A closer look at Signing Day

With the Bobcats adding twenty-nine high school athletes, junior college and FBS transfers, many of whom play defense, the recruiting class of 2015 offers great potential on both sides of the ball. On Signing Day, the Bobcats scored some pivotal wins, but also lost out on a number of highly recruited players, many of which were from Montana. In this column, we take a closer look at what was accomplished and what might have been. Nearly all of the information regarding recruits the Bobcats did not sign and other offers players received is courtesy of Colter Nuanez’s Montana State Football Recruiting page at bobcatnation.com.

The Cats signed seven transfers, six of whom were recruited to play defense. Shiloh LaBoy and Joe Naotala from California will compete for time on the defensive line. Marcus Tappan, who played high school ball at La Salle High in California, transfers from Cincinnati to compete for time at middle linebacker. Zachary Stern, outside linebacker from Santa Monica Community College in California will also look to contribute. As stated before, the Cats filled an immediate need by signing strong safety transfers Desman Carter and Bryson McCabe.

It’s never easy when a university misses out on a top in-state recruit. It’s even tougher when said recruit commits to that university’s rival. Four of Montana’s most popular high school athletes, tight end/defensive ends Jesse Simms (Corvallis) and Colin Bingham (Missoula Big Sky), wide receivers Holden Ryan (Billings Central) and Dalton Daum (Butte High), all signed with the Griz. Daum originally committed to the Cats, but with new Griz head coach Bob Stitt implementing a pass-heavy spread offense, the Griz offered Daum a full-ride and he switched. Jesse Sims was originally slated to play for Oregon State, but decommitted and narrowed his choices to UM and MSU, making his choice to sign with UM. However, the Cats brought substantial out-of-state talent at these positions and are loaded at WR. That being said, it could hurt a few years down the road should these Griz commits start scoring points against the Bobcat defense.

The Bobcats got commitments from three WRs. Keon Stephens is a solid get, and Baylor transfer Brandon Brown caught passes from Dakota Prukop in high school. The one Cat fans may see for a while to come is 6-foot-6-inch incoming freshman WR Cameron Sutton, who chose the Cats over the Griz.

After the Cats saw their commitment from Daum switch to the Grizzlies, the Cats got a former Griz recruit in return in Woody Brandom, a three-star tight end.

The Texas and California pipelines for the Bobcats are well known, but the Bobcats are also making a presence in the Midwest. The 2014 roster had five players from the Midwest (three from Iowa, one from Minnesota and one from Missouri). Iowa Western Junior College SS commit Bryson McCabe could start immediately, and the Cats got another important commit from Wisconsin MLB Sam Plucker, who adds much needed depth at linebacker.

The last two starting quarterbacks for the Cats have been Texas dual-threat gunslingers. The Cats may have found a third in Jordan Hoy, who comes from Rockwall-Heath High School in Texas. If not, Kalispell Glacier QB Brady McChesney could play once Dakota Prukop finishes his time. These two commits became especially important after third-string QB Quinn McQueary transferred to Montana Tech.

Losing out on in-state recruits Daum and Sims certainly hurt. However, the biggest heartbreak came when Texas offensive lineman Austin Webb switched his school from Montana State to Hawaii just two days before signing day. The 6-foot-7-inch, 310-lb prospect had the potential to be a four-year starter. But FCS recruiting is a tricky endeavor as FCS elite recruits often find themselves fielding last-minute offers from low-level FBS teams (ex. Mountain West Conference) scrambling to find last-minute commitments.

The Cats will graduate four OL starters next year, and the Cats’ injury bug has shown you can never have enough depth at any position. The Cats did get solid OL commits, both in-state and out. Jake McFetridge from Huntington Beach High in California was the Cats only full ride scholarship offer on the offensive line. The Cats also got partial scholarship and preferred walk-on commits from Bryan Wilkes (Great Falls C.M. Russell), Mitch Brott (Billings West) and Kash Perry (Denton-Stanford-Geyser).

The Bobcats have a history of turning walk-on recruits into stars [ex. Caleb Schreibeis]. This year could be no different. The aforementioned Wilkes, Brott and Perry have the potential to make solid contributions on the OL. Belgrade safety Brayden Konkol is a local product who could make an early impact. Other walk-ons and partial scholarship recipients to look out for are LB Walker Cozzie (Helena Capital), DE Bryon Rollins (Missoula Sentinel), DE Marcus Ferriter (Butte Central), SS Tre’von Strong (Billings Skyview) and a number of players from state champion Kalispell Glacier in LB Josh Hill and QB McChesney. Logan Jones is expected to commit to the Bobcats as well as an athlete.

Washington defensive line recruit Riley Griffiths starred in the 2011 Steven Spielberg hit Super 8 in the supporting role of Charlie Kaznyk. Overall the Cats will have six Washington players and one from Oregon. The Cats targeted a number of high school recruits from Oregon and Washington, but heavy competition from Eastern Washington and Montana (who both have a far greater presence in those states) as well as the PAC-12 brought about Griffiths and TE/DE Keegan Bray as their only signees from the Pacific Northwest.

Whew, that was a lot, and we didn’t even get to California DE Chris Robinson, TE Robert Evans, cornerback Chris Harris, Texas OLB Iyare B.J. Ojo and free safety Sidney Holmes.

To summarize, the Cats added substantial quantity and quality on the defensive front, solidified their future at key offensive positions and continued to establish a presence in Texas, California and Montana.