BOZEMAN — Brent Vigen reached into his coaching past to forge the future of Montana State football Friday, adding three new coaches to his staff while announcing the retention of seven others.
Taylor Housewright, who Vigen worked with for a season at Wyoming, takes over as MSU’s offensive coordinator while coaching quarterbacks. Former North Dakota State cornerback Freddie Banks becomes the program’s defensive coordinator. In addition, Shawn Howe takes over coaching duties of Bobcat defensive line coach, an appointment pending completion of a background check.
Rounding out the MSU staff: Brian Armstrong returns to coach the offensive line, Jimmy Beal continues coaching running backs, Nate Potter remains tight ends coach and Justin Udy slides from quarterbacks to receivers. Defensively, Bobby Daly coaches linebackers, and Kyle Risinger assists Banks with the secondary. BJ Robertson returns in his role as special teams coordinator and director of high school relations.
While acknowledging changes to MSU’s offensive and defensive schemes, Vigen said the guiding principles remain.
“We’re going to make some subtle tweaks certainly on both sides,” he said, “but the general theme of what we’re going after is to play physical, to run the football, to stop the run, to be explosive on the offensive side of things and stop explosive plays defensively. That general philosophy is the same.”
The work of building MSU’s offensive system begins with the program’s recent success.
Vigen finds common ground between his philosophy, Housewright’s, and the way the program’s offense has operated in recent years.
“We see offense being played in a similar fashion — being balanced but spreading the ball to a lot of playmakers, really being able to utilize the quarterback in different ways depending on his skill set, but still being grounded in the run game. What I saw is that what Montana State had a lot of success with in 2019 is very much in the same ballpark as the world (he and Housewright are) both trying to live in.”
Housewright comes to Montana State after two seasons in off-the-field roles with Joe Moorhead, 2019 in offensive quality control when Moorhead was the head coach at Mississippi State and 2020 as an offensive analyst at Oregon, where Moorhead is offensive coordinator. Housewright’s coaching career began in 2013-14, when he was graduate assistant at Miami (Ohio) working with quarterbacks the first season and defensive backs the second.
In 2018, Housewright joined the Wyoming staff, where he worked with running backs and tight ends under Vigen.
“He came to us with a varied background,” Vigen said. “He played quarterback at a high level from a Division II perspective, was a Harlon Hill finalist (national player of the year) and had the opportunity to sign with the Bengals, so he had a taste of that. I could tell pretty quickly in our time together that he’s very sharp, has a good sense for offense and defense, and after our experience together he worked for Joe Moorhead at both Mississippi State and Oregon.”
While Vigen hasn’t worked with his incoming defensive coordinator as a coach, Banks is a familiar figure.
A member of the 2010 NDSU squad that beat the Bobcats in the FCS Playoffs, Banks’ coaching career began one season later across the Red River at Minnesota State-Moorhead. In two seasons he rose to the level of coordinator there, then coached cornerbacks at Nicholls in 2013-14. After one season in the Louisiana prep ranks, Banks coached the secondary at Midwestern State in 2016-17, and cornerbacks at Stephen F. Austin in 2018-19. In 2020, he coached cornerbacks at Nevada.
“When he was at Midwestern State he came up to visit with our staff a couple times in Laramie on his own dime,” Vigen said. “So here was a real ambitious guy that’s starting to make an impression on (then-Wyoming coordinator) Scottie Hazelton, who was a coordinator while he played (at NDSU), so he’s getting himself immersed in getting better and better and better. Last fall Nevada beat us, they had a really good year, and Freddie waited to say hi after the game. We had a good conversation, and I could see the continued development, the maturity. Trusting (coaching peers) and their perspective of Freddie, we had a real healthy interview conversation and I felt Freddie was the best direction to go.”
Banks’ perspective as secondary coach offers a “back-forward perspective calling the defense that (reflects what) we’re going to be about. That’s important. Having that perspective of seeing how everything fits together, how the alignments and the coverages work with the run game fits, will help us.”
Howe returns to Montana for the first time since finishing his playing career at Rocky Mountain College (2002-03) and graduating in the spring of 2005. He coached outside linebackers at Rocky Mountain in 2004 and 2005, then worked as a volunteer assistant at North Carolina State in 2006.
Howe worked as a graduate assistant at Memphis (2007-09), coaching on the defensive side the first two seasons before working with tight ends in 2009. In 2010 he was a strength and conditioning coach at Tennessee, then became an administrative assistant at USC in 2011 and a grad assistant working with the defensive line in 2012.
In 2013, Howe became defensive line coach at Humboldt State, and his Lumberjacks defensive line led the nation in sacks in 2014. In 2015 he began a three-year stint as defensive coordinator at Dixie State, then in 2018 he became defensive line coach at Coastal Carolina. In 2019 he began his second stint at USC as a defensive quality control analyst, and he held that position in 2020, as well.
“Shawn will be great on the field for his knowledge and his passion for defensive football,” Vigen said, “and he’ll be very relatable because a while back he was that guy from out of the area that came to Montana and had an enjoyable experience. He and Jimmy overlapped at Rocky Mountain, and it’s interesting how some of those things that you don’t anticipate come together.”
Vigen also announced that defensive line coach Byron Hout was not retained, and that Cole Moore has left his role in operations to pursue other football opportunities.
“I would be remiss not to mention Coach Hout,” Vigen said. “That move wasn’t reflective of his ability to coach, his commitment to this place or his passion for the players. It was a systematic change more than anything reflective of what I think of Byron as a coach. It’s apparent Cole Moore did a phenomenal job here, and he’s very well respected. I’m excited for his new opportunity. This allows us to restructure our operations and evaluate how things will look when we move into our new space.”