BOZEMAN, Mont. -- The process of building strong offensive and defensive lines may not make headlines, but the play of those units on the football field does. That explains Rob Ash's enthusiasm for the 23 student-athletes that joined the Montana State football program on Wednesday.
"That's probably the headline to this class," Ash said, "trying to improve our size with bigger guys in the lines, taller guys at the skill positions, without sacrificing athletic ability. In addition to that we got some highly-skilled athletes. We are adding a very exciting group of football players to our program, athletes that can compete physically at the national level."
More than one-third of the new group of Bobcats call the line-of-scrimmage home, with three lining up on offense and five on defense. Ash said that developing those players takes two separate approaches. "We have a lot of guys coming back in the offensive line," he said. "We lose Quinn (Catalano after) this year and a large number the next year. We didn't feel like we had to go crazy, but it takes a while to build an offensive lineman so we wanted to get good players into the system and begin the process."
The impact of those signed across the line could be more immediate, Ash said. "We have an amazing tradition on the defensive line, two guys in the NFL and two others that won the most recent Buck Buchanan Awards," he said. "If the four guys up front can pressure the quarterback and stay gap-sound against the run the entire defense functions well. We think we added four guys that will be able to do that.
Ash preaches that Montana State's recruiting begins close to home, and the Bobcats landed one of the state's top players in Bozeman High linebacker Grant Collins and a decorated lineman in Manhattan's Austin Oldenburger. Those two headline a five-player class of Montanans - they are joined by Colstrip's Tucker Yates, Trevin Thompson of Helena, and receiver Connor Sullivan of Ennis - that Ash calls "exceptional. I'm very happy with our Montana signees. The state may not have as many Division I players this year, but the quality is exceptionally good, and I feel we got some of the very best players in Montana, no question."
Montana State's eighth-year head coach was also pleased to replenish his team's talent pipeline from Texas, which provided eight of this year's new Bobcats. "I'm really happy to sign so many good appliers from Texas," he said. "Our production out of that state has been down in the last couple of recruiting classes, so signing eight players from there is very satisfying. I'm glad we got back into Texas in a big way this year."
Transfers (Previously announced)
Name, Pos. Ht Wt Class Hometown High School Previous College
Bryson Keeton, CB (already enrolled) 6-2 190 Jr Bakersfield, CA Ridgeview Nevada
Anthony Knight, RB 6-1 240 Jr Boston, MA Xaverian Bros Riverside/Nevada
Wawa Leota, DL (WAH-wah lee-O-tuh) 6-1 286 Jr Bedford, TX Euless Trinity Tyler JC
High School Signees
Bryce Alley, CB 5-10 169 Fr Houston, TX North Shore
Curtis Amos, TE 6-0 212 Fr Burleson, TX Centennial
Grant Collins, LB 6-4 213 Fr Bozeman, MT Bozeman
Tavon Dodd, RB (TAY-vawn) 5-7 165 Fr Houston TX John H. Reagan
Braelen Evans, CB (BRAY-luhn) 5-11 183 Fr Frisco, TX Hebron
Tyrone Faa'nono, LB (fah-ah-NO-no) 6-2 261 Fr Oxnard, CA Oaks Christian
Mitchell Herbert, WR 6-4 201 Fr Eugene, OR Sheldon
DeMonte King, S (duh-MAWN-tay) 6-1 212 Fr Los Alamitos, CA Los Alamitos
Joey Marinello, OL (mare-in-ELL-o) 6-5 320 Fr Apple Valley, MN Eastview
Garrett Marino, DL (muh-REE-no) 6-2 274 Fr Mission Viejo, CA Mission Viejo
Toti Moeakiola, S (DOE-dee mo-ee-aw-kee-O-luh) 6-0 205 Fr Euless, TX Trinity
Austin Oldenburger, OL 6-3 270 Fr Manhattan, MT Manhattan
Justin Paige, ATH 5-11 171 Fr Katy, TX Morton Ranch
Eric Prevost, LB (PREE-vost) 6-0 205 Fr Covina, CA Charter Oak
Matt Stewart, P 6-3 245 Fr Corona, CA Santiago
Connor Sullivan, WR 6-4 218 Fr Ennis, MT Ennis
Trevin Thompson, K (TREV-in) 5-9 195 Fr Helena, MT Helena
Wade Webster, OL 6-6 295 Fr Bettendorf, IA Bettendorf
Zach Wright, DL 6-3 234 Fr New Braunfels, TX New Braunfels
Tucker Yates, DL 6-1 285 Fr Colstrip, MT Colstrip
Bobcat Recruits by Position and Home State
QB RB OL WR TE DL LB DB K ATH MT CA IA MN OR TX MA
‘14 Recruits 0 2 3 2 1 5 3 5 2 1 5 6 1 1 1 8 1
Bryson Keeton, DB
6-2, 190, Jr, Bakersfield, CA (Nevada/Ridgeview)
Player Notes: Transferred to MSU at the semester, and is presently enrolled and attending classes... played in 10 games as a sophomore last fall, logging 38 tackles, including one sack... intercepted one pass, and broke up or deflected five others... played in six games as a redshirt freshman, starting against Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl... picked off a pass and all four of his tackles for the season in that game... redshirted at Nevada in 2011... three-time all-league and all-section defensive back at Ridgeview High School... lettered in basketball, helping his team to a Valley championship in 2010.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "I've been very impressed with Bryson Keeton. He's been here since the beginning of the semester, and he reported in terrific shape. He's a team player, he's been punctual and organized in everything he's done, and he looks to be a very talented athlete with good size for his position. I'm very excited to have Bryson in our program."
