Montana State football coach Rob Ash couldn’t be prouder about the in-state athletes the Bobcat football program harvested for 2013.
MSU announced 20 signees Wednesday, 11 of whom hail from the Treasure State.
“We’re very excited about the players we signed from the state of Montana,” Ash said. “Our in-state recruits represent great balance, and we signed players we considered the best at each classification in the state except six-man.”
One of the headliners of this year’s class is Capital High’s Gunnar Brekke. The Montana Gatorade Player of the Year set a school record with 2,415 career rushing yards and is expected to play running back for the Bobcats.
“Gunnar is a great all-around athlete who could play a number of different positions,” Ash said. “He’s a very instinctive runner who likes to play with the ball in his hand, so we’ll put him at running back and let him make plays. He has good speed and is just very good when he has the ball.”
Brekke becomes the first incoming freshman to arrive in Bozeman as a Gatorade Player of the Year since Havre’s Lance Lanning in 1994, and is the second Capital star with that honor to play at MSU. Quarterback Jeff Tuss won the award in 1988 and came to MSU in ’95.
Glacier High’s Devin Jeffries, the Class AA Defensive Player of the Year, was also among Wednesday’s signings. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound defensive end from Kalispell owns Glacier’s all-time career (17) and single-season (12.5) sack records.
“Devin is a defensive end who is a bigger guy, but is also a very good athlete and very active,” Ash said. “His weight is down a little right now but as he gains size in our strength program he’ll fit our scheme very well.”
The Bobcats also locked up Class A starting quarterbacks Ben Folsom of 2011 state champion Beaverhead County, and Jacob Stanton of 2012 title-winning Billings Central. Folsom completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,273 yards and 23 touchdowns while also logging 194 tackles and seven interceptions in his career. Stanton, who earned first team all-state honors at quarterback and defensive back, is expected to play wide receiver for the Cats.
“Jacob is a coach’s son and is a natural, instinctive football player,” Ash said. “…He has a nice frame, he’s a little taller than some receivers, but he runs very well.”
Bo Hughes of Missoula Loyola comes to the Cats after engineering Loyola’s 2012 state B championship.
“Bo was a great leader on Loyola’s state championship team,” Ash said. “He played quarterback and safety, so he never came off the field … “We’ll take a look at Bo as a safety, but he could play quarterback, receiver, running back.”
Manhattan’s Quinn McQueary was considered one of the state’s top prospects in any class. The 6-2, 185-pound signal caller was a multi-sport star at Manhattan High, where he threw for 4,719 yards in his career and led Manhattan to a 26-10 record with him as the starting quarterback. McQueary’s father, Dale, is the head coach at Manhattan, while his mother, Chris, is a former MSU head rodeo coach.
“He has the height and arm strength to be a very productive quarterback,” Ash said, “but also has tremendous mobility and the ability to make plays with his legs. He throws a good deep ball with nice touch.”
In Class C 8-man, Cody Vitt led Fairview to a perfect regular season and a final 11-1 record. Vitt rushed for 1,607 yards on 134 carries, averaging 12 yards per carry and 133 yards per game. He also caught 21 passes for 346 yards and scored 42 touchdowns on the season.
“Cody was one of the top players in Class C last season,” Ash said. “He is a dynamic runner, a very productive back. He has a good combination of speed and power.”
The fact that MSU was able to sign so much local talent “indicates the respect our program has gained in Montana,” Ash said.
Bozeman native Tanner Roderick also returns to his hometown after transferring from Nevada. Roderick was the 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year after leading the Hawks to the state AA championship. Another Division I transfer who joined the Bobcat program in January is Ijumaa Armstrong from Hawaii.
Ash lauded Armstrong and Roderick for their work so far in MSU’s winter workout program.
“They have both worked hard and impressed people,” the coach said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them play in the spring.”