Three entered, one emerged: Dakota Prukop was anointed the starting quarterback at Montana State on Monday.
Rising from a fall-camp battle that included junior Jake Bleskin and freshman Quinn McQueary, Prukop, a sophomore, will make his first collegiate start when the Bobcats open the season Aug. 30 on the road against FBS foe Arkansas State.
Prukop takes the helm from graduated four-year starter DeNarius McGhee, who left Montana State with two Big Sky Conference MVP awards and 12,336 yards of total offense, which ranks second in league history.
“We had three outstanding players and three guys that could have gotten the job done,” said Prukop, who came to MSU in 2012 from Austin, Texas. “It’s just the way the chips fell.”
Bobcats coach Rob Ash noted improved decision making as a catalyst for Prukop’s evolution.
“What he did well in camp was manage the offense,” Ash said. “He’s in the right place, his eyes are in the right place, his reads are to the right place, he gets guys lined up. There were no issues with that in spite of his youth and lack of experience. Dakota has really made great gains in this area since the spring.”
Prukop, at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, is a dual run-pass threat. As the Bobcats adjust their offense to include more read-option elements -- a truer “spread” concept -- Prukop’s versatility made him the right fit.
During MSU’s final full-scale scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, Prukop finished with 92 yards and a touchdown on 8 of 9 passing. He also rushed for nearly 50 yards.
“First off, it was as hard a thing I’ve ever done in my career,” Bobcats offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey said of the QB decision. “Having to look guys in the eye that have busted their tail for us for a long time and tell them that they put forth a great effort but that the other guy put forth a better effort.
“Every decision that I make and (Ash) make together is what we feel gets this team closer to wins and closer to championships. This wasn’t a pick as to who the best quarterback in the room is, it was a pick for who the best quarterback for this offense at this time is.
“I feel 100-percent confident in the choice coach and I made.”
Bleskin, a Great Falls CMR product, completed 8 of 10 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown during Saturday’s scrimmage. He made six appearances last season, including two starts when McGhee injured his shoulder early in the year. Bleskin threw for 733 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
McQueary, a redshirt from Manhattan, was a perfect 13-for-13 passing with 172 yards and two TDs on Saturday. This is his first year of eligibility.
A fourth quarterback candidate, junior Tanner Roderick, was moved to receiver before fall camp began.
“We’ve been in this battle for I don’t know how long. I’ve lost count,” Prukop said. “After the meeting, Jake was talking to Cramsey still, and Quinn came up and gave me a hug and said congrats. I would have done the same for either of them.
“Obviously I’m happy for the decision, but at the same time (Bleskin and McQueary) are two of my really good buddies, so (I feel) a little remorse for them.”
• As part of the quarterback announcement, MSU unveiled its first depth chart of the season. Notably, it lists true freshman Garrett Marino as a starter at defensive end. Marino (6-2, 255) came to MSU this fall from Mission Viejo, Calif. He had 40 tackles and 14 sacks for his high school team as a senior, and was named a second-team All-California player by MaxPreps in 2012.
• J.P. Flynn has moved to left guard in the wake of Kyle Godecke’s ankle injury. The kicking competition between Luke Daly of Billings Central, Trevor Bolton from Great Falls High and Trevin Thompson of Helena High, remains unsettled and likely won’t be decided until Thursday.
• True freshman linebacker Grant Collins, who joined MSU after helping Bozeman High to a state title last fall, is listed as a backup to Alex Singleton at outside linebacker. Bryson Keeton, a junior transfer from Nevada, will be paired opposite Deonte Flowers as the field-side cornerback.
• Including the Bobcats’ game at Arkansas State and Montana’s game at Wyoming, Big Sky Conference teams will play Bowl subdivision teams 17 times this year. The league went 2-14 against the FBS in 2013. Eastern Washington knocked off No. 25 Oregon State, and Southern Utah beat South Alabama. The league has won seven games against the FBS in the past three seasons.