Anthony Knight, RB
6-1, 240, Jr, Boston, MA (Riverside JC/Nevada/Lawrence Academy)
Player Notes: Rushed for 741 yards on 123 carries last season at Riverside Community College, for 6.3 yards per carry... began his collegiate career at Nevada, where he redshirted in 2011... played in three games in 2012, carrying four times for 10 yards and a touchdown... named Preseason All-Mountain West Second Team by College Football Madness and Third Team by Phil Steele...rushed for 1,735 yards on 140 carries as a junior at Lawrence Academy Prep School, and 1,399 yards on 99 carries as a senior.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Anthony Knight is a big, powerful running back who transfers from Nevada via Riverside Community College in California. He's very gifted athletically, and he gives us the option of using a bigger back, as we've done on occasion."
Wawa Leota, DL
6-1, 286, Jr, Bedford, TX (Tyler JC/Euless Trinity)
Player Notes: Registered 38 total tackles for Tyler Junior College in 2013, with six sacks and 11 total tackles-for-loss... also forced a fumble... the cousin of current Bobcat Na'a Moeakiola and MSU signee Toti Moeakiola.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Wawa is a transfer from Tyler Junior College, and he is another player that comes to us from Euless Trinity. He is a dynamic playmaker in the defensive line, a big, athletic player who has also played as a short-yardage fullback. He was recruited by some programs as strictly a fullback, but he wants to play defense full-time. It's conceivable that we'll use him as a fullback in some situations, but as a defensive lineman he's an impact player in our program."
HIGH SCHOOL SIGNEES
Bryce Alley, CB
5-10, 169, Fr, Houston, TX (North Shore)
Player Notes: Earned Class 5A All-District 21 honorable mention honors as a senior, helping lead North Shore to a 13-1 record... two-year letterman.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Bryce Alley is an extremely talented corner from a very highly-regarded, competitive high school program in Houston. He burst on the scene as a senior, and he's an exciting, talented coverage player. We're really excited about Bryce's future."
Curtis Amos, TE
6-0, 212, Fr, Houston, TX (Centennial)
Player Notes: Caught 24 passes for 469 yards (19.5 yards a catch) with nine touchdowns as a senior... Class 4A All-District 8 First Team selection at tight end, and First Team All-Johnson County... TexasHSFootball.com All-Star... ranked 47th on the Texas Top 100 preseason list in 2014 by InsideTexas.com, and the ninth-ranked tight end prospect in the state by Texas-247 Sports.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "He's an extremely talented and versatile two-way player at defensive end and tight end. We plan to use him on offense. Curtis is powerful and has excellent speed, he runs good routes, has good hands, and is very explosive athletically. He has a chance to be a very good player."
Grant Collins, LB
6-4, 213, Fr, Bozeman, MT (Bozeman)
Player Notes: Helped lead Bozeman High to an undefeated state championship in 2013, earning USA Today Montana Defensive Player of the Year honors... Class AA Co-Defensive MVP, First Team All-State and Great Falls Tribune Superstate choice... chosen for the Montana Shrine Game and the Mon-Dak All-Star Game... his father Shane Collins played at Arizona State and for the Washington Redskins, and his grandfather Dr. Don Collins was a long-time MSU professor.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Grant Collins is a huge part of this recruiting class because he fills a major role for us athletically at Mike linebacker. He has the size, aggressiveness and skill to be a big presence for us as an inside linebacker, but he also comes from a great, athletic family, and from a very good program at Bozeman High School. We are very excited for Grant to join the Bobcats."
