The defensive backs are probably the most uncertain position group for the state of Montana. It is not necessarily negative.
“He’s the least experienced but the most talented,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said on Friday.
If that talent turns into production this fall, the defense with a line of veterans and great linebackers could be some of the best in the Big Sky.
MSU’s defensive rosters will be fluid, Vigen noted, but the base roster will include four traditional defensive backs (two cornerbacks and two safes) and a nickelback.
From nickel, MSU’s most experienced DB: Tyrel Thomas. The Compton, Calif., Senior started three corner corner games as a rookie in 2017 and played an even bigger role a year later, although an injury forced him to miss four games. Thomas started 12 of 15 games in 2019 and finished with 42 tackles, two interceptions and the top 12 team breakouts. He finished second among all Big Sky players for defended passes (interceptions and ruptures).
5-foot-8, 170-pound Thomas showed his nickel credentials by being “a wedge that can fit in the box,” said MSU defensive coordinator and defensive back coach Freddie Banks, who played the corner for. the state of North Dakota from 2008. to 2010.
âA tall guy who can maybe be in great shape who can (run) back down consistently, can end up in the box with a few movement adjustments, but you can also keep him out of the box schematically, and a guy who can line up and win in head-to-head matches against these little slots, âBanks said earlier this month.
âIt’s really a mixture of tenacity and athletic ability. Not everyone who plays the corner can field a nickel, and they can. He has a unique skill set.
One of the corners of MSU’s first string, James Campbell (6-1, 176 pounds), was previously a wide receiver. The junior from Palatka, Fla., Played 13 games in 2019, mostly in special teams. He only played six games in the freshman due to injury.
The other starting corner is Eric Zambrano (6-1, 192), a sophomore from Upland, Calif., Who played 14 games in a substitute role two years ago.
âWhen we get into the men’s coverage, we want to be able to line up all over the pitch,â Banks said. âThere will be times when we don’t really care where you pull over. – Tyrel, you got this guy. Go cover it. And EZ and James, whatever the clashes. â¦ We think we can compete with everyone at the conference.
Strong first rope safety Ty Okada (5-11, 185) is a bit more experienced than Campbell and Zambrano but is entering his first season in a starting role. The junior redshirt from Woodbury, Minnesota played 11 special team games in 2018 and was a reserve safety who played nickel the following season. Okada started the last two games of 2019 safely.
Free-starting safety Jeffrey Manning (6-1, 192) hasn’t played a game for MSU but could be the most talented player in high school. The junior redshirt was transferred from the state of Oregon in 2020 after sporadic play time. After recording 35 tackles in 12 games (two starts) in 2018, he only appeared in four games the following season.
âWe have the ability with this group, from a coverage point of view, to be quite diverse, between the different types of areas that we play in and the different versions of humans,â Vigen said.
All five defensive starting full-backs could be eligible for breakout seasons, given their new and / or larger roles.
Behind them are intriguing talents such as Tre Webb, a transfer graduate from San Jose state who started out safe for three years and earned an honorable mention all-Mountain West in 2020.
âA great leader, and I really appreciate what he’s been through and the growth he’s had over the past three years,â said Vigen. âHe’s going to bring experience and leadership.
Webb, whose transfer was announced late last month, was not on the camp’s depth chart before MSU’s fall. Okada’s backing is Rylan Ortt (6-1, 207), a freshman in a red shirt who attended Missoula Sentinel. Kendrick Bailey (6-1, 190) is the free backup goalie. The Californian transferred to the Sacramento City College MSU last year.
Behind Zambrano on the depths chart is Devin Davis (6-1, 187), who signed with MSU out of American Canyon High School (Calif.) Last year.
Miles Jackson (5-11, 187), a true freshman from Portland, Ore., Is behind Campbell, and the second student in the red shirt Level Price Jr. (5-8, 178) is the third channel. Price, who attended the same high school (St. John Bosco) as Thomas, played all 15 games in 2019 and finished with 21 tackles.
Thomas’s backing is Tadan Gilman (6-0, 220), graduate of Kalispell Glacier (6-0, 220), a junior redshirt who previously lined up as linebacker and contributed to special teams in 2018 and 2019.
“That large number (of defensive backs) certainly affects the special teams,” said Vigen. âAt the end of the day, you want your special teams to be made up of guys who can run and tackle, and I think this group will contribute a lot to that.â
San Antonio corner kicker Simeon Woodward (5-10, 170) has been one of the Bobcats’ most impressive true freshmen, Vigen said.
Red-shirted freshman Tylor Bohannon entered the transfer portal in April and found himself in Big Sky, the enemy of Idaho State.
John Knight, who wore a red blouse in 2019, also entered the transfer portal in the spring.
Chacho Ulloa was a transfer graduate from Arizona who arrived at MSU in 2020 but did not play because the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luke May, who transferred from Minnesota in 2017, played sparingly in his first two MSU seasons and missed most of 2019 with injury. The Whitefish native would have been a senior last fall.
Webb and Bailey are the only new transfer defensive backs on MSU’s roster.
Jackson, Woodward, Eli Aby (6-1, 185), native of Alaska, Jackson Harmon (6-2, 190) and native of Idaho Tyson Pottenger (6-2, 178) are the true defensive backs of the Bobcats.
Billings West graduate Connor Ryan (6-1, 208) and Jake D’Agostino de Bozeman (6-2, 197) signed with MSU in 2019.