tossed out the club. Really appreciate getting to go against him everyday.”
Another person who has helped Hardy is new defensive line coach Shawn Howe.
“I think the biggest thing that he’s done for me is really take a lot of the thinking out of it and allow me to play fast, be aggressive," said Hardy. "I’m not slowed down by trying to figure out a formation or something like that. It’s really helping me see the game from a different perspective. Once you start to understand it more, then things really start to slow down and you get to react instead of think about it.”
For Hardy, preseason hype amounts to little. He knows he has to do the work to uphold the legacy of Bobcats defensive lineman who have come before him. One guy he mentioned was former Bobcats defensive end Bryce Sterk.
“I want to uphold the legacy and ever since I’ve been here, the D-line has been a very strong staple of our defense and being able to continue on that legacy and be a very strong unit is something I take very seriously,” the defensive end said.
With Gold Rush just days away, you can surely bet the defensive end and his teammates are excited.
“My first gold rush here was insane. Just running out of the tunnel and seeing the stadium packed full of gold and seeing the fans all there. It’s one of the best experiences ever,” the senior said.