BOZEMAN — Callahan O’Reilly led the Montana State Bobcats in tackles in 2019. He is now the ‘Will’ inside linebacker and first-team all-American linebacker Troy Andersen is being paired up with him at the inside ‘Mike’ linebacker position. Having those two next to each other could be one of the best combos in the country.
“I think it will be awesome,” said O’Reilly. “Playing alongside a guy like Troy, obviously, is always fun. Somebody who is fast, smart, athletic, it’s always awesome to have a good person out there by your side.”
Andersen being placed at the ‘Mike’ linebacker position will be the focal point of new coordinator Freddie Banks' defense. In 2019, Andersen has 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
“We got our best leader on defense making all the checks, really being the focal point of how we operate on defense,” said Banks. “He’s going to be closing the defense. He’s going to be making sure we’re on point and that’s him -- he’s Bobcat through and through. I mean, what better ‘Mike’? I don’t think I’ll have a better 'Mike.' The person and the athlete -- it’s going to be rare that you have that combination in my career, so I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
It’s been a smooth transition for the all-American Andersen to his new spot on the defense.
“I think I’m closer to the action,” Andersen said. “Kind of really close to the line of scrimmage and hopefully I'll be able to impact the run a little more. It’s been a challenge, but Callahan played 'Mike' last year and he’s sliding over to 'Will' and he’s been awesome to help me and coach Daly’s an awesome coach and coach Banks as well. They’ve made it pretty seamless.”
O’Reilly played the ‘Mike’ before and he says his new spot isn't much different.
“It’s really similar,” O’Reilly said of the two positions. “I’ll have a better feel for both of them, which will be really good.”
Andersen and O’Reilly are pretty close, with O’Reilly now helping the all-American make the switch to his former position. In 2019, the Bozeman native O’Reilly racked up a team-high 91 tackles while playing the ‘Mike’ position.
“Where to place my eyes, and then kind of little stance things on when to cheat out or cheat in and little tells that the tight ends and o-lineman that’ll give it away that he’s kind of just passed along that you probably wouldn’t know unless somebody tells you,” said Andersen.
Banks couldn’t hold back his smile as he talked about the junior O’Reilly before fall practices began.
“He’s just an old-school linebacker,” said Banks. “Put him in the box, tell him what to do and he goes and gets the job done. He likes doing the dirty work, so me and Callahan get along well.”
With the change in some of the coaches since Brent Vigen took over the team, both players are ecstatic to have linebackers coach Bobby Daly remain with the Cats. Daly, who was a first-team all-American in 2007, is considered one of the best linebackers in MSU's history.
“Just a real players coach,” said Andersen. “Super knowledgeable. You go to him and ask him about anything, whether it be football or life, he has words of wisdom and advice for you. I’m super grateful for everything he’s done for me. He’s helped me become a better football player and a better person. I’m glad he’s around for sure.”
With Andersen back out on the field, the coaches and players are excited to see what a healthy Andersen can do playing just on the defensive side of the ball.
“You’ll be going after a tackle and just see a guy flying around in front of you and it’s like, ‘oh here comes Troy,’” said O’Reilly. “He’s the same as he’s always been, flying to the ball so he’ll be fun to watch.”
Head coach Brent Vigen highlighted how Andersen held player-led practices this summer so that he could be ready to go for this season after overcoming a leg injury over the last year and a half.
“He’s a tremendous leader,” said Vigen. “So excited to see it all with my own eyes in person, but he means so much to this team beyond his ability. It’s hard to quantify.”