UNIVERSITY OF TULSA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 7, 2018
COACH MONTGOMERY: Thanks for coming. Appreciate it. Exciting day for us. Signed 23 kids with the early signing period and now this signing period, obviously made today a little bit different. We've signed 18 of those guys, basically, in December, and added the other five today.
You know, new look for us and an opportunity for us to kind of go through a different experience from that Stan point. I think with the early signing period, I was for it. I'm still for it. Kind of cleaned some things up. It allowed guys to go ahead and make their decisions, be solid with those decisions.
But it also allowed us I think the opportunity with -- we still had those five left to really pinpoint guys that we needed at certain positions, give us a chance to really go out and evaluate those spots. Make sure that we're really putting the final touches on our signing class, which I think we really addressed some of those needs, and we're able to accomplish those things.
So excited about that part of it. I think it also allowed us an opportunity that we normally don't get to go out and start that next class, to really start building our list for the 2019 class, get a chance to go out and visit with coaches, be able to evaluate some kids from that standpoint. And so I see nothing but positives so far from what we've gotten a chance to work with in this early signing period and having the opportunity to do that.
I'm extremely excited about this class. Felt like we really addressed the needs on both sides of the football, able to bring in some experience, some very talented guys. We're able to really -- we started up front like we always do. I think our offensive line class is one of the best classes that we've been able to sign and add some depth there, some guys that bring some versatility there.
Same thing on the defensive side of it. We added several of those guys up front to add some experience up there, but also add some depth, some things we needed to address, as you look back on our previous season, some things we wanted to make sure that we got a hold of. We added some things in the secondary, added some things at linebacker, some guys that can come in with experience, some guys with some length, added some things that we needed. And offensively, kind of the one-, two-punch that we're always looking for in the backfield.
I think with the addition of TK, a guy that's going to bring a lot of size, power, speed back there, you add him in with the guys that we have on campus, I think we are going to continue to have that type of trend up front.
We were able to bring some more talent in at quarterback. I think Davis Brin is a very, very talented quarterback, a guy that's going to be able to do the things we want to do within our offense, a guy that can stand back there and sling it, put it on a dime, make all the throws we need him to make.
You also add in there Zach Smith, a transfer kid from Baylor, that has got a great arm. He's got great size with him. He's already had some experience, obviously, in college and performed extremely well. So bringing some of that experience and depth to the position I think is only going to benefit us from that standpoint.
But we signed quite a few quarterbacks out of high school. Not all those guys are going to play quarterback for us but the talent that we are bringing in and putting those guys in different positions, I think we've shown we've done a good job with those things.
You take a McKinley Whitfield that's now starting at safety, actually started at our star a little bit, and then moved back to safety with the injuries, but you see the transformation he made. Manic bunch is another example of.
I think when you look at Kendarin Ray and you look at Marquez Perez, those guys have done great jobs at being quarterbacks in high school and now coming back in.
And then you look at Jabari James, also, who took his team deep and what's an offensive MVP but now is coming to play corner, those guys are going to be assets to us as our future continues to grow.
All that being said, I think it's a great class. I want to thank our coaches for all the work that they have put in and being on the road and grinding and going through all the different tapes. And I think our guys sat down, we made great decisions on kids.
We've got really good, quality kids coming in here and we're excited about not only what they are going to do on the field but also what they are going to bring to us off the field.
Q. So when you went from the early period to today, and you had those five spots to fill, did you notice that your targets, who you were going after, did it change at all now that you had that time to study it a little more or were you honed in on the five you wanted the whole time?
COACH MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think we were honed in on what we wanted to do with it but with that being said, things are always changing.
You may have had a group of four or five guys that you were looking at at a certain position. With the early signing periods, you were able to kind of filter that down. Maybe this kid went ahead and signed somewhere else, maybe had another opportunity, whatever that might have been.
But you were really able to pinpoint and do a lot of research and make sure that you knew exactly what you were getting and how he was going to fit into what we were doing offensively, defensively, special teams. So I thought it really allowed us the opportunity to get a good grasp on that.
Q. What do you like about Josh Owens?
COACH MONTGOMERY: You know, I think Josh is a guy that can play all five positions. He played center his junior year. Played right tackle his senior year. Bumped back inside a little bit at those times, but I think he's a guy that's got versatility up front.
I think he's going to be able to add a lot of size to his frame. I think he's got a good frame to do it but from an athletic standpoint, he can get out and run and he can bend. He's got an aggressive streak to him on the field. So we're excited about the opportunity of what he's going to bring us with the different scenarios of what he can play up front.
Q. When you see a guy like Smith, what he did against a team like Oklahoma and some of the other Big 12 teams in his play, what's most exciting about that and the potential he has?
