Coach Philip Montgomery begins with Florida Atlantic in efforts to get the Tulsa football team back on the winning track.
Montgomery, a quarterback coaching wizard, was offensive coordinator at Baylor for the past seven years and was instrumental in the turnaround of that program.
On his resume, Montgomery was offensive coordinator of the year in the Big 12, a finalist for the Broyles Award (given to the nation’s top assistant coach), national offensive coordinator of the year in 2011 (Rivals.com) and a former quarterback coach of the year.
“Those are great compliments but it’s really more about the players,” Montgomery said in an exclusive interview on Tulsa Beacon Weekend on KCFO AM970. “We had some great players on great teams. Those guys worked very diligently at their craft. So when you get those honors it’s more of a tribute to the guys you get to coach and be with every day.”
Montgomery coached Baylor Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin, III, now with the Washington Redskins; Bryce Petty, drafted by the New York Jets; Baylor All American Nick Florence; Conference USA most valuable player Kevin Kolb and former Houston quarterback Case Keenum, now with the St. Louis Rams.
That’s a great group of quarterbacks.
“We have a quarterback-friendly offense,” Montgomery said. “All those guys bring different skills and attributes to the table. I think we do a good job of making sure that what we are doing offensively matches with what their skill set is. They are tremendous people, very intelligent and very competitive. They are hard working guys.
“Any time you get those combinations of skills, it’s going to create some good things. Those guys were relentless workers. Hard work always pays off.”
Before the 2015 NFL draft, some thought Petty was the third best quarterback prospect. The first two picks were quarterbacks but Petty didn’t go until the fourth round.
“I thought he was a first-round pick this year,” Montgomery said. “I was shocked by it. There’s no rhyme or reason of when guys are going to get drafted. There’s a lot of speculation out there. Nobody ever knows.
“But I know Bryce and Bryce is a first-round guy. I told that to their organization and I told several people up there that have called and asked about him.
“They got a steal. They really did. They’ve got a tremendous young man who is very strong in his beliefs and very confident in what he can do. I think he will go in there and do a tremendous job.
“I think they found their quarterback of the future. Him falling all the way to the fourth round blows my mind. I would put his resume up against any of those guys that were in the draft this year.
“The guy has thrown for over 8,000 yards. He’s won back to back Big 12 championships. He’s had less than 10 interceptions in two years. He’s very productive. He’s a guy you never have to worry about, on or off the field.
“And he won.”
Montgomery thinks Petty will do great, depending on how fast the New York coaches want to aid his progress.
“He had to wait at Baylor,” Montgomery said. “When it came his time, he was mentally and physically ready.
“If they want to let him sit for a couple of games, or do it for a year or whatever their plans are, he’ll be able to do it either way.
“If they want him to come in and be the starter right now, I think he can handle that as well.”
While Tulsa has had some outstanding quarterbacks, there is work to do to get back to a championship level.
“When we came in, we brought our quarterbacks in and broke them down to the basics,” Montgomery said. “We spent the spring kind of building them back up. We taught them the way we want to do some things. There were some things fundamentally that we really needed to change and I thought all of them jumped on the ship and tried to correct the things that we talked about.
“We have got a lot of hard workers in there. We’ve got guys with talent. All of them have different skill sets but they are all working on things we need to work on.
“I thought Dane (Evans) had a tremendous spring. He improved from day one to the spring game.”
Montgomery hasn’t named a starter. He won’t rule out starting a freshman at quarterback.
Montgomery’s high-powered offense should be a crowd pleaser but the bottom line is winning games.
“I don’t care if we win 3-0 or 56-49 as long as we get the win at the end of the day,” Montgomery said. “But it is exciting. We are going to keep pushing the buttons and pushing the levels. Hopefully, we will keep people on the edge of their seats and excited and be ready to holler and scream and keep them involved in the games.”
TU players got a look at the fast pace during spring drills.
“We are going to be a high-tempo football team on both sides of the ball,” Montgomery said. “It’s a mindset. It’s a way of life. It’s a way we are going to do things. We have to practice at that pace to get us ready to do on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s not one of those things where you can flip a switch and say we are going to play fast.
“You have to practice it and believe in it. And our guys have done a good job of that this spring.”
