BOZEMAN — During a press conference on Jan. 11, coach Jeff Choate discussed the need for Montana State to acquire big bodies as well as replenish depth in the secondary for the NCAA’s second signing period for football, which commences next week.
To that end, Choate and his coaching staff have received verbal commitments from two high school prospects in California that fit the specified criteria — 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive lineman T.J. Session of Murrieta, and 5-11, 170-pound defensive back Elijah King of Elk Grove.
Both Session and King announced their commitments to MSU via Twitter last weekend, and in separate interviews with 406mtsports.com confirmed their plans to sign letters of intent with the Bobcats on Feb. 6.
Session and King both said they were offered full-ride scholarships during official visits over the weekend, and they wasted no time pledging to the Bobcats.
“We’re going to have to spend a lot of time, energy, money and effort to get the guys that we have targeted right now, because we’re recruiting against a lot of people,” Choate said in January. “And that’s not a bad place to be, but it’s a lot of work.”
King, for instance, said he had received offers from two other Big Sky Conference programs, Cal Poly and Sacramento State — the latter of which is not far down the road from where he has starred on both the gridiron and track at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
King also said he had offers from Division II schools Western Oregon and Azusa Pacific in California. But he was sold on MSU when he made his official visit last weekend.
“At first when I arrived, the people there were very, very welcoming,” King said. “It felt like they cared about me as an individual, and they just accepted me into one big family. Off of that I knew that it was going to be a great place for me.”
King, who visited Sac State the week before making his trip to MSU, said it’s his understanding that he will start his career with the Bobcats at cornerback. It’s the position he played in his first three years of high school before switching to safety as a senior, from where he made a team-high 107 tackles (per MaxPreps).
King also played slot receiver and led his team last season in receptions (33), receiving yards (583) and TD catches (six). He scored a 99-yard touchdown on a quick screen pass during a homecoming win over Pleasant Grove in September.
“I was very happy with my senior season,” King said. “I knew that it was going to be my year to shine, and knowing that my coaches were going to give me the opportunity to shine on my last year, it made me really excited. I’m happy that I performed.”
It’s King’s goal to make it onto the field at MSU as a true freshman, saying, “You can fit me anywhere. I can play multiple positions. I’m more of a technician. And I love to hit.”
MSU’s engineering program was another draw for King, who said he plans to major in mechanical engineering, hoping to one day achieve a master’s degree.
Session, meanwhile, is projected to play either tackle or guard for the Bobcats. Session, from Vista Murrieta High School, said he primarily played defensive line prior to his senior season last fall, but adapted quickly to the position change.
“I was always moved around playing defensive end, defensive tackle, and really mainly playing on the defensive side,” Session said. “But this year coach (Eric Peterson) told me, ‘T.J., we’re pretty short on the line and we need somebody to play on the line.’ So I stepped up and I played offensive line for the team.
“At first I really didn’t know any of the plays and I didn’t really know the steps and how to flip my hips or where to put my hands. At first it was kind of weird, but I adapted really quick and had a great season.”
Vista Murrieta went 8-3 and won the Southwest League crown in the Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation. Session helped the offense produce roughly 3,000 yards of offense and 35 total touchdowns.
In terms of playing offensive line, the cordial Session explained his mindset.
“I’m a real nice person off the field, but once I put the helmet and pads on it’s game time,” said Session, who plans to major in business and minor in education at MSU. “I’m a really aggressive person off the ball, and once I put my hands on you it’s done.
“You just have to be gritty and nasty. You can’t let nobody get past you. At the end of the day you’re an offensive lineman — you don’t really get much glory, so you have to have a gritty attitude and be really aggressive.”
Session also had trips planned to FBS Fresno State and FCS independent Dixie State in Utah. But Session committed to the Bobcats while on his official visit. Session said the initial plan is for him to redshirt for the 2019 season.
The verbal commitments by King and Session come on the heels of the Bobcats signing 16 new recruits during the NCAA’s early signing period in December.
406mtsports.com has also reported that Logan Gilliard of Bigfork has accepted a preferred walk-on offer to join the Bobcats’ football program in 2019. Meanwhile, Kent, Washington, lineman Tua Areta (6-4, 310) verbally committed to the Bobcats last week.
In other MSU football news, freshman receiver Mekhi Metcalf has decided to transfer from the program. Metcalf announced his decision via Twitter on Sunday.
Metcalf joins running back Maleek Barkley and linebacker Dante Sparaco in leaving the team, while RB Tyler Natee, LB Balue Chapman and offensive lineman Jarrod Asche have retired.