COACH MONTGOMERY: Well, you know, the great thing about Zach, I've known Zach since he was a sophomore in high school, and have been around him and his family quite a bit.
Obviously got thrown into the fire as a freshman because of injury and played extremely well in those. Did the same thing last year, started some games, started quite a few games in there and really played well.
I think the experience factor of what he brings to the able, he's already played in big venues. He's already played in big games and performed well in all of those.
I think that experience is going to only help him continue to grow. Yes, he's got to sit a year. I think that's going to be beneficial for him, as well, because he's never got the opportunity to really, you know, get in the weight room and concentrate on that side of it.
But also get in the film room and study and see and when you add that into, okay, I've got great playing experience versus really high-quality teams, now getting the opportunity to sit back and really learn and grow and see, these are the things did I well, these are the things I need to work on and continue to progress as a quarterback, I think that's going to be invaluable for him for this year to really grow.
Q. So you told us your thoughts on the early signing period and how you were in favor. Do you have a grasp yet of what the kids think about having two different --
COACH MONTGOMERY: Everybody that I've talked to, I think the kids were excited about it, as well. Most of these guys are making their decisions much earlier. Most of the guys that we signed, we signed 18 of them and the majority of those had been committed for, you know, four to six months prior to that signing date.
So they had been to campus quite a bit. They had been to ballgames. They have been to camp. They have done all of those things.
Really at that point of it, they made their decision. They were solid with their decision. They were ready to get that part out of the way and go ahead and sign and let's go ahead and move forward.
And so everybody that I've talked to from that standpoint, even the high school coaches that I've talked to, they were all in favor of it, as well, and so I think it's been a good move for all of us in that extent.
Q. How hard would it have been to add the five guys you got today, if you had to keep recruiting guys that you already thought you had on board that were verbally committed? If we were doing it the way we used to do it and you were bringing in everybody today and didn't have the 16 or 18 done in December, would you have able to get out and find some of those guys?
COACH MONTGOMERY: I think it would have been much more difficult. But for us, and just understanding our landscape and where we're at, the tough thing about us, if you don't have the early signing period, and this was one of the reasons why I was really for it, is we were always, the whole month of January, guys have been committed to us for now four, five, six months.
You know, somebody else loses a kid, now they are trying to come poach off of what we've got and now you're trying to hold onto that commitment and trying to work through that process.
You know, some of those guys that are in different conferences, you know, many of those signed their whole signing class in that early period and they were completely done. So we got to sign 18 of our guys and we were close to being done.
I think it allowed us the opportunity to get those guys signed, not have to sit there and worry about what's going to happen, what's going to go on. You know, every year, we'll get a kid poached, one, two three kids poached, and now you're struggling and you're scrambling right here very, very late in the game to make sure that, you know, you're filling those spots with quality kids.
And so I thought it was beneficial for us from that standpoint.
Q. Not just for the University of Tulsa, but a good thing for all of college football, not that it goes away, but the dynamics changed a little bit?
COACH MONTGOMERY: To me, I think it eliminates some of the games that you play in the recruiting world, right. I can't be a school that's just going to keep a kid on a string and just kind of hanging a carrot out in front of him and all of a sudden at the very end, okay, I don't have anything, you've got to find yourself something else.
It made everybody make those decisions a little bit earlier, and you know, when you stepped up to the plate, you'd better be ready because things are going to happen and things are going to move.
I think it allowed not only for the kids to get a clearer picture of this school is really talking to me and this school is just playing with me, type of deal, you had to step up and be real honest about where you were at. I thought that was beneficial on both sides of that.
It changed some things in the recruiting world. I did more home visits in the month of December than I've ever done in my coaching career because everything sped up from that standpoint. Wanting kids to sign early, you've got to go out and you've got to be on the road and you've got to be in their homes and you've got to do that. Saving those home visits for late in January didn't happen this year. So that was a big difference and a big change for us, as well.
Q. Is there still a little bit of unknown what '19 is going to look like with them moving up the official visit dates that they can have? As much as we can say, there's still not enough raw data to look at '18 and make a judgement from there because '19 is going to be even different.
COACH MONTGOMERY: Yeah, the whole scheme of it has changed. And I was for the early signing period. I wasn't really for the early visiting period, right. I'm glad you had the opportunities, kids will have the opportunities to do that.
But it's going to cost some unique different changes to it as well because if you bring a kid on an official visit, let's say, during April or May or even during the first part of June, you have nothing else out there for him to be able to come to your campus or do anything to get in front of him and his parents prior to that early signing day in December.
So you know, coaches have got to make some decisions. Kids have got to make some decisions. You go out and you roll all of your official visits and you do them all in the spring. And now your buddy over here has decided he's waiting and now he's taking trips there late in November, December or what-have-you, and he's coming back, saying, man, I've had a great time and you've already done all of yours, now you're -- you know, where are you at in that boat.
