BUTTE — Early in spring ball, fifth-year senior Montana Tech linebackers Jake Clarke and Carter Myers got part of a unique assignment.
The Orediggers had a bit of turnover in the coaching staff in the winter and early spring, especially on the defensive side. Three of the new coaches — defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Nick Brautigam, defensive line coach Jake Crawford and defensive backs coach Zak Suave — needed to be brought up to speed.
Quickly, too and Montana Tech head coach Chuck Morrell turned to Clarke and Myers with a request: do a little teaching of their own.
“We had to really lean on both of those guys to basically assist our new coaches in getting to know the scheme,” Morrell said. “Their investment level and how much they care has been nothing short of spectacular.”
For both Clarke and Myers, the investment in the program started over four years ago when the Billings native (Clarke) and the Cody, Wyoming product (Myers) signed with Montana Tech. Both players are engineers — Clarke in Geophysical and Myers in General — and liked the academic aspect of the school as well.
Coming to Butte in the same recruiting class, the pair quickly became friends and, for the past several semesters, roommates as well. Myers did not really know anyone very well coming into the Mining City and as one of the few Wyoming products on the team, was a little bit on the outside looking in.
That did not last particularly long.
“I got a bunch of guys that I know now that, I don’t know, are gonna be in my wedding in the future and I’m going to be friends with the rest of my life,” Myers said. “Can’t really beat that. That honest family feeling, I know that’s cheesy, but you honestly get that and you get that brotherhood.”
Those friendships have developed into a nearly unshakable brand of team chemistry that is shared across the defense. While there are plenty of players who deserve credit for that, it is pretty difficult not to start with the pair of fifth-year linebackers.
Clarke led the Orediggers in tackles last year, finishing with 65 (9.5 for loss) as well as 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups and an interception. Myers was not far behind in tackles — fourth, to be exact — with 47. He also had 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions, one of which he returned 83 yards for a touchdown against Eastern Oregon.
It was each player’s first full year of starting responsibilities, a fact in part due to the Orediggers abundance of standout linebackers over the past few seasons. Names like Brock Polley, Connor Wines, Nic Amestoy and David Meis come to mind and these are the players Clarke and Myers got to learn from.
“We’ve had a real smart group every year and we’ve really learned the defense,” Clarke said. “Once you learn what you’re doing we can go ball out and have fun doing it.”
Like many defensive units in all levels of football, the linebackers are often coordinating the group on the field and at Montana Tech it is no different.
Both will be called upon to do more than they ever have this season. With an untested defensive line and having lost both Wines and Amestoy to graduation, Clarke and Myers will have to be even better than ever if Tech is to improve on its 5-5 record in 2018.
The talent, leadership skills and intelligence to do just that is certainly there. They know exactly what they need to do this season to improve, perhaps as much as anyone on the team — after all, they did help coach the coaches.
And as for confidence in both themselves and the players around them?
Well, that’s there too.
“Blood in the water, play like sharks,” Myers said. “It’s scary for offenses to play us. We’ve got to keep that attitude of being aggressive and getting our offense on the field as much as we can and setting them up for success.”