Evolution of Bobcat defensive line a three-year process


Editor’s note: For the eighth straight football season, Colter Nuanez will profile seniors from the Montana State Bobcats each Friday. MSU senior defensive linemen Tyrone Fa’anono, Zach Wright and Tucker Yates will be profiled individually. The 2018 series kicks off with a feature on Montana State’s defensive line as a whole.

BOZEMAN — By the time the carnage to Montana State’s defensive end position finally gave reprieve, four projected contributors sat on the shelf. In Jeff Choate’s first season, the Bobcats had a pair of freshmen and a converted tight end to choose from when it came to the edge of MSU’s defensive front.

Robert Wilcox and Devin Jeffries suffered season and ultimately career-ending knee injuries during the first off-season under Choate leading up to the 2016 season. Tyrone Fa’anono’s bothersome foot flared up again, costing him a spot in the rotation. Shiloh Laboy’s shoulder never regained stability.

Choate has coached some of the premier defensive linemen in college football this decade, having a hand in helping Florida’s Dante Fowler and Washington’s Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha each become early NFL Draft picks. But as he entered his first season as a college head coach, the dearth of talent because of injury on his Bobcat roster was striking.

That first season, Montana State held its own defensively despite having to play a pair of rookie defensive ends in Derek Marks and Marcus Ferriter, a converted tight end turned defensive end in Woody Brandom, a natural middle linebacker at Buck end in Grant Collins and a pair of sophomores on the interior in tackle Zach Wright and nose guard Tucker Yates.

Fast forward to Montana State’s season opener to begin the 2018 season on August 30 against Western Illinois. The trials and tribulations of MSU’s defensive front seemed like a distant memory.

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Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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