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August 6, 2018

Philip Montgomery

Tulsa, Oklahoma

PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Appreciate everybody showing up today. Obviously this is an exciting time of year. We have four practices underneath our belt right now. As you can tell, I have very little voice left after those four, which is always a positive thing. That doesn't mean I've been hollering and screaming, but could have been just encouraging, but don't have a lot of voice left.

I've been really, really pleased with the way our guys have come back after spring ball and after our summer workouts. I think E.A. and his staff have done a tremendous job of not only preparing us for the season from a physicality standpoint, but just mentally some of the things that we've been through together, our leadership has been outstanding. We've built on that all the way through. In addition to that, I think right now our guys are really moving at a better rate.

When you see guys put their feet in the ground, when you see guys breaking on balls, running the route, running backs, linemen, linebackers, we're playing with a lot more force about us. It's very competitive out there right now. That's something that I've really enjoyed about our first four days. There hasn't been one side or the other dominating. It's been a good give and take back and forth. I think that's what you want out of your football team as you get into this fall camp.

If you dominate one side or the other, either you're really good on one side or you're really bad on the other side. So right now we've got good give and take on both of those. Those guys that were injured last year, all of them are back right now going. It's totally different when you've got McKinley and J. Mitch and Manny and those guys back there in the secondary with their length and speed. They really look very fluid back there, and they're playing with a lot of poise about them, but they're doing a great job of leading. Then those guys up front are continuing to grow and develop.

So I'm excited about our future. Obviously, we've got a tough schedule. But right now we are focused on game 1, being 1-0 and building from that point forward.

Q. You've talked a lot about details going back to the spring. I'm just wondering if you thought when you first presented that to the guys in January, whenever it was, if they understood exactly what you were going for? If they could see in their own performance where attention to details was important, what kind of buy-in you've had, and also have you seen progress in spring and in these first few practices as well?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: I think that's a legitimate point. When we came back from January, you know, unfortunately, I had a little bit longer Christmas break. So as you -- as you're watching a lot of Bowl games and knowing that you needed and should be a part of those things, you're generating and starting to form to what next year's team is going to be. You can't start developing that if you wait until right now.

So we sat down, sat down, kind of came up with some ideas, we as a staff came up with some ideas. But this is something that we thought as you look back on it, you know, don't really want to talk much about last year, but there were many games in there decided by one point or one play or one possession, something like that. You know, there are no small details.

I mean, every detail that we have is important. Our team has really bought into that, and that's gone everything from our new locker room to how we're handling that, to the way we dress, to the way we're acting, the way we're preparing for meetings, what we're doing in our meetings and coming out of them. And we're placing emphasis and making sure that those guys are staying, you know, on top of that.

I think our team has really bought into it. That's going to be our theme all year long.

Q. So like the way they keep the locker room or there are new rules or maybe things they're supposed to follow that maybe weren't there before?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Yeah, we have a new space, and we have a new home, and it's beautiful. We're going to keep it beautiful. You're responsible for your part of that home. So whether it is how I put my helmet in the cubby or where I hang my stuff, everything is -- there's no stone unturned. So if we're going to talk about details, we're going to live details in our lives.

Q. When you got here three years ago, you inherited a bunch of guys who had lost ten the year before, and lost 19 in two years. I would think that year was as much about installing confidence, you know what I mean, fixing their self-esteem as it was installing your system. Are there similarities with this off-season and that one in terms of getting their confidence fixed?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: It's kind of hard to answer that question. I would say yes to the extent there are some similarities to it. I don't really -- you know, in our team last year, we're in a lot of close ballgames that we just didn't come out on top of. Our team, in my opinion, there was not a game out there except for one that we didn't show up and play a full 60 minutes and battle until the very end and had opportunities to win.

I think our guys believe in what we're doing and how we're doing it. I think some of our young guys have a little more confidence, because we had so many youngsters having to play with the injuries and all of the other, you know. They were maybe lacking some confidence, but I think overall our football team is still confident about what's going on. It was about those older guys now this winter really taking hold of the young ones and saying, okay, here's where we are and this is your level right here. We're going to pull you and push you until you get to this point because we all have to be here for us to continue to grow.

Q. That preseason camp in '15, was it your sense early in camp or during camp that you had kind of gotten them fixed here or did that all happen when you started winning right out of the gate?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think our guys started believing it. I think they started seeing what we were doing, why we were doing it. I think our guys in '15, we had to get back to understanding that we can work extremely hard and still have fun doing it, and still be focused about what we're doing. But we were going to outwork people.

This is the type of work we were going to put in. The confidence, I think, came honestly the first game we win in overtime. I think that kind of set the tone for that football team. We were never going to be out of a game. We were going to continue to fight. We were going to continue to drive. If we just get a stop or just make a play here, that's going to get the ball rolling. I think those guys continued to believe that all the way through the season.

