BOZEMAN — Montana State opened fall camp under blue skies and (unseasonably) cool temperatures Thursday, which rang in the start of Jeff Choate’s second season as head coach.
The helmets-only session was fast-paced and spirited, it displayed a combination of veterans and newbies duking it out, and it featured a returning quarterback still working to become a more polished passer in an effort to make the Bobcats’ offense more versatile.
In the aftermath, there were separate bits of good and bad news.
First, the good: Choate announced the team captains for the new season, a quartet of seniors he said “really exemplify the core values of our program.” They are linebacker Mac Bignell, receiver Mitch Herbert, left tackle Dylan Mahoney and safety Bryson McCabe.
Now for the bad, which is more extensive: Choate said senior running back Nick LaSane has been suspended for four games — plus additional penalties — due to his separate run-ins with the law this summer.
According to a report published on the website skylinesportsmt.com, LaSane was jailed in June for allegedly driving under the influence, and was arrested again in July for obstructing a law enforcement officer after a fight at a local bar.
LaSane, a fifth-year player who has battled injuries and has 80 career rushing attempts, was an active participant in practice Thursday. Choate outlined the disciplinary actions taken against LaSane, which are stringent.
“Nick has violated team and athletic department policies,” Choate said. “He was suspended for a period of time, he’s gone through the protocol with both our dean of students as well as with Leon (Costello, MSU's athletic director), and he’s been penalized through the athletic department, partially.
“But he will serve a very serious suspension for us on the football side: He’s going to sit for four games, he’s going to forgo a portion of his scholarship for the (remainder) of his eligibility, and he’s got some other internal things that we’re going to do.”
LaSane has his eyes on the No. 1 running back job in camp, but the competition will be tight with Boise State transfer Jake Roper and Saddleback College transfer Edward Vander in the mix.
Holdovers Logan Jones and Noah James are options, and Troy Andersen, a true freshman from Dillon, is starting his career as a running back after first being slotted on defense.
Whether or not this sets him back, Choate said LaSane is working to rectify his situation.
“It’s a tough balancing act when you’re looking at a young man that has eight semester credits left to get his degree — and that’s our number one goal here, to make sure he gets to the finish line,” Choate said. “And if football can help him do that and this can be a lesson that we can utilize to improve his life, we’re certainly going to take advantage of that.”
Oh, captain: The selections of Bignell, Herbert, Mahoney and McCabe as team captains was fitting, Choate said, because of their commitment to the MSU program.
Choate indicated he chose the captains unilaterally rather than put it to a team vote.
“It’s a huge honor,” Herbert said. “It’s going to be a tall task. I need to work on being a more vocal leader. I try to lead by example. We’ve got a bunch of young receivers, and getting them going in the right direction is going to be huge for the future of this program.”
Murray’s motivation: Choate said dual-threat quarterback Chris Murray looked more mentally polished Thursday after a summer of player-run practices and workouts. Murray, a sophomore, is trying to become a more efficient passer in the wake of a freshman season in which he averaged just four completions per game.
Quarterbacks coach DeNarius McGhee, just four years removed from his record-setting MSU career, kept a watchful eye on Murray’s mechanics and focus, and came away impressed.
“His drop efficiency — that’s marrying the (route) concepts with his feet and getting the ball out on time to the right receiver — I think he did that pretty well today,” McGhee said.
“Some of the things we’re going to have continue working on is throwing better balls and putting it on the receiver where it’s a body shot. I want it where the quarterback basically ‘catches’ it for the receiver, and that’s by throwing it right in his chest.
“If we make it where they can catch the ball and then get some yards after the catch, we will be a much better team. And that’s what I’m stressing. Let’s make some great throws and give these a chance to catch the ball and get up field.”
This and that: Redshirt freshman defensive “Buck” end Michael Jobman was not active during practice due to a right knee injury Choate said was suffered toward the end of player-run practices. Jobman was in a brace, and Choate said Jobman is being held out as a precaution. Choate indicated Jobman is expected to be out for couple weeks. ... Choate also said LB Jacob Hadley and WR John D'Agostino will miss the season due to knee injuries. ... The Bobcats will conduct their second practice Friday at 11 a.m.