Tavon Dodd, RB
5-7, 165, Fr, Houston, TX (John H. Reagan)
Player Notes: Earned First Team All-District, District Offensive Player of the Year, and District MVP honors at John H. Reagan High in 2013.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Tavon Dodd is a three-way skilled player. He's a running back, a safety, and a kick returner, who is a powerful player in a smaller frame. He plays much bigger and more explosively than his stature would lead you to believe. We're looking at him on offense, but Tavon has a lot of versatility."
Braelen Evans, CB
5-11, 183, Fr, Frisco, TX (Hebron)
Player Notes: Earned First Team All-District honors in 2013 as a defensive back... also Second Team All-District running back.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Braelen Evans is a dynamic cover corner, joining Bryce Alley. He has some height to him, he's both quick and fast, and he has excellent ball skills. Braelen was a very talented running back earlier in his high school career at a powerful high school program in Dallas. He is a big, big signing for us."
Tyrone Faa'nono, LB
6-2, 261, Fr, Oxnard, CA (Oaks Christian)
Player Notes: A two-time All-Maramonte League selection, earning conference defensive lineman of the year honors... Ventura Star First Team All-County and All-CIF selection... played in AIGA Foundation All-Poly All-Star Game... 45 tackles and seven sacks on the season.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Tyrone is a very quick and athletic defensive lineman. He has the potential to grow and get much bigger, which is intriguing becasue he is so athletic and fast for a bigger guy. He is already 260 lbs, but has a big frame that could still fill out. We'll look at him as a defensive end, but he may be a defensive tackle eventually. He is another versatile defensive line prospect."
Mitchell Herbert, WR
6-4, 201, Fr, Eugene, OR (Sheldon)
Player Notes: All-league selection on offense and defense... earned team MVP and Scholar-Athlete honors at Sheldon High... caught 84 passes for 1,142 yards and five touchdowns... rushed 34 times for 200 yards and six scores... 44 tackles on the season... compiled a 4.0 grade point average, National Honor Society member.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Mitchell Herbert is an impressive, tall wide receiver from Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon. He has great ball skills and runs excellent routes. For a bigger receiver Mitchell is very productive in gaining yards after he catches the ball. He is a prototype outside receiver, and those guys are hard to find."
DeMonte King, S
6-1, 212, Fr, Los Alomitos, CA (Los Alomitos)
Player Notes: Earned team defensive MVP honors at Los Alomitos, where he was a two-year starter... First Team All-Sunset League and Third Team All-Orange County.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "The best description for DeMonte King is that he's a pure football player. He absolutely loves the game and plays with great passion and intensity. He's tall and fast and versatile. He can play safety and linebacker, but we're looking at him as a safety. He played for a very strong program at Los Alomitos and had great performances against very talented competition."
Joey Marinello, OL
6-5, 320, Fr, Apple Valley, MN (Eastview)
Player Notes: First Team All-State and All-Conference selection... First Team Minneapolis Star-Tribune All-Metro... team captain as a senior.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Joey Marinello was our second commitment in this class. He committed to us in the fall, and is a big, powerful offensive lineman with a great frame, excellent footwork and balance. He is highly recognized in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area as one of the top linemen in that region."
Garrett Marino, DL
6-2, 274, Fr, Mission Viejo, CA (Mission Viejo)
Player Notes: A 2013 graduate of Mission Viejo High School... First Team All-League in 2012, earning All-Pac 5 Division and All-CIF honors... First Team All-Orange County and Second Team All-State by Max Preps in 2012... 40 tackles, 14 sacks as a senior.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Garret Marino is a dynamic defensive line prospect whose explosiveness and tenacity in rushing the quarterback is truly special. He has a chance to continue our long run of productive pass rushers."
Toti Moeakiola, S
6-1, 205, Fr, Euless, TX (Trinity)
Player Notes: Earned second team all-conference honors at Euless Trinity.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Toti is very similar athletically to his brother, Na'a (a current Bobcat linebacker). Toti is a very quick-twitch, explosive, strong, tenacious player. He is versatile, and we're looking at him as a Sam linebacker, but he can play safety, too. Toti is an all-around productive football player from a tremendous family and a tremendous high school program."
Austin Oldenburger, OL
6-3, 270, Fr, Manhattan, MT (Manhattan)
Player Notes: A three-time Class B All-State and all-conference choice on the offensive and defensive lines.. four-time Manhattan Lineman ofthe Year... chosen for Montana Shrine and Mon-Dak all-star games... all-state discus thrower, as well.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Austin is an intriguing offensive line candidate. He has excellent feet, he's a powerful blocker, and we're going to play him at center. We think he'll be a mainstay in our line in the future because he's a smart, tough, experienced player."
