Jan 9, 2013 10:41 PM by Ted Dawson
The Montana State football program bolstered its offense and defense on Wednesday, when Tanner Roderick and Ijumaa Armstrong each attended classes after transferring to Montana State University.
And for Bobcat coach Rob Ash, it was more a matter of reuniting with old friends than signing new players.
"The unique thing about both of these players is that we had established relationships with them and their families when they were coming out of high school," Ash said. "We know them, and they are familiar with our coaching staff."
Roderick comes to Montana State as one of the most familiar figures in Bozeman's recent sporting history. One of the most decorated athletes Bozeman High School has ever produced, Roderick brings wide-ranging athletic skills to MSU after spending two seasons at the University of Nevada. He is a former Montana Gatorade Player of the Year in football and basketball, helping lead his hometown Hawks to state titles in each sport as a senior in 2010-11. He earned all-state honors in football three times, throwing for a school-record 2,457 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. He also rushed for 1,913 yards, and averaged 19 points a game for the Hawks basketball team.
"Tanner is a sensational athlete and a great kid from a Bobcat family," Ash said. "I'm thrilled to have him come home and excited that he'll play football in his hometown. He will help this program in a lot of different ways."
Roderick played primarily at receiver as a sophomore at Bozeman High before becoming a record-setting quarterback as a junior and senior. He redshirted at Nevada in 2011, spending 2012 as a reserve quarterback. Ash indicated that Roderick arrives at MSU as a receiver.
Ash says Roderick's strongest trait extends beyond position. "I like the fact that he's a winner," Ash said. "He elevates the play of the guys around him. His team won state in football and basketball, and that's the type of guy he is. I also like the fact that in our conversations he told me his primary objectives are to play football and to help the team win. He knows we have (All-America quarterback) DeNarius McGhee and he won't be in the mix there this year. We'll work him into the offense in a variety of ways."
Armstrong comes to MSU as a cornerback after spending a pair of falls at Hawai'i. The Los Angeles product prepped at Culver City High School, redshirting at UH in 2011 and before sitting out last fall after declaring his intention to transfer. Nicknamed "EJ", Armstrong played receiver and safety at Culver City, recording 56 tackles as a senior and 67 as a junior. He led the team with four interceptions as a junior, earning Rookie of the Year and Ironman awards from the school. He also played a year of varsity football at Verbum Dei High School, earning honorable mention all-conference honors.
"We recruited Ijumaa out of high school, and Kane (Ioane, MSU assistant coach) developed a good relationship with him and his family," Ash said. "He is a good player, a good corner. That's an important spot for us after losing two seniors."
Ash likes the combination of skill and athletic ability Armstrong brings to the Bobcat program. "I watched a lot of practice film, and I really like his coverage ability," Ash said. "He has the speed and athleticism to match up in man or our quarters scheme. I like his height and length as a corner."
Both Armstrong and Roderick are slated to participate in off-season conditioning and spring football at MSU.