BOZEMAN — Jeff Choate took a bird’s-eye view of the quarterback competition Friday as Montana State conducted its first practice of fall camp.
One of Choate’s takeaways from what was a fast-paced, high-rep, helmets-only session: Troy Andersen didn’t disappoint in his initial outing with MSU’s signal-callers.
At the very least, Andersen — who has already played both running back and linebacker in his still-young career — didn’t look out of place.
“We’ll go look at it, but I’d say probably Troy had the best day,” said Choate, who is entering his third year as Montana State’s coach.
Junior receiver Kevin Kassis said Andersen had a solid day, but that there is always room for growth. Remember, it was just last year that Andersen was being groomed as a two-way player fresh out of Beaverhead High in Dillon.
By and large, Andersen’s passes Friday were spirals. His only real blemish was the interception he served up to cornerback Jalen Cole during a spirited 7 on 7 period.
“It’s just going to take some time getting his feet underneath him,” Kassis said. “He has a pretty strong arm, but the thing with Troy too is, no matter what his arm strength is, he’s a smart guy and he can figure it out. Once he takes more reps and gets some more experience it will help him out a lot.”
During team periods, some of which he spent from a position on a portable scissor lift overlooking the Dyche practice fields, Choate estimated that Andersen got more snaps with the top offensive unit than the other QB contestants, though Travis Jonsen, Tucker Rovig and Casey Bauman did not lack their own reps thanks to a three-field configuration the team is utilizing in camp.
But there were a few outlying factors.
Choate said Jonsen’s foot injury “flared up,” and the junior transfer from Riverside City College was hobbling ever so slightly. Jonsen suffered a broken foot in the offseason and was only recently cleared for full participation.
Meanwhile, the coach could sense Bauman, a true freshman, straining to keep his wits as the day continued.
“Travis didn’t do a whole lot in 7 on 7 or team periods,” Choate said. “I thought Casey looked good early and then I think the information overload got to him a little bit as practice went on, which is bound to happen with a freshman. I thought Tucker was proficient. I thought Troy looked good.”
Choate said Bauman, a true freshman who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 230 pounds, has impressive tools as a passer. The big-bodied Bauman certainly looks the part of a quarterback.
It will just take time, Choate said, for him to digest the Bobcats’ offensive system.
“I think he’s a smart kid. I think he’s very cerebral. He has a live arm; he can really spin it,” Choate said of Bauman. “Once he gets a chance to relax a little bit and absorb some of the install, I think we’ll probably know more about him next week.
“By the time we get to Scrimmage 1 we should start to be seeing him really be more comfortable with some of our base stuff, and by the time we get to Scrimmage 2 I think that he would master most of our DNA schemes.”
Rovig perhaps had the day’s best throw when he connected with tight end Connor Sullivan with a pretty pass up the seam.
True freshman Ruben Beltran, who Choate has named as a fifth quarterback in the competition, was relegated to the sideline as the team awaits finalization of his enrollment paperwork.
The Bobcats are in the process of replacing two-year starter Chris Murray, who is academically ineligible and unable to play this season. It’s a work in progress.
“That’s probably the one disadvantage that we’re at right now, not knowing who the guy is,” Kassis said. “But at the same time we have a lot of guys who are capable of playing quarterback. I think as camp goes on (the coaches) will get a better understanding of who they want to play quarterback, then at that point you can kind of develop more timing with that guy.”
Veteran losses: Choate said LB Josh Hill and RB Logan Jones, both upperclassmen, are injured and that their statuses are unclear.
Choate said it is believed Jones, a true senior, is suffering from a hernia but that it is not yet known if he needs surgery. Meanwhile, Hill, a redshirt junior, may have to undergo a back operation.
Hill is “a guy that I think has gotten all he can out of his body,” Choate said. “Super, super smart player. A glue-guy for us. Almost a coach on the field. It’s unfortunate but that’s part of the game.”
Late arrival: Choate mentioned that junior WR Davine Tullis, a transfer from Hawaii, joined the team just before the start of camp. Tullis (6-1, 195) made one reception last season.
Tullis played at Ballard High School in Seattle, which was previously coached by former Bobcats DB Joey Thomas.
Late departures: A pair of 2018 recruits aren’t with the team: OL Donny Long and DB Malik Putney. Choate said Long became homesick and returned to California, and that Putney “is working through some eligibility stuff and may or may not be with us” in the future.