So maybe you took all your visits early and now some different schools have gotten on you and now you can't take those visits now because you've already used them all up. So there's some different dynamics that are going to take place during that that we are going to have to work ourselves through.
I personally, you know, kids are making it to campuses, you know, unofficially and I know sometimes that puts a hardship on parents and you want to take that away from it.
But the flip side of it, if they are coming unofficially and being able to visit your campus and be part of that, that official visit time when you really get to celebrate what's going on late in the season and/or for us, we did a lot of our official visits, even though they signed in December, we still brought them in in January and it was like a celebration. I mean, kids got to know each other. Parents got to know each other. They know they have all signed, so this is my signing group, and it was a really special weekend. I would love to be able to continue to do it that way.
Q. So obviously every year you try to bring in the best players that you can possibly get, but I'm curious, having gone through what you did last year, having to play so many young guys, not by choice, but you just had to, did it change the way you look at these recruiting classes at all? Do you try to pinpoint guys as you bring them in, okay, well, if this happens again, I trust this guy or this guy we can throw into the fire early; did it change anything?
COACH MONTGOMERY: I don't know, obviously we added some experience and depth within this signing class. That being said, the injuries that we took on last year, that's kind of an outlining-type season, you know what I'm saying. You generally don't have to fight through that many. We had 16 knee injuries and 17 of them were ACLs that were season-ending. That number is really high.
So when you have things like that happen, you're just hoping your depth is going to cover you, but nobody, unless you're maybe a handful of schools across the nation, had the depth to sustain that type of injury run.
When you look at it, yeah, you want to build for the future. You want to make sure your depth is solid and you have to continue to keep building it from that sense.
I think it did play into the fact, while we took a few more guys with a little bit of experience about them, for guys to be able to come in, because when you're coming off ACLs, those guys are doing great for us right now. They are doing the rehab, but you never know how you're going to react coming off of that thing. So you've got to plan and not just hope. You've got to build for what the future is going to be.
Q. Were you really fortunate to find eight junior college transfers who just happened to fit every criteria of coming to Tulsa, or did the University meet you in the middle a little bit to help get some of these guys in school?
COACH MONTGOMERY: Yeah, the University helped, but I've got to give a lot of credit to our assistant coaches, too. Guys that really -- we did a lot of research on some of these kids -- well, all of these kids but especially when you start tracking JC players and how they are going to fit into your system, you have to make sure that you're hitting on a lot of different boxes in that deal.
And so a lot of kids that we signed, you know, were qualifiers coming out of high school but maybe they went to a small school that they got overlooked or maybe they need to develop size and strength and they were really raw and that gave them the opportunity to get out there and play and get experience and be able to build from that standpoint.
And so for us, it's a mixture of those kids in there and I think our assistant coaches did a great job of vetting those guys, making sure they are a kid that can come in here and still do well in the classroom. Because it's not just about getting them in school; then you've got to stay eligible once you get in school.
So I think we've done a really good job of that and that credit goes to our assistant coaches and guys that, from an attitude standpoint, have the right frame of mind to come in the classroom and get work done.
Q. So if you ended up with a total of eight, what would your number maybe have been in your mind midway through the process, this class process, on junior college guys?
COACH MONTGOMERY: Let's say, spring, I may have taken, I may have looked to take one or two. As we got into the season, that was probably the same. As we started hitting the rash of injuries that we had, that number started going up.
Honestly wasn't in my mind that we were going to sign eight. I never had a number in my mind that we were going to sign eight guys.
As we started breaking down and started looking at what do we need to make sure that we're in a position that we want to be in at the end of next year, what do we need from a positional standpoint and as we start focusing in on that, that's where we came to.
Came across some really good players. Some guys that that I think can really come in and help us right away. You know, competition has always been our key. I talk about that every year.
My job is to make sure I have the best 11 guys on the field at one time, no matter the scenario of the game. And so for us, didn't promise anybody anything. We're going to give you the opportunity to come in here and play and compete. You win the job, it's yours, and we'll go to war that way.
Q. I get the feeling you're not crazy about singling any one guy out. But of those eight JuCo guys, could you tell fans of maybe one or two that you really feel good about his chances of coming in and helping you right away?
COACH MONTGOMERY: Well, I hope all of them or I wouldn't have signed them, right. When you're going to sign a kid out of JC or you're taking a transfer kid, you're looking at a kid that you're wanting to be able to come in and compete for the job right now, right.
Obviously, as you look at that list and as you go down it, we signed several guys on the defensive line that need to be able to come in here and play. I mean, we're losing Jeremy Smith and Jessie Brubaker who are two guys that did tremendous things for us, and then behind them, you're also losing Frankie and those guys; and so you're not just losing your first guys but you're also losing the guys that were playing behind them.
