(Editor's note: Montana State University media release)
BOZEMAN – On the eve of his fourth preseason camp as Montana State’s football coach, Jeff Choate sounded at once like a man who’s been through the drill and one still somewhat amazed by the excitement of it all.
“I still have a million things rolling through my mind as soon as I wake up,” Choate said of how he views the job of leading the Bobcats into a new season, “but I’m not as stressed out about getting those things done.”
Montana State’s first practice of fall camp is slated for Friday at 3:45 p.m. on the Schubert Dyche practice fields southeast of Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Choate welcomes 17 returning starters, a list which includes three preseason All-Americans. He also enters the season with seven assistant coaches who possess experience coaching under him.
“I think there’s a comfort level with the culture of our program, the way the players go about their work, and also with the assistant coaches and the support staff. Everyone understands how to manage their own 20 square feet, and that gives a program the chance to succeed," Choate said.
Choate expects his attention to wander toward one specific position group throughout preseason camp.
“Quarterback, obviously,” he said when asked his team’s most pronounced position battles in the upcoming month. “I think quarterback, linebacker and tight end will have the best competition. I’m fascinated to see how the offensive line shakes out. We have five, six offensive linemen with experience. Can Jake Sessions take another step forward? Can Zach Redd hold onto that fifth starting job? How does (the O-line) look in terms of depth?”
Competition at quarterback appears to be between Tucker Rovig, who started a pair of games and was poised to move into the role permanently last fall, and redshirt freshmen Casey Baumann and Ruben Beltran. A third-year sophomore, Rovig threw for 310 yards in leading the Cats to a home win over Wagner last fall. Baumann saw the field in one series, thus reclaiming his freshman status for 2019, while Beltran didn’t play. A pair of new freshmen, John Knight and Blake Thelen, join the mix.
Choate applies the same general evaluation standard to the quarterback position as elsewhere on the depth chart.
“We won’t have pads on for the first few days so I’ll really be looking at how well guys move, how they play with enthusiasm and passion, how they process information,” he said.
After Friday’s practice, the Cats return to Dyche Field on Saturday at 11 a.m. and are slated to practice in Bobcat Stadium on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The season begins on Aug. 31 at Texas Tech.