Versatility. Versatility. Versatility.
It’s the adjective that swamps his evaluation when asked about Montana State do-it-all prospect Troy Andersen. A talent with All-America honors on both sides of the football, he’s a one-of-one in this year’s draft class.
A quarterback, turned running back, turned fullback, turned linebacker, the Dillon, Montana native checks all the boxes as a potential impact player with scheme versatility on Sundays. The Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in 2017 where Andersen aligned at both outside linebacker and in the backfield, he switched to quarterback in the spring leading up to the 2018 campaign. While the transition usually welcomes a slew of speed bumps that take months, if not years to finally become comfortable captaining a collegiate offensive attack, his prep background as a two-time All-State gun-slinger masked any limitations Andersen had under center. While he went on to earn All-America honors once again that year and the following fall (2019), Andersen has made the switch back to the defensive side of the ball for good.
The Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year this fall and a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the FCS’ top defensive player, Andersen provides an intriguing mix of violence, range, and football IQ from his days as a quarterback to read and dissect plays before they ever get out of the starting gate. An outstanding blitzer off the edge and through the A and B-gaps as a MIKE linebacker in MSU’s 4-2-5 alignment, his profile at the NFL level, ideally, could see him slot on the outside due to his innate ability to consistently fire downhill and win in the open-field in the run when faced with one-on-one situations against quicker ball-carriers.
While he will need to beef up his current 235-pound frame if he eyes any type of role as an OLB, his versatility is truly second to none, presenting a ‘Swiss army knife’ type of athlete who could see himself work into a two-way role similar to Taysom Hill on the New Orleans Saints, who’s spent time at quarterback, tight end, running back, linebacker, and as a gunner on special teams.
In a year in which small-school talents have formed a group destined to come off the board when the draft kicks off in April, Andersen, alongside Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, Eastern Illinois’ Justin Growel, and Southern Utah’s Braxton Jones, to name a few, have represented an extension of the evaluation process where teams have been forced to extend their range from the mainstream Power and Group of 5 programs.
With 68 tackles in the last five games, Andersen is playing his best football at the right time.
“I don't know how high he’ll get drafted or anything, but I think he's going to play on Sundays for sure,” Montana State defensive coordinator Freddie Banks said. “If he stays healthy, he'll have a long career because of his work ethic, and he's been blessed with the talent to play at that level.”
While he has a ton of room to grow—his aggressiveness often finds him out of the play as a bull in a china shop—him being able to temper his physical style of play at the right times will help him immensely to “be where your feet are.” However, it’s that exact aggressive nature that has seen Andersen consistently pop on film.
A talent with hopes to become the first Bobcat drafted since 2016 (Beau Sandland), Andersen’s stock will continue to rise as we enter the pre-draft circuit. A recent invitee to the East-West Shrine Bowl, where Andersen will be able to compete against the top seniors in the country, don’t be surprised if he dominates under the bright lights of Las Vegas and asserts himself as one of the biggest risers in the entire class.