We had a tough slide in there in the middle. You come down to the last game, got to get Bowl eligible, and we have a pick-six for a touchdown. We have another big turnover that happened that made some things go our way. So guys just made plays and believed.

But you were talking about a little bit older, fragile football team, but older, still trying to learn but gaining experience every day.

Q. You know your personnel obviously. But you were getting to know people by name and face?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: No doubt, no doubt. When you go into that first game, you've never been to war with those guys. There are a lot of guys that are really good at practice that don't show up in games. And there are other guys that don't -- maybe they're not the best practice guys, but when lights come on, something happens to them and they make plays for you.

So you've got a lot of question marks going into the first one. Now we know them. We recruited them, know them, been around them, and developing them to what they're going to be.

Q. What have been some of your early impressions of the newcomers that weren't here in the spring and how does the red-shirt rule, the change with that effect maybe some of your decisions? Is there less pressure for evaluating them at this point?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: I think there's less pressure of trying to -- especially a kid that comes in that you feel like may have the ability to play this season. Before this rule, you're pushing him really, really hard, because you need to see, can he handle it? Can he adapt with all the knowledge and the speed of the game and all that part of it? Because once you get to a certain point in the season, if he's still not ready, you're going to put him on the shelf for a year. I think the new rule is going to be extremely, and I'm really, really in favor of this, a great advantage. I think, mostly to the student-athlete, but also, I think, obviously it's going to be an advantage to us.

From a student-athlete standpoint, one of the hardest things to do is you've got to remember all these guys are probably the best players on their high school teams and they've been the stars. Then when they get here and you red-shirt them, first of all, it's a blow to their ego, all right, because they all think -- they've never been told this, but they all think they're going to come in and start, right? Then they go through that once they find out they're going to be red-shirted, and that's kind of the direction we're going to head, there is a depression-type state that they've got to work their way through.

You've got to think, they're lifting, they're running, they're going out there on the scout field, they're practicing. They get to do all the hard stuff, but they don't get to have any of the fun when it comes to game time. So they kind of -- there are some growing pains that you have to go through.

I think this is going to really help them mentally because when they hit that stage, also, you've got all this school, you know? School is tough. Mama's not here. So, you know, you fall behind and all of a sudden, it's hard to get back on the right track academically.

I think always having that ability, you don't know when your four games possibly could come in that you might have a chance to play, but I think you're going to stay more driven, more focused on what we're doing as a football team and learning. I think that's going to help those guys develop and grow as we continue to go through it.

If we had the season we had last year with all the injuries, this rule last year would have helped us tremendously from that standpoint. And a kid like Zaven Collins -- and I know I'm going long, sorry -- but you look at that kid, and I would have loved to get him four games of experience last year because his growth this year now would be ten-fold ahead because he's gotten games and he's seen it, and he's felt it, and he's been in it. So that part's going to be great for him too. Sorry.

Q. Going along the lines of these are pretty much all your guys now. Now that you've seen the development of them and especially with the junior college guys coming in, how have you seen them incorporate into what you already had here with the guys you've seen develop and grow?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think, you know, our program, and I talked to our players about this at the start of camp. Our program is going to be built on a foundation that is off of faith, family, football. That's what it's all going to be. Family is very important to me. It's very important to our program, and I think, you know, all of those guys, I hope, have felt as though they were my sons and part of this family and growing.

The difference I think now is that culture has developed enough as guys that are coming in. The standard has kind of been set on this is the way our family runs, this is the way we do things. And those younger guys, as they come into that group, they understand that feeling and are part of that. I think that's a key element about who we are and what we do and how we do it.

I think it's been special for us up until this point.

Q. Just on specifically JC guys, do you feel they've been a stop gap where you can immediately plug them in, or is it something where they're freshmen developing where like they're ready for this role now?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: From the JC standpoint? I think really with the JC guys, those guys, the majority of them have been here since January. I think they're feeling at home. I also think you don't recruit a JC guy if he can't come in and help you. You know what I'm saying? He's got to be an immediate-help guy. He's got to be in the two-deep somewhere. That's why you brought him in here.

That doesn't mean every JC guy that you bring in has to be a starter. But he needs to be in your two-deep to provide you depth, so in case something happens or to be able to give a guy a break during a game or whatever that will be, you've got enough faith that he can go in and do that, and he's physically mature enough to handle that.

Q. Shemarr looks bigger, thicker, stronger, but he's never going to be a big guy. Knowing that --

Q. Yeah, I know. He plays like it -- knowing that maybe your passing game is going to require some time to gain consistency, what do you see from the running back rotation? What do you see for the workload for not just him but the guys behind him?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Yeah, we've always been a running back by committee team. That's our philosophy. We've done that every year since I've been here and we'll continue to do that. You know, Shemarr had an unbelievable year. Obviously, we need him to stay healthy all the way through the season.

So I think it's very difficult because of the beatings that running backs take throughout the year for them to stay healthy if you're not splitting time. So I think right now going into it we've got a pretty good one-two punch, different scenarios of backs. Shemarr obviously being the lead of that.

