It was a short offseason for Montana State football — just a little over two months since their loss to North Dakota State in the FCS championship — but all eyes are now on the 2022 season with the first of 15 spring practices officially in the books.
“Last year at this time we were really in just figuring out mode," head coach Brent Vigen said during Tuesday's presser. "New schemes, new coaches, a new way of doing things, and while we do have some new coaches and new players that we’ve added to the mix, there’s a much greater comfort level."
Over the past two months, Vigen says the focus has been on developing depth, addressing the role injuries played late last season while also trying to fill the void of the 17 seniors they lost, 10 of which were starters.
“We have new leaders," Vigen said. "We’ll have new guys emerge that played more secondary roles last year, and that’s what spring is all about seeing guys on the field take that next step.”
After going down with an ankle injury in the FCS Championship, quarterback Tommy Mellott looked to be in good shape Tuesday as he made his return to the field sharing reps with Wyoming transfer Sean Chambers.
“His health is improving," Vigen stated. "He’s going to be able to do mostly everything he needs to do from a quarterback position to continue to grow. We’re going to shy him away from contact I’m guessing all spring.”
Vigen says they’ll continue to lean on Mellott this spring, but with limited contact, there’s an opportunity for Chambers to grow — fueling a healthy competition the program was looking for.
"I think long-term-wise, being deeper at that position was a priority," Vigen explained. "Having competition in the offseason was a priority, and I think the good thing is we’ve got a room of guys that welcomes it.”
While Mellott was able to make a quick recovery, there are still quite a few Bobcats who will miss spring ball with injuries related to last season.
Both linebacker Callahan O’Reilly and running back Isaiah Ifanse will be out for a period of time recovering from offseason surgery, as well as safety Ty Okada, defensive tackle Kyle Rygg, and wide receiver Coy Steele.
“We need to come out of spring feeling different about our depth," Vigen concluded. "We lost 10 starters - not that we're going to come out of spring with this absolutely solidified starting group, but closer to that obviously and then you want to look at you two-deep both offense and defense but then also special teams and feel much different than we do today.”
Their five-week practice window will conclude with the annual spring game, which is set for April 23.