The first day of Montana State’s spring football practice was spent under the glorious glow of the late-afternoon sun.
When offensive line coach Jason McEndoo awoke Thursday for the second day of practice, he was greeted by 3 to 4 inches of snow. The combination of the winter weather and the spring season encouraged McEndoo to go to his Twitter account and rename the next five weeks “Sprinter drills.”
The actual sprinters on the team — the guys generally mixed in with the defensive backs, receivers and running backs — are not McEndoo’s main focus. Instead, he’s working with the giants on the offensive line, a unit that is both deep and healthy.
Fourteen guys participated in drills with McEndoo on Thursday afternoon. That number is expected to climb to 17 when fall camp opens in August.
“This is the most guys I’ve ever had in spring ball,” McEndoo said. “Eleven years ago, my first spring, I had five offensive lineman and one guy was always hurt; I almost thought I would have to practice.”
More often than not, that has been the spring story line for the offensive line during McEndoo’s tenure in Bozeman.
“My freshman year, I had only seven guys,” junior right guard Quinn Catalano said.
Now, McEndoo is shuffling his linemen to and from drills, getting them as prepared for the season as he can with 13 spring practices remaining.
“To me, spring ball is all about fundamentals. I am a fundamental guy,” McEndoo said. “It’s such a technique-oriented position; there is so much that goes into it. I would take two hours of drill work a day if I could get it.”
Luckily for the coach, his players got a jump-start on the spring’s five weeks of drills. McEndoo noted that his coterie was the only position group to send all of its players to each of the voluntary Saturday workouts during winter conditioning.
The line’s offseason commitment can only be a good thing for the Bobcats: Outside of Catalano and redshirt sophomore John Weidenaar, three spots are up for grabs.
“Everybody keeps saying this is a veteran group. It is a veteran group, but they’re redshirt freshmen and they have 11 starts,” McEndoo said.
Catalano and Weidenaar, a right guard and left tackle, respectively, each started 13 games last year.
In the two days Montana State has been on the Bobcat Stadium turf, Catalano and Weidenaar were joined by Joel Horn at center, Alex Eekhoff at right tackle and Matt Devereux at left guard.
“The one thing I have not had here in my time is competition,” McEndoo said. “Guys got to start because there is nobody pushing them.”
Now the Bobcats have loads of competition, and it comes from stable of newly acquired lineman; of the 17 guys he expects in fall camp, McEndoo said 13 of them will be sophomores or younger. “I feel like we’re a really strong group,” said Catalano, whom both McEndoo and head coach Rob Ash dubbed the leader of the young line. “We’ve been working out five days a week in the offseason. I think we’re all just trying to bond together and get unity here and really just trying to push everybody else to get better.”