So from that standpoint, you're going really, really young in our high school roster that you just signed. When you start talking about Devin Lampert (ph) of time who I think is going to be a great player, he still needs time to develop.
Being able to bring Cade and Cullin and those guys in that can help you immediately bridge that gap between guys that graduated, and guys that are young and still developing, I think that's going to be beneficial for us.
We set that same precedent last year when you got Shamari who had to start two years ago as a true freshman, but got a little playing time, not a ton but got a little bit. And then last year had to step in and be ready to be the starter, but still needs time to grow. And he did a lot of growing. He's having a great off-season right now but being able to bring in a Jew want and help inside is going to be beneficial.
Same thing at linebacker. I think Yohance has got a chance to come in here and set it on his here and play extremely well he's a guy that brings a lot of experience, when he meets you in the hole you're going to feel it. He's a guy that I think has got that.
Also when you look at TieNeal, TieNeal is a guy, when all the injuries that we had at star, and at safety, and having to move McKinley back and doing those things, we wanted to make sure that we had some moving parts that we're able to -- so that if we leave McKinley at the down safety spot, where he flourished and played extremely well, TieNeal can come in and play the star spot and he's a guy that has played back there deep but he's carrying a little bit more weight that's going to come up and hit you and great tackler in space but he's got really good cover skills and ball skills, and so you look at him, you look at Branden.
Branden, a guy again, Manny and Jay Mitch are both rehabbing extremely well and they are going to come back from those things. But having a guy like Branden, to be able to come in and continue to keep competing with those guys, continue to keep pushing them but also gives us some depth to say, hey, you know, Jay Mitch may not be ready game one, game two, game three, you know, being able to say Branden is ready and he can step in and play and now we got a good rotation of those guys.
So I think all of those guys are good, but then you look on the offensive side with Judge, Judge is a guy that I think can play all five spots, too. I think he can really play center. I think he can really play tackle, but he played guard, as well, at NEO. I think he's a kid that's going to add either going to be a starter or a great quality depth guy that can come in and continue to keep pushing these young guys.
Q. I have a question about the guys that are here working out in the morning. When you're out there, do you sense that they have maybe an added chip on the shoulder, a little extra attitude after what they went through last year?
COACH MONTGOMERY: I love the attitude right now our guys are working with. Those guys are hungry. I think with all the things that happened -- we're not excuse makers around here. It is what it is, and those guys have a bad taste in their mouth about it.
They know that's not the type of football team we are. You can talk about the close games, talk about this, talk about that. We're working on the detail part of what we're doing. That is our slogan. That's what we're focused on is every detail matters, and I don't care if it's from tying your shoes, showing up on time, or the quality of work that you're putting in. Those guys are putting in great work right now.
Eric Anthony is our new strength coach. I think he and his staff have done a great job of pushing our guys, holding them accountable and our guys are thriving in that right now. I'm excited every day I get to show up at work out whether it's 6:00 AM or whatever, whether it's 15 degrees outside or not, those guys are out there and they are pushing each other and I think we're setting a great foundation of what this next season is going to be about.
Q. A little off-subject but normally during the course of a press conference, you probably wouldn't appreciate extraneous noise, but in this case, are you okay with it since it indicates kind of what's going on down stairs and how that's all going with the renovation?
COACH MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I didn't even hear any noise. That's how wonderful it is. That's just the angels are singing downstairs. The addition of our new locker room, the renovation of our new locker room we are extremely excited about. Right now our guys are in the visitors' dressing room, don't even call it the visitors locker room. It's where we change clothes, that's all it is.
But with the help of some great people in this community and our university, being able to step up and help us renovate our locker room, what a great tool that's going to be. Our guys, the excitement level that they have about being able to come into this renovated space, it's exciting for our program. It's showing the direction of our program. It's showing the direction our university has placed on it and I couldn't be happier about all the noise and the banging and the construction that's going on down stairs.
Q. And did it help in recruiting?
COACH MONTGOMERY: It did. I mean, any time -- you've got to understand what college athletics and college football is kind of turning into, and you've got to continue to keep improving things. Whether that be your locker room, your weight room, your academic center; whether that's the uniforms that you're putting on, the gloves that you're wearing, the sweatbands you're wearing, the helmets, the different combinations, those things all matter when it comes to recruiting.
Kids want to see those things and they want to be a part of those things but it also shows the commitment of your university and how it's progressively moving forward and that's what we always want to do. If we're not moving forward, even if you're standing still, you're falling behind.
So we have to continue to keep pressing the envelope and continue to keep growing as a university and as an athletic department because this conference is a great conference. I don't care if you're talking about football, basketball. Across the board, we have and play in a great conference, and we've got to continue to be at the top of that.
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