First challenge for TU’s Montgomery is Florida Atlantic

Coach Phillip Montgomery makes his head coaching debut at 2:30 p.m. Saturday as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane host Florida Atlantic to kick off the 2015 season.

Montgomery came to Tulsa from Baylor, where he was offensive coordinator for Coach Art Briles. He is being challenged to bring Tulsa back to its winning ways (TU was 11-3 in 2007).

At Baylor, Montgomery called plays for an offense ranked among the nation’s top two in each of the past four seasons. In 2014, Baylor’s offense led the nation with averages of 581.3 yards and 48.8 points through 12 games. The Bears led the nation in total offense in 2013 (618.8 ypg) and ranked second in both 2012 (572.2) and 2011 (587.1). Baylor’s passing attack ranked among the top five in that same span – fifth in both 2014 (346.2 ypg) and 2013 (359.1) and fourth in both 2012 (340.5) and 2011 (351.5).

In 2013,  Montgomery was named Offensive Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com and was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant.

In 2011, Montgomery was named the National Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Rivals.com and was the Quarterback Coach of the Year by SpeedTracs/FootballScoop.com.

Montgomery has coached several award-winning quarterbacks, including Big 12 Player of the Year Bryce Petty, Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Baylor All-American Nick Florence. At Houston, Montgomery coached Kevin Kolb to Conference USA MVP honors and tutored future NFL quarterback Case Keenum for two years.

Montgomery inherited 17 starters but he opened the competition for starting at every position. He will start Dane Evans at quarterback.

Evans ranked second in The American Athletic Conference in passing (258.5 ypg) and finished with 23 touchdowns in his first year as the regular starter.

Tulsa returns 10 starters from an offensive unit that averaged 412.5 yards per game in 2014.

Wideout Keevan Lucas finished second in The AAC in receptions (101) and receiving yards (1,219) and last season and led the conference with 11 touchdown receptions. Lucas joins wideout Keyarris Garrett to form one of the top receiving tandems in the conference.

Running back Zack Langer was second in The American in rushing in 2014 (80.1 ypg). Langer had four 100-yard games in his final six appearances.

Tulsa safety Michael Mudoh enters the 2015 season with 271 career tackles, which ranks fourth among returning players in FBS football. Mudoh was sixth in The American last season with 9.4 tackles per game. He is the lone returning starter in the Tulsa secondary.

Defensive tackle Derrick Luetjen, who has made 24 consecutive starts, and defensive end Derrick Alexander, who has 23 career starts, lead a veteran defensive line. Alexander earned second-team all-conference accolades in 2014.

Linebacker Craig Suits earned FWAA Freshman All-America honors last season after he finished with 81 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 12 starts.

Golden Hurricane punter Dalton Parks was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season after he averaged 42 yards per punt.

Redford Jones is the new placekicker. Running back D’Angelo Brewer was second in The American in kickoff returns last season (22.3 ypr).

Tulsa is declaring this a “white out” game and is encouraging fans to wear a white shirt to the game. Official “white out” will be sold at the stadium for $5. The first 5,000 fans will get a free Hurricane Flag.

Florida Atlantic opens on the road at Tulsa and then hosts in-state rival Miami on September 11. FAU travels to Gainesville to play Florida on November 11.

The Owls beat only three teams last season – Tulsa (50-21), UTSA and Western Kentucky – on their way to a 3-9 record. They were picked to finish fourth in the East Division of Conference USA.

Florida Atlantic coach Charlie Partridge will begin his second season with a seasoned quarterback, Jaquez Johnson.

Last season, Johnson opened the first game with an 11-play 72-yard scoring drive to start the season at No. 22 Nebraska.

Last year against Tulsa, Johnson was 15 of 20 passing for 318 yards and three touchdowns. He completed a 74-yard scoring pass in that TU game plus he ran five yards for another score.

Cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc leads the FAU secondary and is coming off a 71-tackle season where he had two interceptions and three pass breakups.

Tulsa defensive end Derrick Alexander has been named to the 2015 Watch List for the Rotary Lombardi Award, as the Rotary Lombardi Award Committee announced.

Alexander joins teammate Garrett Stafford, a senior offensive guard, who was named to the Rotary Lombardi Award when the original watch list was first announced in July.

Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.

Alexander, a senior from Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School, has 93 career tackles, 27 TFLs for -159 yards and 17 sacks for -125 yards. A second-team American Athletic Conference selection in 2014, Alexander totaled 42 tackles in 12 games, including 12 stops for -72 yards. He ranked second in the American Athletic Conference last season for tackles for lost yardage.