Some leftovers from a busy Signing Day:
• Rob Ash wanted to make clear on Wednesday that new Bobcats running back and Nevada/Riverside JC transfer Anthony Knight is not a player of ill character and deserves his chance with MSU.
Knight was listed as part of 23 new football signings by Montana State on Signing Day. Knight originally intended to transfer to MSU last June, but was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery and assault, along with a former Nevada teammate, in Reno. The district attorney’s office, though, found little evidence and chose not to press charges.
“He had some issues that were alleged a year ago, but what happened is they investigated that incident and he was falsely implicated," Ash said. "All the charges were dropped. We couldn’t find anything else in his background that gave us any reason not to recruit him. We are going to take him now, and he’s going to start in the fall.
“Anything that’s written or posted from this point forward about him relative to that incident would be really unfair to him. He wasn’t there. The charges have all been dropped. It was a case of wrong identity. So it just needs to be put to bed.”
• Of the Grizzlies’ five in-state scholarship recruits, Culbertson’s Shayne Cochran is especially intriguing. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Cochran rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 28 touchdowns on offense for the 8-Man Cowboys, but also had 82 tackles on defense. Montana has Cochran pegged as a linebacker.
There’s been only one other player from the small eastern Montana town of Culbertson to suit up for the Griz: offensive lineman Terry Falcon in 1976 and ’77. Falcon went on to play in the NFL for both the Patriots and Giants. Coach Mick Delaney has high hopes for Cochran.
“Shayne is a three-sport athlete and a very, very athletic guy,” Delaney said. “He’s played really, really hard at Culbertson. Obviously being in a small school he dominated and played about every position you could play. But he’s the type of small-school guy that has had great success staying in Montana.”
The standard bearer for 8-Man success in college, of course, is former Griz running back Chase Reynolds.
• Grant Collins’ bio speaks for itself. He was a co-defensive MVP of Class AA this past season while helping Bozeman go undefeated and win the state title. And he’s just what Montana State was looking for in terms of a middle linebacker. Plus, he has a great pedigree: His father played defensive end at Arizona State and was a second-round draft choice of the Redskins in 1992.
Ash said he and his staff had to battle hard to get Collins:
“There were a lot of schools that expressed interest in him at the highest level, from the Pac-12 and the Mountain West, so forth," he said. "But it worked out perfectly for us in terms of where he got his offers (from) and all of that. It was a very competitive battle. It wasn’t a slam dunk like him deciding he’s just going to stay home in Bozeman. He looked at a lot of things and we worked hard to recruit him.”
• How do you convince a player to walk on to your program when he might have a scholarship offer somewhere else? That was the challenge Delaney and the Griz faced this year, primarily because they had such low scholarship numbers in part due to NCAA sanctions.
But the coaches weren’t deterred. They got 15 players to accept admissions offers by selling their program and the history and tradition of Grizzly football:
“That’s the case a lot of times, especially at the Frontier (Conference) level or Division II,” Delaney said. “Those kids have some opportunities there. But they also have goals and know what the tradition and the history and legacy of what Montana football is. Most every one of them has some tie to the University, whether they came here to camp or had relatives who went here, those type of things. But you just keep battling it and be up front and honest, and most of the time it’s what they want to do. And if they can make it work financially, they want to give it a shot.”
• Montana State’s eight signings from Texas on Wednesday are the most the Bobcats have gotten in a few years. The pipeline that produced DeNarius McGhee, Jody Owens, Darius Jones, etc. is open for business again in a big way, it seems.
Former MSU assistant coach Justin Gaines started recruiting Texas early in Ash's tenure, and it has since grown. Familiarity has been a big factor.
“We’ve just invested a lot of time in it," Ash said. "Justin Gaines did a good job getting it started, he was a one-man show down there for the first couple of years. But we now have three coaches recruiting Texas: Coach (Brandon) North, coach (Bo) Beck and coach (Demo) Odems were all down there this year and found guys. I think we kind of hit a good year in the sense that Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin both changed coaches this year. I think that helped us a little bit in terms of the timing.
“But the biggest thing is that we’re building a really good reputation down there as being a school that takes Texas guys, and the Texas guys play, and we win … it’s a real positive connection. Other schools have tried to go down there and break in but it’s going to be a long time before they get the reputation we have. We’ve been consistent, we’ve built on it, the coaches know us … we’re just going to keep doing it, believe me.”
• Reggie Tilleman is a tight end the Grizzlies are bringing in from Genesee, Idaho. He’s a 4.0 student, and is also star football and basketball player. But he’s on record saying football is his favorite sport, and he’ll get his chance with the Grizzlies.
Tilleman has deep Montana ties. His father Lee is a 1987 graduate of Havre High School. Tilleman’s great uncle, Mike Tilleman, played for the Grizzlies in 1963-64 and played 10 years in the NFL with the Vikings, Saints, Oilers and Falcons. Mike Tilleman, who founded Tilleman Motors in Havre, was named No. 26 on Sports Illustrated’s Top 50 athletes of the 20th century from Montana.