Courtesy of Montana State Athletics
BOZEMAN, Mont. -- It doesn't take long to find a common characteristic running through Rob Ash's third full recruiting class at Montana State. The words 'versatile' and 'athletic' emerge often.
"What we have in this class is a really good group of all-around athletes," Ash said of the 18 high school seniors who officially joined the Montana State football program on Wednesday. "We have guys that can run but have good size, guys that can play multiple positions, guys that will be great on special teams, guys that will be able to grow into their athletic potential. The combination of physical stature and athletic ability gives us a group that will keep getting better every year."
Wednesday was the first day high school students could sign a National Letter-of-Intent officially binding them to college programs. For the first time on record, Montana State added an all-high school class on signing day. Eight of those players hail from the Treasure State, and a pair of Drummond Trojans - Connor Verlanic (brother Andrew) and Parker Bignell (cousins Clay and Brian) - join relatives playing for the Cats.
"Signing the top players from Montana is obviously a priority in our program," Ash said. "These kids are the foundation of Bobcat football, and they are a pleasure to coach. We've also established good recruiting relationships in Texas and California, as this class demonstrates."
Ash said this year's class of Bobcats, which may grow in the spring or summer, addressed needs while increasing the program's athleticism and versatility. "We filled some important needs," he said. "Linebacker was a huge need for us, and I like the players we added there. Defensive line is always a hard area to address, and we added a nose guard and two defensive ends. And we have some scholarships available for end-of-they-year transfers and to reward kids in the program with more money.
"I really like this class of kids."
Steven Bethley, DB
5-11, 220, Fr, Chino, CA (Don Antonio Lugo)
Player Notes: Earned First Team All-Mt. Baldy Conference and All-Valley honors as a senior... first team all-league and second team All-Inland Empire honors as a junior.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Steven Bethley is an all-around athlete who will play defense here at Montana State. We'll start him at safety, but he could grow into an outside linebacker. He's smooth, powerful and strong, and runs well. He's a very productive player. He has a knack for the ball and for making big plays."
Parker Bignell, WR
6-2, 200, Fr, Drummond, MT (Drummond)
Player Notes: First team all-state and all-conference as a senior... registered 89 tackles and three interceptions for Drummond's 2009 undefeated State Championship squad... the son of former Bobcat All-America Joe Bignell, and the cousin of current Bobcats Clay and Brian Bignell.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Parker comes from a great Bobcat family. He is a versatile athlete with a big frame. He'll start at receiver, but could grow into a tight end or H-back type of player. He has good hands, good instincts, and he carries on his family tradition as a very tough kid."
David Dash, Athlete
5-9, 175, Fr, Fontana, CA (A.B. Miller)
Player Notes: An explosive running back, carried 132 times for 1,109 yards with 10 TD runs as a senior at Miller HS... caught 31 passes for 520 yards and six touchdowns... rushed for 216 yards on 16 carries against Eisenhower, and caught six passes for 144 yards against Crenshaw... returned 12 kicks for 252 yards... scored 16 touchdowns and 98 total points.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "David is a spectacular, big-play athlete. As a kick returner, punt returner, receiver, or running back, whenever the ball is in his hands he can take it the distance. We're going to focus on ways for him to help us in the return game next season."
Taylor Dees, DE
6-2, 225, Fr, Worden, MT (Huntley Project)
Player Notes: A 2009 all-state selection on offense and defense... Great Falls Tribune Superstate choice... registered 10.5 sacks as a senior, leading Huntley Project to a state title.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "I think Taylor is one of the very top prospects in the state of Montana this year. He was an early commitment to us last summer as a defensive end, but he's played both ways. He was a leader on a state championship team and a very productive player. He's a big-play defensive end who plays behind the line of scrimmage."
Josh Dirks, DB
6-1, 200, Fr, Helena, MT (Capital)
Player Notes: An all-state and Great Falls Tribune Superstate selection... led Class AA with eight interceptions last season, returning two for touchdowns... caught 63 passes for 1,093 yards and 11 touchdowns in helping to lead Helena Capital to the state championship game.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Josh Dirks is a heady, effective skill player. He runs well and has a good frame. I think he'll grow into his position. He almost floats the way he moves around the field so effortlessly. He's a very efficient athlete. He can play several positions and has a lot of upside, but we'll look at him on defense to begin."
John Ellis, WR
5-10, 180, Fr, Mansfield, TX (Summit)
Player Notes: A first team all-district choice who earned team MVP honors... caught 41 passes for 714 yards and 10 touchdowns... eight catches for 229 yards vs. Arlington Martin High.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "John Ellis is a superb receiver who runs excellent routes. He is elusive and has the ability to gain yards after the catch. We especially like the variety of routes he runs effectively. He can hurt a defense running both underneath routes and vertically down the field."
Brian Flotkoetter, WR
6-2, 175, Fr, Laurel, MT (Laurel)
Player Notes: Caught 25 passes as a senior at Laurel High for 492 yards... scored six touchdowns on the season... helped lead the Locomotives to the state playoffs.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Brian is a deceptively effective receiver. He has an excellent frame, he's tall, and he has great ball skills. He covers a lot of ground with big strides. Brian is a smooth, polished wide receiver."
Michael Foster, LB
6-1, 210, Fr, Seabrook, TX (Clear Lake)
Player Notes: Earned first team all-district honors at Clearview High... team MVP, as well.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "It was fun connecting with Michael because he has Iowa roots. He was a ball-boy for Drake football games years ago. Athletically, he's a prototype linebacker prospect to me. He has a good frame and a lot of room to gain size. He runs extremely well, and he has that knack for sorting things out and getting to the ball. His best days as a football player are ahead of him. He's been a wrestling, cutting weight, so when he focuses on football full-time he'll really improve."