With 15 spring practices at sharp pace, the players understand the reasons for it and have embraced it, he said.
“It’s all about us getting in shape to be able to handle that for the course of the season,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery praised the TU receivers and linebackers for performing in spring drills.
Montgomery said he was very excited about the opportunity to coach at TU.
“As I have gotten to know the city even better, it’s a great city with great people,” Montgomery said. “People are friendly and down to earth.
“As I brought my family here and we put our staff together, it’s been a great ride up to this point and I’m excited about what the future holds.”
His family really loves Tulsa.
“The kids are involved in school and in church, and my wife has gotten involved in the community,” Montgomery said. “The whole community has welcomed us. It’s been a really good transition for me and my family.”
Montgomery grew up in a Christian home. His father is a minister. “Growing up as preachers’ kid, I was there every time the doors were open – and sometimes when they weren’t even open,” Montgomery said. “I was fortunate to have that type of upbringing and to be solid in my faith and trying to raise my family in that sense and trying to influence my extended family.
“Every one of those players I consider my sons. The Good Lord willing, I will continue to keep doing that.”
Montgomery said it was difficult to leave Baylor, a team that will be ranked in the Top 10 and could compete for a Big 12 crown and even a national championship.
“It was,” Montgomery said. “Everything has got to fall right, but Baylor has an opportunity to compete for the national championship. With the talent they have coming back, both offensively and defensively, they will have an opportunity to do that.
“Now with that being said, I felt like this opportunity here was something special. It was an opportunity to do the things we wanted to do from the recruiting side of it – to get back into Texas and recruit and also recruit the State of Oklahoma.
“I felt like this was the right job and the right time. And the Good Lord was leading me in a good direction.”
Montgomery has some familiarity with teams in the American Athletic Conference.
“When we were at Houston, several of those teams were in Conference USA,” Montgomery said. “I have played against some and gotten a feel for them. There are a few that obviously we haven’t played but there’s not many.
“I think it’s a great conference. It think it will keep growing and maturing. We have a lot of great football teams and universities. The level of competition will be outstanding each and every week.
“That’s one of the things that really excited me about this job – the conference and who you get to go play.”
East Carolina lost their offensive coordinator to Oklahoma.
“Central Florida has been really good the last several years,” Montgomery said. “Cincinnati has really come on. UConn has entered the conference. Tulsa, Houston and SMU – all three with new coaches.
“The level of excitement for games coming up this fall is going to be extremely high.”
Tulsa’s nonconference schedule includes a trip to Oklahoma – a team beaten by Baylor the last two seasons.
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” Montgomery said. “They are very talented and very well coached. We have to go there and it’s a tough place to go play. Our guys will be excited for the challenge.
“But right now, we are more focused on ourselves and our first game of the year. We have to play them one game at a time. All of our intent now is on Florida Atlantic.”
Montgomery said he would love to redshirt the entire freshman class but some of them will be needed this fall.
“We are going to play the best 11 guys on both sides of the football, no matter whether you are a freshman or a senior,” Montgomery said.
In recruiting, Montgomery will tell a recruit that a college degree from Tulsa is worth up to $250,000 (combining tuition, fees, room and board, etc.).
“The really important thing about TU is the family type atmosphere,” Montgomery said. “You are on a smaller campus. Your class sizes are smaller. We are going to challenge you but we are also going to be here to help you.
“We can sell the university and the quality of education you are going to get. You can sell the city – a wonderful, welcoming city. And you will sell what you do on the field. The quality of men on my staff and the quality of coaching a recruit will get here will help them achieve their goals.
“They want to win conference championships and you want to win bowl games. When those guys step on campus, they have dreams of playing in the NFL.
“They will leave here with a degree from a Top 100 school in the nation that will carry weight when you get out in the business world. And you will have the opportunity to play at the next level if that is what you want to do.”
Montgomery, who is a Christian, said he enjoys helping young men develop in all areas.
“I think that’s the No. 1 deal,” Montgomery said. “It’s about your relationships with your players. It’s about caring about them more than just on the football field. You care for them off the field.
“This time of your life, for a young student/athlete, is such a nurturing time. You’re creating who you are going to be as a man. We are going to be here for them and be a good influence on them.”