SPOKANE, Wash. — On Monday at the Big Sky Kickoff, the Montana State Bobcats landed seven players on the preseason all-conference team while the Montana Grizzlies saw five players named to the list.
The Bobcats seven selections were the most of any team in the league. Quarterback Tommy Mellott, running back Isaiah Ifanse and fullback R.J. Fitzgerald were the offensive selections for the Bobcats while defensive end Brody Grebe and linebacker Callahan O'Reilly were picked on the defensive side of the ball. Punter Bryce Leighton and long snapper Tommy Sullivan also earned preseason accolades.
Mellott, a Butte product, played all over the field as MSU's backup quarterback last season as a freshman before guiding the Bobcats through the playoffs after starter Matthew McKay transferred after the Brawl of the Wild. After being thrown into the fire, Mellott led MSU to the national championship game where they ultimately fell to North Dakota State. Mellott finished the season with 484 passing yards and four scores through the air and also ran for 716 yards and 10 more touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass against Sam Houston State in the playoffs.
Ifanse, a senior from Bellevue, Washington, has racked up 3,461 rushing yards in his Bobcat career which ranks second-most in MSU history. In 2021, he set an MSU single-season record with 1,623 rushing yards and ran for 10 touchdowns. He also caught 15 passes for 114 yards and another score. He was a first-team all-league selection for his efforts.
Grebe, a sophomore from Melstone, emerged down the stretch of the season as one of MSU's top pass rushers. He finished with 39 total tackles, 6.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
O'Reilly, a senior and Bozeman native, was a second-team all-league selection at linebacker last year. O'Reilly finished the season with 95 total tackles, four for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two interceptions.
Fitzgerald, a senior and Dillon product, served as the team's primary move-blocker and fullback. Leighton, a sophomore from Camas, Washington, averaged 40.5 yards per punt and put 20 punts inside the 20-yard line and had three punts go over 50 yards.
The Grizzlies five selections were tied for second-most by any team in the Big Sky along with Sacramento State. Four of UM's selections were on defense in defensive tackle Alex Gubner, linebacker Patrick O'Connell, cornerback Justin Ford and safety Robby Hauck. Return specialist Malik Flowers was also named to the preseason all-league team.
O'Connell, a Kalispell Glacier grad, was named the Big Sky Conference preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The senior was a first-team all-league selection and finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award last season after finishing the year with 105 total tackles, 22 for loss, 14 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Ford, a senior from Concord, North Carolina, led the FCS with nine interceptions last year. Ford, another first-team all-league selection a year ago, was fourth in Buck Buchanan Award voting and finished with 41 total tackles, 20 passes defended, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries along with three defensive touchdowns.
Gubner, a junior from West Hills, California, was a second-team All-Big Sky selection last season. He finished with 43 total tackles, nine for loss, along with 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Hauck is third all-time at UM for total tackles with 364 behind Dante Olson's record of 397. The senior was a first-team all-league selection in 2021, finishing with 128 total tackles, seven for loss, three forced fumbles and one sack last season.
Flowers, a senior wide receiver from Fontana, California, has five kick return touchdowns to his name at Montana, good for third all-time in FCS history and most in school history. Flowers was a first-team all-league selection last year and he's second in UM history with 2,044 kick return yards in his career.
Below are the full lists of the Big Sky preseason all-league selections:
QB – Tommy Mellott (Montana State)
RB – Isaiah Ifanse (Montana State), Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. (UC Davis)
FB – R. J. Fitzgerald (Montana State)
TE – Marshel Martin (Sacramento State)
WR – Beau Kelly (Portland State), Efton Chism III (EWU), Pierre Williams (Sacramento State)
C – Connor Pettek (UC Davis)
OG – Jake Parks (UC Davis), Brandon Weldon (Sacramento State)
OT – Noah Atagi (Weber State), Jonas Leader (NAU)
AP – Asher O’Hara (Sacramento State)
DT – Alex Gubner (Montana), Joshua Jerome (EWU)
DE – VJ Malo (Portland State), Brody Grebe (Montana State)
OLB – Patrick O'Connell (Montana), David Hoage (UNC)
ILB – Callahan O'Reilly (Montana State), Fa’Avae Fa’Avae (Idaho)
CB – Justin Ford (Montana), Anthony Adams (Portland State)
S – Robby Hauck (Montana), Morgan Vest (NAU)
K – Kyle Sentkowski (Sacramento State)
RS – Malik Flowers (Montana)
P – Bryce Leighton (Montana State)
LS – Tommy Sullivan (Montana State)