BOZEMAN — Montana State released its 2021 football season-opening depth chart on Monday, with Matthew McKay remaining ahead of Tucker Rovig as the starting quarterback.
McKay, a transfer from North Carolina State, was listed as the starter on MSU's post-spring and pre-fall depth charts as well. He'll lead the Bobcats' offense in their opener at Wyoming on Saturday, their first game since 2019 because last season was canceled due to COVID-19.
MSU's offensive starters are the same as they were before fall camp, except for one position: center. Bozeman High graduate Justus Perkins, who MSU head coach Brent Vigen praised last week, is listed as the first-string center after being third string prior to camp. The redshirt freshman is one spot ahead of the previous starter, redshirt sophomore Cole Sain, who Vigen said missed some of camp because of an injury.
"The opportunity presented itself for Justus, and he jumped on it," Vigen said Monday. "Relative to his performance in the spring, (he) took a big leap forward as far as what he was able to bring to the table, had a really good summer.
"That's not to say that Cole didn't. Cole just missed some time. Cole's back now, and we'll see how it plays out not only this coming Saturday but as the season goes along."
The Bobcats also have some new first-stringers on defense and special teams.
Starting at nickelback in MSU's new 4-2-5 defense is redshirt junior Ty Okada, who was previously first string at strong safety. Okada is in place of Tyrel Thomas, who will miss the Wyoming game with a "lower-body injury," Vigen said.
Now starting at strong safety is Tre Webb, a grad transfer from San Jose State who joined MSU in July. Backing him up is redshirt freshman Rylan Ortt, a Missoula Sentinel grad. Oregon State transfer Jeffrey Manning, a redshirt junior, is the first-string free safety.
"Ty Okada was the key to us really trying to get the best five out there because Ty could play strong, he could play free, he could play nickel," Vigen said. "We feel like Tre and Jeff Manning earned the right to start. Rylan Orrt's going to see the field as well at strong safety. That also gave us some flexibility to move Ty over.
"(We) feel good about Tyrel coming back, for sure, in due time and really feel good about where Ty Okada is right now at the nickel spot."
Blake Glessner is listed as the first-string kicker and is backed up by Bryce Leighton, who is also the starting punter. Pre-camp first-string kicker Luke Pawlak will miss "an extended period of time" due to an injury that happened mid-fall camp, Vigen said.
"Blake has stepped up. They were competing as Luke went down, essentially, and (we) felt good about the direction they were both going," Vigen said. "I've been pleased with Blake and his ability to step in and take over both the place kicking and kickoff duties."
Nate Stewart, previously the backup Z wide receiver, will also miss an extended period of time with an injury, Vigen said. The Akron grad transfer was replaced by true freshman Andrew Patterson on the depth chart.
McKay beat out two quarterbacks who started for the Bobcats in 2019. Rovig started the last 12 games of that season after Casey Bauman, the third stringer on the 2021 depth chart, started the first three.
MSU's other first-stringers on offense: junior Isaiah Ifanse (running back), redshirt freshman Jaden Smith (X receiver), senior Bozeman grad Lance McCutcheon (Z receiver), redshirt junior Willie Patterson (H receiver), redshirt junior Dillon grad RJ Fitzgerald (fullback), redshirt sophomore Derryk Snell (tight end), redshirt senior Lewis Kidd (left tackle), redshirt junior Zach Redd (left guard), redshirt senior Taylor Tuiasosopo (right guard) and redshirt freshman TJ Session (right tackle).
The other defensive starters: redshirt senior Amandre Williams (defensive end), senior Daniel Hardy (defensive end), redshirt senior Helena grad Chase Benson (nose tackle), redshirt junior Kyle Rygg (tackle), senior Dillon grad Troy Andersen (Mike linebacker), redshirt junior Bozeman grad Callahan O'Reilly (Will linebacker), junior James Campbell (cornerback) and sophomore Eric Zambrano (cornerback).
Redshirt sophomore Lane Sumner, a Huntley Project grad, is the first-string kick returner, as well as the third-string running back behind Ifanse and redshirt freshman Elijah Elliott.
Redshirt sophomore Coy Steel is the starting punt returner ahead of Willie Patterson, who Steel is backing up at H receiver.
Freshman Tommy Sullivan is at the top of the long/short snapper depth chart. Backing him up is redshirt sophomore linebacker Jory Choate, a Bozeman grad and the son of former MSU head coach Jeff Choate.