Justin Paige, ATH
5-11, 171, Fr, Katy, TX (Morton Ranch)
Player Notes: A versatile athlete who earned team MVP honors at Morton Ranch High School in Katy, Tex., as a senior... caught 18 passes for 473 yards, averaging 27.4 yards per catch.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "We're listing Justin Paige as an athlete because he can play a number of different positions, but most likely he'll play either receiver or corner for us. He is extremely fast, probably the fastest player in this class, and as a return specialist he's very explosive. Justin is a speed athlete with really good skills as both a receiver and coverage player."
Eric Prevost, LB
6-0, 205, Fr, Covina, CA (Charter Oak)
Player Notes: First Team All-Sierra League selection, earning conference Defensive MVP honors... Southern Section All-Inland First Team honors... LA Times All-Area and All-CIF Southern Section selection... Max Preps First Team All-State defensive lineman, and San Gabriel Valley Tribune Defensive Player of the Year... 128 tackles , 22 sacks, 42 total tackles-for-loss as a senior.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Eric Prevost was a highly-decorated defensive player in southern California with incredible numbers in terms of sacks and tackles-for-losses. He compiled those numbers because he is a relentless football player. He's fast and explosive and dynamic and hard to block, and those traits allowed him to make an uncanny number of plays."
Matt Stewart, P
6-4, 235, Fr, Corona, CA (Santiago)
Player Notes: Third Team High School All-America as a senior, when he averaged 46 yards a punt and dropped 11 of his 30 kicks inside the 20-yard line... an accomplished all-around athlete, joining his school's 1,000-lb weight lifting club for bench press, squat and clean... track team captain, earning all-league honors in the shot put and second team honors in the discus, breaking 15-year old records in both events... lettered in football, track and baseball.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Pure and simply, Matt Stewart is a punter. We signed him to do nothing else. He's not a kicker, not a position player, we signed him because he's a nationally-ranked punter with a huge leg. He can do sky kicks and specialty kicks and great hang time, whatever we'll need him to do. We decided to invest in a guy just to do that job, and Matt is tremdnous at that job."
Connor Sullivan, ATH
6-4, 218, Fr, Ennis, MT (Ennis)
Player Notes: Helped lead Ennis to a Class C State Championship in 2013... First Team All-State receiver... 50 catches for 918 yards, 18.4 per catch, and 16 touchdowns... 40 tackles and seven interceptions... Great Falls Tribune Superstate choice... team captain... selected for Montana Shrine and Mon-Dak all-star games.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Connor is another prototype outside wide receiver with height and speed and fantastic ball skills. He has excellent athleticism. Connor was the first player to commit to us way back in the spring and I think he has a chance to be a really good player in our program."
Trevin Thompson, K
5-9, 195, Fr, Helena, MT (Helena)
Player Notes: Earned First Team All-State, All-Conference and Great Falls Tribune Superstate honors in 2013... scored 64 points, including six field goals with a long of 43 yards... 46 extra points in 2013 was a Helena High record, and he finished his career with 131 PATs, 179 points, and 16 field goals.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Trevin Thompson is arguably the best kicker in the state, certainly he is in our evaluation, and he'll have the opportunity to challenge for the field goal and kickoff roles next fall."
Wade Webster, OL
6-6, 295, Fr, Bettendorf, IA (Bettendorf)
Player Notes: Helped lead Bettendorf to playoffs as a senior... earned Second Team All-State and First Team All-Conference and All-Metro honors.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Wade Webster is the second big offensive lineman to come to us from Bettendorf, Iowa. He has excellent size and power, and very good feet. He has the perfect combination of attributes - size and quickness and mobility - to be a tremendous offensive lineman in the Big Sky Conference."
Zach Wright, DL
6-3, 234, Fr, New Braunfels, TX (New Braunfels)
Player Notes: A First Team All-District selection.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Zach Wright is another tremendous addition to our defensive line. He is a powerful, tough, hard-nosed player who is technically sound. Zach has a great work ethic and a great love for playing the game of football."
Tucker Yates, DL
6-1, 285, Fr, Colstrip, MT (Colstrip)
Player Notes: Three-time Class A All-State selection in football on the offensive and defensive lines... three-time Class A State Champion wrestler, two-time state shot put champion... Great Falls Tribune Superstate choice, chosen for Montana Shrine and Mon-Dak all-star games.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Tucker Yates is the kind of big, powerful defensive lineman from Montana who this program has had great success signing and developing. He is an excellent wrestler who is technically sound, physically strong, and athletically very gifted for a big man. We expect him to have a great career here at Montana State."