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During Hayden Ekern’s late July visit to Montana State, he decided where he wanted to go to college.

His only offer to play quarterback at a Division I school at the time came from the Bobcats. And while on campus, he verbally committed to MSU.

Ekern, who attends St. Rita in Chicago, was primarily in touch with former passing game coordinator Bob Cole throughout the recruiting process. But after Cole left the program following a loss at Weber State on Oct. 20, everything changed, St. Rita head coach Todd Kuska said.

Ekern and Kuska struggled to get in touch with the Bobcats’ staff, Kuska said, and eventually they learned the offer had been rescinded.

“We were trying to reach out and really didn’t get much of any response for a couple weeks,” Kuska said. “... They let Hayden know that they were going to move on and look for other quarterbacks, junior college level guys and that there was still a chance, but they were not going to hold him to the commitment. They weren’t going to honor it at this point. That’s where we’re at right now.”

With the early signing period starting Wednesday and lasting until Friday, Ekern likely would have been officially joining MSU this week — if it was up to him, at least. Since finding out Ekern’s commitment no longer stood, “now his whole world is kind of thrown upside down,” Kuska said.

Ekern has been in touch with schools that previously recruited him. He currently has Division II offers but none in the FBS or FCS classification. He also played safety this season and is willing to play whatever position asked of him at the highest level he can. But his first choice of playing quarterback for the Bobcats, which Ekern thought would happen, no longer appears to be a possibility.

In 21 years as head coach at St. Rita, Kuska estimated that he’s coached about 50 or 60 Division I players. He’s “never once had a school turn down a commitment,” he said.

MSU coaches are not allowed to comment on recruits until they sign letters of intent due to NCAA rules. Ekern did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Bobcats have had a different Week 1 starting quarterback in each of head coach Jeff Choate’s first three seasons. Before the second-round playoff game against North Dakota State two weeks ago, Choate said solidifying the quarterback position has been one of his biggest challenges.

MSU returns first-team all-Big Sky quarterback Troy Andersen, but Choate referred to him as a linebacker during the season so he may change positions. The Bobcats are also set to bring back Tucker Rovig, who will be a redshirt sophomore, as well as Casey Bauman and Ruben Beltran, who will be redshirt freshmen.

The Bobcats offered transfer quarterbacks Gresch Jensen (Fullerton College) and Devon Modster (UCLA), according to each one’s respective tweets. But Jensen announced he’d be transferring to Texas State and Modster chose California.

There are currently no known MSU quarterback commits in the class.

“He was very disappointed. He really wanted to go there. That’s why he committed there. A lot went into that decision,” Kuska said of Ekern. “It’s tough. It’s tough to regroup. He did an outstanding job of not letting this get to him.”

Ekern played just four games at QB as a junior but played 12 at the position this past fall. The Mustangs closed the season winning five of their last six games after opening the year losing five of six.

As a senior, Ekern completed 107 of 215 passes (49.8 percent) for 1,397 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions, according to MaxPreps.com.

When Ekern committed, he nor Kuska were informed of any possible limitations on the verbal agreement, Kuska said.

“It was a major gut punch to everybody that he no longer was going to be able to go there,” Kuska said. “Even if you say, ‘We’ll still keep you in mind,’ he had his commitment there. That’s a lot for a 17-year-old kid to take in when he had this all planned out, and then all of a sudden it’s up in the air now through nothing of his.”

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Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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