With two good years under his belt, Montgomery settles in

Philip Montgomery is beginning his third season as head coach of The University of Tulsa football team, and over the past two years, he and his family have acclimated well to the school and the community.

“The kids have been going to school here, my son has graduated from school now, my daughter and my wife have made a bunch of friends, and so we feel like the community really brought us in and took us in,” Montgomery said. “We’re doing everything we can to give back to the community, and it’s really been a great move for my family and me.”

Having moved from Texas, where he was on the staff at Baylor the past seven years, I figured Montgomery would know a thing or two about good barbecue. So, I asked him, what are his favorite local barbecue joints?

“Man, that’s so tough,” he said. “Right now, I’m probably 50-50 between, well no, Albert G.’s, Trails End, and Burn Co. Those are my top three – can I do it that way?”

Honestly, he didn’t get any argument from me. Those are certainly three of my top five, locally. Trails End in Owasso, may be a surprise choice, but every time I’ve been there, their ribs have been consistently tender, juicy and fall-off-the-bone.

For the traveler, having recently visited Tennessee, I can tell you, the best barbecue in Memphis is still Corky’s and the best in Nashville has to be Martins’s. When in those cities, find out for yourself if I’m not telling the truth.

Montgomery and his staff became successful at TU almost immediately. In 2015, they took over a team that had won only two games the previous year, and went 6-7, including a loss to Virginia Tech, 55-52, in the Independence Bowl. Then last season, the Golden Hurricane put up a 10-3 record and beat Central Michigan, 55-10, in the Miami Beach Bowl.

“I think you have to put that on our players, those guys really bought in to what myself and our coaching staff have tried to instill in them,” he said. “They’re believing in each other, and we have to continue to keep growing as a program, but I think our players have been the key to all of that.”

It’s never easy for players to change systems from one coach to another, but in the case of the Golden Hurricane, they’ve done it quite well.

“Those guys are fighting for sixty-minutes, and they’re trying to represent not just this university but our city,” Montgomery said. “I’m excited about where our program is headed and those guys deserve all the credit.”

Much is being made of the competition at the quarterback position, now that Dane Evans has graduated, leaving several records behind. The Chickasha, Oklahoma, native is currently on the Philadelphia Eagles roster.

Competing for the spot are sophomore Chad President and redshirt freshman Luke Skipper.

“I feel good about both of those two guys,” Montgomery said. “They’re competing really well with each other, they’re improving every day. Obviously, we’re going to make mistakes, but the biggest thing is to try to eliminate those mistakes so they’re not big ones. If it’s a small thing here or there that we can correct, you just don’t want to sacrifice something while trying to gain something, and hurt the overall play or the overall team aspect. Those guys are growing and I’m excited about the direction they’re headed.”

Returning to the squad is senior running back D’Angelo Brewer, who finished second in rushing yards last season in the American Athletic Conference, behind teammate James Flanders, who has graduated. Brewer rushed for 1,435 yards, for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. He also ran for seven touchdowns in the season.

“Having him back, having our offensive line back and having Chris Minter (TE) back, those guys are the keys. They make everything run for us,” Montgomery said. “Having him back gives a comfort level to our quarterbacks. With that being said, I think D’Angelo has really grown as a leader. He’s helping us in the locker room, he’s helping us on the field. He’s keeping guys going, and keeping our energy up. The guy has really turned into what we thought he was, which is an overall team captain for us.”

The offense may be riding on the shoulders of a young and inexperienced quarterback, but one thing is for sure, the TU defense is always tough, and will be again this season. I asked Montgomery why he thinks TU has had a consistently strong defense.

“I think it’s just the pride our guys are playing with,” he said. “Coach Young and Coach Norwood, our two defensive coordinators, are putting guys in good position to go make plays. I think our defensive staff and the continuity we’ve had on our staff has been a tremendous help in that. The guys are playing hard, they’re triggering, they’re making tackles, and they’re doing the things that we’re asking them to do. Defensively you have to be an intelligent player, but you have to play with a lot of heart and passion, and at the end of the day, you gotta want it more than they do, and I think that’s what our defense has done.”

Good recruiting helps too.

“That always helps,” he laughed. “We have to continue to keep doing that and we’re looking for guys that are going to be difference makers for us on the field.”

If this team is like last year’s squad, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane will be one fun, high-scoring team to watch this season. The Golden Hurricane will open the season at Oklahoma State on August 31, and the first home game is Sept. 9 against Louisiana at 3 p.m.