Sean Gords, DB
5-10, 185, Fr, Torrance, CA (North Torrance)
Player Notes: Earned First Team All-Pioneer League honors at North Torrance... capped an outstanding senior season by pocketing team MVP and Iron Man honors.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Sean Gords was a three-way standout in high school. He starred on offense, defense, and as a return man. He's fast, he's elusive, but he's also tough and physical. We'll play him on defense and we think he'll help us in the return game."
Zach Logan, DT
6-3, 295, Fr, Deer Park, TX (South)
Player Notes: A physical defensive lineman who earned first team all-district honors as a senior... also first team all-district academic choice, and team MVP last fall.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "The interior of the defensive line was an important need for us, and Zach fills that role. He has the size we're looking for, he's going to be a strong physical presence for us in there, and we really like his physical potential. He's rugged, he plays well with his hands, and plays hard."
Robert Marshall, DB
6-0, 185, Fr, Carrollton, TX (Creekview)
Player Notes: A productive defensive back... registered 75 tackles with four interceptions in earning team defensive MVP honors... an all-district choice as a junior and senior... a district qualifier for the Creekview track squad.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Robert Marshall is a terrific safety with a bigger frame. He should be able to play in the box, but he moves well enough to play in space, also. He has the right mix of abilities to fill the requirements of a demanding position."
Na'a Moeakiola, LB
5-11, 220, Fr, Euless, TX (Trinity)
Player Notes: Earned first team all-district honors as a senior, leading team to Texas 5A Championship... also teamed with current Bobcat Denarius McGhee to lead Trinity to 2008 state title.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "This guy is a pure linebacker. Na'a plays downhill, runs extremely well, and is very physical. He plays well in space. There are no wasted steps and he's a sure tackler. Na'a will be a good player for the Bobcats."
Lee Perkins, TE
6-2, 220, Fr, Great Falls, MT (Great Falls)
Player Notes: Earned second team all-conference and honorable mention all-state honors at linebacker after battling injuries during his senior season... chosen for the Montana East-West Shrine Game.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Lee Perkins is another rangy, versatile athlete with a good frame. He plays linebacker and tight end or H-back, and we'll look at him on the offensive side of the ball, initially. He runs well and has excellent size and growth potential. He comes from a family with a strong background of athletic success, and we're glad he's coming to Montana State."
Tiai Salanoa, TE
6-3, 225, Fr, Oxnard, CA (Oxnard)
Player Notes: A standout two-way player at Oxnard... First Team All-Pacific View League, All-Ventura County Star, All-County and All-CIF choice... Pacific View League Defensive Lineman of the Year and team MVP last fall... caught 21 passes for 355 yards and nine TDs as a senior, also registering 50 tackles with one sack and five pass breakups.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Tiai is a hybrid wide receiver-tight end right now, and we project him to grow into a true tight end, a 'Y'. We think he'll be able to play attached to the line of scrimmage as a tight end with the ability split out and play in space. He's tough enough to be a good blocker with the size to cause mismatch problems and wide receiver-type pass-catching ability."
Kerry Sloan, RB
5-11, 210, Fr, Harker Heights, TX (Harker Heights)
Player Notes: Rushed for 2,524 yards and 25 touchdowns at Harker Heights, including 1,265 yards on 177 carries as a senior... tore off a 90-yard run against Killeen Shoemaker... earned first team all-district and all-region honors.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Kerry Sloan is an outstanding running back prospect with an excellent combination of size and speed. He's a big back with some moves, and he can run. We really like his combination of power and finesse."
Matthew Thibault, Athlete
6-1, 185, Fr, Belgrade, MT (Belgrade)
Player Notes: Earned Great Falls Tribune Superstate honors as a return specialist at Belgrade High, where he was an all-conference and all-state returner and strong safety... returned 13 kicks for touchdowns during his career, including eight as a senior, when he averaged 47 yards per return... gained 173 yards from scrimmage as a senior, as well... chosen for the Montana Shrine and Mon-Dak all-star games... won Montana HS Heisman.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "One of the most highly-decorated athletes in the state this year, Matthew is a rangy skill player. He has a good frame. He can play defensive back, but we'll look at him as a receiver first. He has excellent ball skills and a knack for returning kicks that is special."
Connor Verlanic, DE
6-4, 205, Fr, Drummond, MT (Drummond)
Player Notes: A Great Falls Tribune Superstate selection, also earning first team all-conference and all-state honors as an offensive and defensive lineman... chosen for the East-West Shrine Game... teamed with Bobcat signee Parker Bignell to help lead Drummond to an undefeated state championship... the brother of Bobcat offensive lineman Andrew Verlanic and Grizzly lineman Alex Verlanic, cousin of former Bobcat Jim Verlanic, and nephew of Ken Verlanic, who helped lead MSU to 1976 national title.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Connor is an outstanding prospect at defensive end. He's tall, rangy, he has a lot of room to grow and add weight. He was very impressive in our camp last summer, and we've felt all along that he's one of the very top prospects in the entire state."
Rhett Young, LB
6-0, 185, Fr, Augusta, MT (Agusta)
Player Notes: An all-state Class C 6-man selection... rushed for over 2,000 yards as a senior.
From MSU Coach Rob Ash: "Rhett has done it all. He has played linebacker, running back, we've even heard he can kick. He's a highly-skilled, versatile six-man player. He runs well and has a nice frame. He's going to grow and get bigger. He's rugged and tough, but he has good speed, too."