Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery Discusses The Upcoming Memphis Game

GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – Third-year ECU Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to this weekend’s home game against Memphis. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:

“We’re coming off a good open week. We’re a little bit healthier than we were last week at this time. Also, we had a good chance to take a look at a few of the things on defense and offense that we need to get better at and hopefully some of the work that we put in over the last week will help us get past some of that. We had a great week of being able to get Holton (Ahlers) accustomed to some of the new things in strike zone and red zone plays. It’s been a really good week for him being in the building and coming around. With the leadership that he’s shown over the last two weeks, it has spoken volumes to the staff. We’ve had a chance to look at some of our younger players that will hopefully get a few reps in the game moving forward. Duce Fuller came out of the Hollywood period that we had and did a really good job for us. Another young man that showed up as a freshman and has done a good job for us but did a really good job for us last week was Tyler Snead. So hopefully we get to see some of those guys working into the game plan a little bit more, whether it be special teams or offense. But all in all, a good week to come off the open day and we’re looking forward to a really good Memphis team that’s showcased by their ability to run the football. I think (Darrell) Henderson has been one of the best running backs not only in our conference, but in the country. He’ll be a high draft pick. He’s done a really good job to this point of creating chunk plays, but also getting three, four-yard runs and has been able to do it consistently. They’re coming off a tough couple games, so we know they’ll be anxious to get back to playing good football and thankfully we get to play them here.”

On Thinking About Memphis’ Win Last Year:

“Yeah we talked about it this morning as a staff. We came out from a situation where we had played better in the Tulane game where it came down to one yard and we weren’t able to execute there at the end. Then we played well against a Cincinnati team that we started to build some momentum. Then we went to Memphis and didn’t play well at all. So, a lot of that has come up. It doesn’t really have anything to do about the deciding factor of this game. It also is something that I did bring up to the staff.”

On Guaranteeing Postseason After Memphis Game Last Year:

“I think about it every day. I think about it all the time. This is a huge game. We understood that last time we took the field, it was a huge game. I think that we’re in a lot different situation than we were the last time we took the field. We know a lot more about our quarterback position. Defensively, we’re bringing back some of our defensive secondary. I think about it every day. It’s something we need to get back to, there’s no question.”

On What Holton Ahlers Needs To Do More Of In The Passing Game:

“Nothing. I think he did a really good job in the passing game. What we have to do offensively, is our run-action pass has to be much better. He’s only a small percentage of the run-action pass. What the run-action pass game comes down to are we high-hat, low-hat and our offensive line. Does it really seem and feel like a run? If we can get our protection squared away to look like a run and our receivers running the depths that they need to run, we’ll be better in that portion of it. As we evaluated it, he threw away some balls that I liked him to throw away. The only thing, that you’re talking about throwing the ball, was really decision-making. He had some nice, easy RPO’s to take where he decided to pull them down and run. But as far as throwing the ball down the field, I thought he was very effective at going through his reads. He was much better this week. But our run-action pass game has so much to do with our receivers and our backs coming through those fakes low, finishing the run and making it look like a run. Then the biggest part of it is the high-hat, low-hat and our offensive front.”

On Lee Workman Retiring:

“Happy for him. I’m glad he’s in a position in his career where he can retire and ride off into the sunset.”

On Where Duce Fuller Will See Action:

“More of a running back and some slot action. Duce has gotten a lot bigger since he’s gotten here. When he first got here, he was a lot lighter and we had him at receiver. But we got him with Coach C (Connors) and he’s turned into more of a running back body-type. So, we got a chance to see him a lot last week as a running back. But he’s definitely in special teams coverage units. He really worked to get where he is now so we’re really happy for him.”

On Who Benefited The Most From The Bye Week:

“Definitely the quarterback position. I think, from a learning standpoint, the quarterback position and just being able to be around the players as the leader. He’s had a solid two weeks now where he can actually run the drills, tell a guy that wasn’t the right depth. There’s a lot that goes into that, which people don’t understand. He’s done a good job of it. As far as health wise, I’d say our defensive secondary. Tank Robinson was banged up a lot but he’s back to practicing. Corey Seargent was banged up a lot, now he’s back to practicing. Marcus Holton was banged up and he’s back to practicing. We got the benefit of all of those guys being back practicing. We will need them this week.”

On How Memphis Uses Darrell Henderson:

“I think they do a good job of making sure he gets the ball. He takes you to the ball a lot. When you have a great player, a great back, you just wait for him to get it at the snap. I don’t necessarily think it’s creativity. I just think they’re much better in their front than a lot of people are talking about too, from tackle to tackle. They’re really good and their zone scheme is really effective. I love the footwork of their back. At the end of the day, it’s about getting the best player they have the ball. We think he’s the best player so it’s not really creativity, it’s just putting him in the best position or more positions to get as many plays as he can.”

On What ECU Needs To Do To Be Successful Against Memphis:

“Defensively, we have to do what we’ve been doing and then do it five more plays. As I look at every game this year, and it’s not just us, it’s defenses everywhere. You go from being a good defense to an elite defense, or an average defense to an elite defense, by five or six plays a game. I think we can go from good to being elite if we can just play sound in the run game. I think we got out of our gaps a couple of time and we had a few of those issues before. We’ll fix that. That’s going to get better. We need to stop giving up the big plays on third-down. Third-and-16, third-and-15, third-and-long, we’ve got to be better at it. It’s heartbreaking because our guys are playing well in some situations, but it doesn’t show up because of the big plays there.

“On offense, we’ve got to let this young man go out and execute what he can execute. I think that’s a lot. I really think the people around him need to bring their game to another level. I was really disappointed in five or six of our plays on offense. Five or six plays on offense were misaligned. Alignments weren’t great by the receivers. Just the smallest of details when you are playing with a freshman quarterback, he can’t fix all of those things right now. He has enough things to worry about in his own world to where he’s telling a guy to slide in a half a yard or slide out a half a yard, or tell a tight end to be in the B gap versus the C gap. That’s where he’s been able to gain this week, but it’s where we need to improve. The small things on offense. I think we’re going to get better. We moved the ball effectively in some situations this past game. But the smallest details, now that we have Holton in there, guys are going to have to do it on their own. You have to be able to do your own job and then we can go out and let this guy execute the game plan. Because if he can go out and have a productive game, which I know he can, it’s all going to be based on what the people around him can do.”

On John Spellacy And Tahj Deans:

“Tahj practiced yesterday for the first time in a while. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go. Still don’t really have a real update on Spellacy. Don’t think he is going to be available this week because he is still in a protocol and there’s nothing more I can say about that now. Hopefully we’ll find out more details as the week goes on, but he is still in the protocol.”

On Memphis’ Inconsistency:

“It’s been hard to say anyone else is inconsistent because of some of our inconsistencies, it’s hard for me to say that. I think that they’ve been unfortunate at times. If you look at the UCF game, you would call that a very unfortunate set of circumstances. Where they turned the ball over and things happened. They dominated the game, the first half of the game and into the fourth quarter of the game and had some unfortunate circumstances. I think that they’ve been unfortunate a couple of times. As you watch the Missouri game, the one thing that they had happen is something that they haven’t had had happen in the past few years. It was the five or six plays in the game that we’re talking about, that showed up. They blew a coverage here, they got out of a gap there, on a fourth-and-short going back to Tulane, that comes out and it’s a big-time touchdown. So, some unfortunate circumstances, but they have had five or six plays as of late, that they didn’t have that in the past.”