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Two candidates gain momentum in MSU coaching search

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Montana State’s search for a new head football coach continues into its third week this week.

Skyline Sports has confirmed through three independent sources that a pair of FBS assistants have been on the MSU campus recently. That comes on the heels of the reports of a variety of FBS assistants being in the mix to lead a team that qualified for its first FCS Final Four in 35 years last season, including two who removed themselves from the search.

Following Skyline’s report that Oregon linebackers coach Ken Wilson had vaulted into position as the primary candidate to replace Jeff Choate, multiple outlets connected to the Duck football program reported Wilson received a raise and will stay in Eugene.

Choate left his post as MSU’s head coach on January 22. The following weekend, Nebraska offensive coordinator Matt Lubick was on campus for an in-person interview but ultimately elected to stay on Scott Frost’s staff in Lincoln.

Those decisions led to the position remaining open with several other candidates still remaining in the hunt.

Sources confirmed that Oklahoma State tight ends coach Jason McEndoo, Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek, BYU defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki and longtime offensive line coach Tim Drevno interviewed with the MSU search committee via Zoom recently as well.

McEndoo, the longest tenured assistant coach in Montana State history after coaching offensive line for Mike Kramer and Rob Ash between 2003 and 2014, has removed his name from the search according to a report by the Bozeman Chronicle. McEndoo’s son, Luke, signed with Oklahoma State earlier this week.

Sources indicated Drevno might be rising to the top of the group and Bruce Feldman of the Athletic indicated as much with a tweet more than a week ago. And while Drevno remains in the mix, there is no confirmation of him coming to campus.

Brent Vigen, the offensive coordinator at Wyoming who has deep FCS ties because of his time in a similar position at North Dakota State, has been on the Montana State campus in recent days. Trent Bray, the linebackers coach at Oregon State and a figure with deep ties to one member of the MSU selection committee, has also been on campus, according to a source.

Bray is newest name to surface in the wide-ranging search to replace Choate. Bray, a native of Flagstaff, Arizona, played football at Oregon State from 2002 until 2005. He went to Corvallis to play for Dennis Erickson, a Montana State alum and College Football Hall of Fame head coach who is also on the search committee, for two seasons. Bray finished his career for Mike Riley, who was also in the mix at MSU for a moment.

Trent Bray

After his All-Pac 10 playing career as a standout linebacker finished, the son of longtime college football assistant Craig Bray, started his coaching career on Erickson’s staff at Arizona State as a graduate assistant.

Trent Bray’s father, Craig Bray, was a long-time defensive coordinator throughout college football, working for Erickson at Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State.

Trent Bray rose to become a full-time assistant at ASU in 2010, where he stayed for two years. He coached Vontaze Burfict on his way to the NFL. Bray returned to his alma mater on Riley’s staff in 2012, where he coached for three seasons.

Bray went with Riley to Nebraska, where he was the linebackers coach in 2015 and 2016 and the interim head coach in 2017 when Riley was dismissed.

Bray returned to Corvallis as a part of Jonathan Smith’s staff in 2018 and he’s been at his alma mater ever since. He is 38 years old and has coached in five bowl games.

When Lubick did not accept the head coaching position, Vigen vaulted back into consideration. Sources have been quiet about Vigen’s traction for the position but the former North Dakota State offensive coordinator has the credentials and connections to transition to a fellow FCS power.

Vigen has been Wyoming’s offensive coordinator since 2014 and has been an assistant head coach under Bohl since 2017. He was at North Dakota State, his alma mater, from 1998 until 2013.

He went from NDSU to Wyoming with Bohl following that 2013 national championship. When Chris Klieman left NDSU following the 2018 national title win to become the head coach at Kansas State, Vigen was considered a leading candidate to return to his alma mater as the head coach.

Instead, he stayed in Laramie and coached a first-round draft pick in current Buffalo Bills rising star Josh Allen. Vigen recruited, coached and developed Allen, who became the highest NFL Draft pick in Wyoming school history when the Bills selected him as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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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