Aug 14, 2012 11:35 PM by Q2 Sports
BOZEMAN - Rob Ash knows there's one real way to gauge a football team's progress.
"You have to tackle," said MSU's sixth-year head coach on Tuesday, a day before his team engages in its only major scrimmage of fall camp. "On the offensive side, you need to block players that are trying to tackle and try to break tackles. That's the only way to see where you're at."
Ash will see plenty of tackling Wednesday, with the scrimmage portion of Wednesday's practice beginning at 3:20 pm. The event features officials and other features to simulate game action, and is slated to last at least 100 plays.
Unlike many seasons, the Bobcats don't have a lot of positions up for grabs as the 2012 campaign nears. Those positions where the starting spot hasn't been clearly defined - nose tackle, wide receiver, perhaps running back - still boast considerable talent and even, in most spots, depth. "It's not like an all-or-nothing deal," Ash said of playing time for players who don't find their names at the top of the depth chart. "The ones that are playing well will get the most reps, but everyone will get turns."
Ash added that more than keying in on position battles, he will look for functions of managing a game on Sunday. "Jamie (Marshall) and Kevin (McGiven, MSU's defensive and offensive coordinators respectively) will be in the press box, so I'll be looking to see how we get plays in, if we're penalty-free, assignment-sound, that sort of thing."
The most intense competition for playing time comes in the special teams ranks, where Ash will look for what he calls ‘core' players, regulars that man kick return and coverage spots. He will also evaluate his kickers, who continue to wage an all-out battle for place-kicking and kickoff duties.
The Bobcats get a break from the practice routine Thursday for team pictures and academic obligations.
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The physical grind of fall camp is beginning to catch up with the Bobcats, and some noteworthy absences due to injury Wednesday will testify to that. Starting safety Joel Fuller and reserves Heath Howard and James Nelson will all miss time in the secondary, receiver Brian Flotkoetter, and defensive end Odin Coe will also miss the scrimmage.
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DeNarius McGhee, Jody Owens and Zach Minter earned more preseason honors Wednesday. Each of the three were named to the College Sports Journal Preseason All-America Team. Minter and Owens were First Team choices, while McGhee was named to the Third Team.