BOZEMAN — During an all-purpose news conference Friday inside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Montana State football coach Jeff Choate addressed everything from Kane Ioane’s hiring as defensive coordinator to the eligibility status of quarterback Chris Murray.
But what he didn’t talk about — at least not specifically — were the details surrounding Ty Gregorak’s resignation as MSU’s defensive coordinator.
“We had open and honest conversations, and (I) certainly support his decision,” Choate said. “But as far as the specific nature of it, I can’t really comment on guys that don’t work here anymore. That’s kind of our policy in terms of personnel, and that’s where it’s going to be.”
Gregorak spent three seasons as the Bobcats’ defensive coordinator after being hired away by Choate from rival Montana before the 2016 season.
It was announced Tuesday that both Gregorak and defensive backs coach Mark Orphey, who spent two seasons at MSU, had each resigned to pursue other professional opportunities.
Choate said Orphey has departed to take a position with an FBS program — which all indications say is Utah State, though it hasn’t been officially announced.
It remains unclear where Gregorak, a household name in Montana football circles, will land.
“I wish the guy luck. He did some great things for us here,” Choate said of Gregorak. “We’re looking to the future. I’m not looking in the rearview mirror. It will work out great for Ty. Somehow, some way, it will work out great for Ty.”
Though he was reserved about Gregorak, Choate hailed Wednesday’s hiring of Kane Ioane, who is returning to Montana State to take over the defensive coordinator reins.
Ioane spent 17 consecutive years at MSU as a player and later an assistant coach before moving on to the University of Washington in early 2017, where he served as a defensive quality control analyst the past two seasons.
Choate said Ioane chose to return to the Bobcats rather than accept a similar offer to join the coaching staff at an unnamed Big Sky Conference program.
Choate explained why he believes Ioane is the best fit to take over MSU’s defense.
“All he (focused on) was ball 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for two years at a place where they run the exact system that I want to run, and they’re the best in the country at that particular system,” said Choate, who spent two years as a Washington assistant under Chris Petersen prior to being hired as the head guy at Montana State.
“For lack of a better way of putting it, I sent him to finishing school. He worked with (UW assistants) Jimmy Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski and Bob Gregory, and learned this defense inside and out,” Choate said.
“All indications were, when I called over there to people that I know and trust, they said he’s ready. He’s ready to go do this, he’s got a good plan, and so I’m excited to bring him back.”
Meanwhile, MSU is still in the process of naming a linebackers coach. On Friday, the website FootballScoop.com reported that Idaho assistant Bobby Daly has been hired for that job.
Daly was a decorated linebacker at Montana State from 2004-08. He has been on Idaho’s staff for the past six years.
When asked what qualities he is looking for in his next linebackers coach, Choate said, “High intensity, connections to the program and the state of Montana, and experience outside the state of Montana.”
On Wednesday, simultaneous to the unveiling of Ioane’s hiring, Choate announced that former Western Illinois assistant Erik Frazier had been named wide receivers coach.
Thus, as of Friday evening, Choate’s full-time coaching staff was as follows: Matt Miller, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Ioane, defensive coordinator/safeties; DeNarius McGhee, running backs; Frazier, wide receivers/pass game coordinator; Josh Taufalele, offensive line; Brian Armstrong, tight ends; Byron Hout, defensive line/run game coordinator; Kyle Risinger, cornerbacks; B.J. Robertson, special teams.
As for Murray, the Bobcats’ primary quarterback in both 2016 and 2017, Choate said he will be added to the roster for spring drills, but said he isn’t likely to take many snaps.
Murray was academically ineligible to play in 2018, but has since re-enrolled at MSU and is trying to work his way back into good graces.
“He still has some significant academic work to do,” Choate said. “He’s basically a walk-on in our program right now, and I think that speaks volumes about the commitment that he’s making to come back and do his thing. We’re here to support him and help him.
“Probably won’t get a lot of reps in the spring. Kind of got to see where those grades end up in May. But clearly, if he’s a guy that can get right and take those steps to get reinstated academically and earn his way back, I think that will go a long way towards having some trust with our coaching staff and with his teammates.”
NOTES: Choate on Wednesday also announced the departures of five players from the program: RBs Tyler Natee and Maleek Barkley, LBs Balue Chapman and Dante Sparaco, and OL Jarrod Asche. Natee and Chapman have medically retired, while Barkley and Sparaco have left MSU. Asche, of Glendive, has retired, but Choate said he will remain at the university to finish his degree. ... Choate also said WR Jabarri Johnson (knee) has not been ruled out to return next season.