I think Corey Taylor who broke his foot in game 2 last year, he's ready to have a tremendous season. Then really, I've got to give him credit.

Javon Thomas right now, he's a name that he's ready to finally have that break out year. I mean, the light bulb has finally come on for him. He's every bit of 245 to 250 pounds and he can run, and he's playing behind his pads. He's got the look in his eyes that we want. I think between those three guys, you've got three different styles of runners. I think we can keep people off balance. I think all three of them have the capability to take it to the house.

I think by doing that, we allow all three of them to make it through the full season.

Q. Given your first-year players, how great is it to have some of your former guys back Josh Atkinson, Derek Luetjen, Craig Suits?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Yeah, it's been really good. Anytime you have the opportunity to help young guys out, right, that's why we got into this business. We've got a lot of guys on our football team that I think are going to be outstanding coaches one day. They're wanting to go into this profession, which I think is a great profession, obviously.

But it's been nice to be able to give those guys the chance. Craig Suits is now on our staff as a GA, Derrick Luetjen is back on our staff as a GA, and Josh Atkinson is back on the staff as a GA. Now those guys have done a good job during fall camp. Now they're getting baptized into it right now.

But it's been fun to have them see the other side. Josh was on my sideline today. We had a called play that he's open for a touchdown, and we get sacked instead of getting the ball off. I said this is what it feels like from the other side of it. You running the route, I'm open. But there is nothing you can do about it standing over here. So just learning how to coach up those guys, and those guys have knowledge. Being able to -- you just came off the field.

So there are things that you did as a receiver that can help, or you did as a linebacker that can help, and you can maybe explain it a different way than I'm explaining it. I don't care, as long as that guy gets the point and he gets the production out of it. So it's been fun to watch them grow.

Q. You had said that after you were cleared from your injury, you weren't going to be doing any signaling, but you've been doing signaling?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Well, I get anxious at times. So if you've noticed, all the quarterbacks now, where Chad had to come over and signal for me because he couldn't go, now all the quarterbacks have to rotate over with me, which I've really enjoyed that. It gives me an opportunity to really visit and talk with them and be able to point things out, and hopefully us build a repertoire of being able to be on the same page.

I'm calling this, I'm seeing this, I want you to see that. I also think he keeps them really in tune in practice. So they're all coming over. There are times where I get frustrated or whatever and I just signal it myself or I signal half of it, and they have to signal the other half. But I'm healed, so I can signal now.

Q. With Dane Evans, okay, in his first year in your system, across the board statistically, he was a better quarterback. This is kind of an apple and an orange situation, because Luke's always been in your system, but now he's got a full year plus of getting number one reps or at least close to it, you know what I mean? So is there a chance? Are you expecting maybe the same kind of jump from first year to this year with Luke that you achieved in a different circumstance with Dayne a couple years ago?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think the biggest thing with Dayne, did have a lot of experience underneath his belt. Now some of that was bad experience from the standpoint he had in ghosts in the closets. But Dayne was very diligent about the way he approached his work and what he wanted to do and learn.

At that time to be real honest, everybody was new in the offense, but you had older receivers to go with that. So you had Keyarris out there, you had Keevan, you had Josh, you had Conner. Those guys all had a ton of experience underneath their belts. You take last year, you've got Luke and Chad and those two guys, they're new and green behind the ears, but so is everybody across the board receiver-wise except for really Hobbs.

So those two factors were not a great recipe for us. That being said, our quarterbacks and receivers this winter and this summer, I don't know that we've ever come into a fall camp where those guys have gotten more reps, they're seeing things better, our quarterbacks are throw things with better accuracy, with more consistency. They're seeing things a lot cleaner.

You know, I can't -- and I'm not predicting anything, but I feel as though we are taking really, really good steps throwing the football right now.

We've changed some things schematically that I think are going to help us, but I think those guys are on the same page a whole lot more. I'm really enjoying the process right now. Luke's developing at a really good rate.

I think Seth Boomer behind him is developing at a really good rate. Chad's coming back off the injury. I think our quarterback room right now cohesively has been better -- is better right now than I've had since I've been here.

We've got some guys in there right now that can operate. They're all young, but the future of the quarterback room I'm really, really pleased with the direction that we're heading.

Q. Did I miss it? Did you just name the starting quarterback?

Q. So the competition continues then?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: The competition continues.

Q. How's that going?
PHILIP MONTGOMERY: It's going really well. Four days in. Really well. Again, I think the competition has been great. I think more than anything else this has been a competition, and yes, I want the starting job, but nobody's like you don't see the kind of -- when he misses the throw, everybody's encouraging everybody. Everybody's helping everybody. If you had put the ball in this hole and you held it too long, you try to get him to that whole but the first hole was open, you just weren't ready.

I mean, they're all helping each other out, and that's been, I think, the most positive thing about our quarterback room right now.

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