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TU coach Philip Montgomery reflects on 2016, looks ahead to 2017

Time:2016-12-21 14:18Shoes websites Click:

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Drenched from multiple Gatorade baths, University of Tulsa 201611/1465.html">coach 201612/114926.html">Philip Montgomery stood in a sea of grinning players huddled in a makeshift locker room at Marlins Park on Monday.

With a strained voice, Montgomery addressed his team for the final time in 2016.

“Above anything else, you know I’m emotional,” Montgomery said. “With that (being said): I love you. I love the work you put in. I love the way you care about each other.

“I love the way you handled your business and you stayed hungry and humble about what we do. … You put in the work and you made it happen.”

The Hurricane capped a better-than-expected year with a 55-10 pummeling of Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl to finish with a 10-3 record, only the 10th double-digit winning season in program history.

When accepting the bowl trophy on the field, Montgomery said: “We’ve had great leadership on this team and at our university, in general. We are really excited about the direction that Tulsa football is headed and couldn’t be happier with the way this season ended for us.”

In the locker room, Montgomery summoned enough vocal strength to lead his usual post-win chant in which he repeatedly yells, “You got me!” and each time his players reply, “I got you!” Everyone was riled up, and the celebration continued on the late flight home.

After getting about an hour of sleep, Montgomery was back in his office at the Case Athletic Complex on Tuesday, reflecting on a dramatic season that included three overtime wins and two controversial defeats in the American Athletic Conference.

“I’m very proud of this football team and what it accomplished,” Montgomery said, hoarser than the previous evening. “They really dedicated themselves. … They got better and believed in each other and you could see their confidence growing as the year kept going.”

Preseason question marks were answered in resounding fashion, particularly with offensive and defensive lines that became strengths despite having lost starters. The defense was improved and the offense flourished further in Montgomery’s second year.

After briefly savoring the successes of 2016, the coaching staff immediately shifts focus to wrapping up the 2017 recruiting class. Not long after, the challenge of replacing key pieces begins during the spring-practice period.

“We just set an NCAA record that’s never been done in college football (two 1,000-yard rushers, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 3,000-yard passer on one team),” Montgomery said. “We’ve got one of those five guys coming back. That’s a lot of offense leaving.

“Think about the production leaving on defense. Both D-tackles are gone. Two of your three linebackers are gone. Secondary-wise, you’re losing (safety Jeremy) Brady. There’s a lot of holes in there that we have to fill.”

Most notably, the Hurricane has to identify its next quarterback after the graduation of Dane Evans, who set numerous program records including the most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a career.

Quarterbacks with eligibility are Chad President, this year’s backup before he was injured; Ryan Rubley, who slid into the backup role; Will Hefley, who will be a sophomore; Sam Gottsch, a walk-on who will be a junior; and Luke Skipper, who redshirted this year. Seth Boomer of Collinsville also is verbally committed to TU.

“That’s a wide-open spot coming into spring,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t give it to Dane; Dane earned every inch of it.

“Those guys are going to have to earn it. Daddy ain’t going to toss you the keys to the Cadillac and say, ‘Here, go out and drive.’ ”

All five starters are expected back on the offensive line, and receivers like Justin Hobbs and Keenen Johnson should have bigger roles. A slew of talent is waiting in the wings on the other side of the ball, where four true freshmen played this year.

“We’ve got a lot shoes to fill, a lot of holes to fill,” Montgomery said. “That’s why you love this job. You love the new challenge you have each and every year and seeing how your team is going to come together and who’s going to step up.”

Kelly Hines



Twitter: @KellyHinesTW


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