Normally reserved, bordering on soft-spoken, Troy Andersen shouted in exhilaration the first day of fall camp.

He was happy to be back, not only on the field but at arguably his natural position, the one he was recruited for and one he desired to return to.

Andersen is back and thriving at strong-side linebacker, a presence that instantly bolsters the position group and elevates Montana State’s defense.

When the all-American quarterback was asked during the offseason what position he wanted to play, his decision was simple.

He was happy to wherever to play the team needed him, the same answer he’s given since he began his career. He said he was raised with a team-first mentality. So if the team needed him at quarterback, where he rushed for 1,412 yards on 206 carries, constantly taking hit after hit while trying to carry his team to the FCS playoffs, he was ready for another season of it.

But if it were up to him, he wanted to play linebacker. Bobcats head coach Jeff Choate felt little hesitation moving the 6-foot-4, 228-pound junior to defense.

“He transcends a lot of the game,” Choate said. “It’ll be fun to see how he produces and plays.”

Andersen can only shift positions so frequently and seamlessly because of his intelligence and his ability to rapidly retain concepts and schemes.

MSU linebacker Daniel Hardy feels Andersen’s been playing in MSU’s defense for years, not months. Most players need eight to 12 repetitions of a drill or play to grasp it, Choate said. Andersen only needs one or two.

Andersen’s rapid learning helped gain new defensive coordinator Kane Ioane’s trust. When Andersen’s on defense, Ioane knows his one-on-one matchup is handled.

“That’s how Troy does things. He’s going to take advantage of every opportunity,” Ioane said. “And now getting to go out there and actually physically do things, it’s really easy for him because of how well he can prepare on the mental side as far as when he got out there during the fall.”

Choate told linebackers and assistant head coach Bobby Daly, when Daly interviewed for his job, that Andersen was moving to linebacker. Having game planned against him when coaching at Idaho, Daly considered it a perk to the job.

Not only does Andersen listen to instruction, Daly’s noticed, but he emphasizes details in his preparation. That’s all on top of his physical skills.

“He just adds length, speed, athleticism, smarts,” Daly said. “You go down the list of characteristics you want from a football player on the defensive side of the ball, he checks all those boxes. I can’t really say one bad thing about the kid to be honest.”

But Andersen isn’t finished with offense. He’s taken snaps behind center and at running back this fall camp, and Choate said last winter he has Andersen down for about 10 touches per game. Choate hinted he could especially play a role in redzone packages and third downs as a bruising type of ball carrier. Choate even mentioned Andersen could return kicks as well.

“Troy’s going to be giving it to (opponents) from both sides of the ball,” Hardy said, “so have fun with that.”

Choate still wants to balance Andersen’s workload so he doesn’t take the same punishment as last season. But Andersen enjoys the idea of a few offensive wrinkles defenses have to prepare for.

“You could throw Troy in at all 11 positions if you needed to,” MSU linebacker Josh Hill said. “He can basically do anything you want him to do, and I think holding down outside backer, flying around and making a lot of plays for us, he’s smart, physical and has a good nose for the ball. Everybody has seen he’s just a really good football player.”

Does he miss anything from playing on offense full time?

“Man, I don’t know. Scoring is fun, I guess,” Andersen said with a smile. “But other than that, not really.”

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.