They've plowed through two weeks' worth of practices and scrimmages, battling each other for both playing time and the favor of their coaches.
Now the Montana State Bobcats are ready to let loose.
MSU closes spring football camp Saturday with its final scrimmage, the annual Sonny Holland Classic at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman. The plan, says fifth-year coach Rob Ash, is to create a relaxed atmosphere the team will revel in.
"What we want to do is have fun," Ash said. "We want to play fast and have some good competition. We want to remind the guys that football is a fun game."
Ash said the team will divide into two squads and go head-to-head. The team will even employ the help of guest coaches -- a couple lucky boosters -- to call plays.
In addition, MSU will dole out its spring awards, and hopes to name its captains for the upcoming season. Players will also receive their 2010 Big Sky Conference championship rings.
"It's not going to be a work day," Ash said, "it's going to be a fun day."
The scrimmage marks the end of a spring season that Ash called "strange," mainly due to the dichotomy at quarterback. Starter DeNarius McGhee, the Big Sky Conference's co-offensive MVP last year, has been limited while recovering from offseason surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder.
That's pressed backup Grayson Galloway into duty, and the former Idaho State recruit has taken the majority of the reps under center.
"Physically, DeNarius is fine. He's throwing great," Ash said. "He's just not permitted to go 11-on-11, even in a red jersey. So we've been missing a key component to our team's makeup, and that's put a damper on things to some extent.
"But on the flipside, Grayson Galloway has made great progress, which is good. That strengthens our team."
One of MSU's objectives this spring was to make a recommitment to the running game on both sides of the football. Ash said the team was slowed by injuries up front throughout camp, notably to offensive linemen Ben Tauanuu and Oregon State transfer Tyler Thomas, and to defensive tackle Zach Logan, who missed the entire spring.
Still, Ash said he was "overall happy with the progress we've made. The running game and our run defense improved because of what we did this spring."
Ash suggested his team is unsettled in the secondary, where it needs to replace graduated safeties Mike Rider and Jordan Craney, as well as cornerback Arnold Briggs. Joel Fuller, an heir apparent at safety, was hindered throughout the spring with a concussion.
Ash also said the Bobcats aren't yet squared away at tight end or in the backfield, where a bevy of runners -- including 1,000-yard rusher Orenzo Davis and Nebraska transfer Tray Robinson -- have vied for carries.
And it was announced early Wednesday night that linebacker Aleksei Grosulak, a Billings Central product, suffered a torn ACL at the Triangle Classic in Great Falls and is out indefinitely.
Still, Ash said he likes what he sees as the team breaks camp and rolls headlong into its summer conditioning program.
"I feel very, very positive about this team from a talent standpoint," he said. "We're going to be just fine in terms of athletic ability and depth. I'm very confident about this football team.
"We're still a work in progress in the leadership department; we had a great senior class, and they were the difference in us winning some close games and winning the Big Sky championship. But summer is when players work out on their own, and it's one of the great incubators for leadership.
"Hopefully it will be in place when we come back in August and we'll be in position to contend again."