Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery Discusses The Upcoming Tulane Game

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

Opening Statement:

“After evaluating the Memphis tape, I thought offensively we did a lot of good things. Starting with the quarterback, he (Holton Ahlers) is getting better and better. There were a couple of small mental errors we had in there a few times in the game, but he’s starting to understand the offense. It’s starting to come to him a little bit more. There are a few things we need to continue to add to give our guys in the run game more opportunities. Both Hussein (Howe) and Anthony (Scott) had over a four-yard average and we could have gotten them the ball a little bit more in some reads and it would have really helped us.

“Defensively, I thought to be quite honest, the restriction of our defensive end position really hurt us in this game. A lot of the splash plays you had, I thought that they were connected to our defensive ends. The way we play them, with fast players that go underneath, I thought they were restricted in this game as much as I’ve ever seen the restriction of the position. We do have to play better at the linebacker position and fitting in our gaps. That’s where we have to do a better job and we will do a better job. This is not like our defense to come out and play the way that they played this past week. Collectively, we’ve got to put it together where we play defensively as well as we did in the early part of the season and our offense will start to play a little bit better. We will have a better flow and movement like we talked about three weeks ago. Those two things together, will give us a chance to be really successful down the stretch here.”

On Tulane:

“We’re going against a team in Tulane this week that Coach (Willie) Fritz really loves to run the football. He does not have a problem with running it on third-and-seven to third-and-10. He’ll run it three times in a row, which is a big part of their offense. It’s controlling the time and controlling the clock. So, when we get possessions on offense, we’ve got to make the most of them. Defensively, I’m very impressed with their middle linebacker position in Zachary Harris, who is six-foot and 230 pounds or so upperclassman that’s played a lot of football. The strength of their defense though, is they don’t mind putting their corners in man-to-man situations. Our big challenge this week goes to our wide receivers. Not just Trevon Brown, but getting Tahj Deans back in the flow. Terrell Green and the rest of the guys will have to come out and make plays in one-on-one situations this week. Because of that, they’re going to have a quarterback player, because of Holton (Ahlers) and everything he can do, but there are some big play opportunities in this game if we can handle the one-on-one pressure and stress they give us.”

On Holton’s Physical Status:

“He’s doing really well. We reduced the amount of runs he had from the week before. But you can’t really control him sometimes from pulling it down and running it. He had a bruise, a nice little bruise on his arm and he’s banged up in some other places, but he was at the walkthrough ready to go yesterday. His body is built a lot different than most people that play the position. But I’ve got to get him to understand that, the sliding is part of who he has to be now. Running out of bounds instead of getting a half yard extra will restrict some of those shots. The other part of it is protection. We’ve got to protect him better. We have a few issues from time to time in the game which we’re going to try some not only some new protections but some new personnel on the offensive line.”

On Caiden Norman Possibly Entering The Game:

“To take one snap, yes he was an option because Reid (Herring) did not get cleared right before the game. He was going to come in and take one snap and then we decided to go with Darius Pinnix and run the ball to get the first down there. But

yes.”

On Kingsley Ifedi:

“He was ill all last week. So, he didn’t take a practice snap. We didn’t get him back on the field until late in the week. He was with us yesterday. Hopefully he’s doing a little bit better. But he was with us all last week, he just did not take a practice snap all week.”

On The Restrictions On The Defensive Ends:

“Holding. Tackling. Letting guys run by you and grabbing them by the inside of their jersey and tackling them down. On several occasions. The first one happened on the second play of the game. Defensively the second play of the game. All of you guys know that the second defensive play of the game was a screen that scored. Nate Harvey was the backside player that would turn into the rat killer, which tackles the screen from the backside. We had no player because he was on his back on the ground with the tackle on top of him.”

On Garrett McGhin Saying The Record Is Attached His Name:

“No, I think that all of our guys have ownership over what they do. I think if you ask Garrett in detail what that means is, no excuses, no explanations. It’s directly connected to all of us. That’s the way I want everyone to feel on the football team.”

On Coaching Without An Athletic Director:

“Well, it’s hard to say whether it’s a positive or a negative when you’re just going to work. Some of the things that we wanted to get done, a training table, we weren’t able to get those done the way that we would have liked and it’s hopefully something that will come here in the future. I can’t necessarily say if it’s been a negative or a positive. I will say that having Dave Hart has really shed a light on some of the things we need to grow in. Having that hood raised and some honesty and everything, not only in the program, but outside of the program and everything connected to it. Having him has been very beneficial to us. More and more the things we understand and not pointing the finger, not doing this, just being open on what other people are doing and what other people have and the opportunities their student-athletes have. We need to be very honest about all of those things. At the end of the day, some of the things we wanted to get done, we weren’t able to for apparent reasons. Moving forward, it’s always a positive to have more help. But we have been able to open the hood and look at a lot of things. I’m not necessarily going to get up here on this stage and say this or that. But there are things that we have a long way to go on.”

On Trevon Brown’s Progression As A Leader:

“The number one thing about Trevon is that he does not and has not missed one day of practice. That’s leadership in itself. When you’re the best player on the team throughout the year and you practice, other people see that and they’ll see that it’s a situation where they need to do it as well. The other part where I think the leadership has really grown is sometimes when you have a freshman quarterback coming in and starting in the leadership role. The first thing you do as a receiver, because I’ve been there, is start watching everything that goes on with that quarterback and making sure that he’s doing things the right way. That hasn’t been his deal. He’s simply been held accountable by Holton, who has told him a couple of times in the game hey you need to be faster in this part of the route and you’ll be wide open. He was just like I’ve got you, let’s go onto the next one. That’s leadership in itself. Humbling yourself around a quarterback and also just practicing every snap. He’s been much better and he’s grown so much. When I first got here, I heard a lot of the stories, whether it be this or that. To be honest, since the day we’ve got here, he’s been heading up and trending up. So, we just have to keep that going. The biggest level of leadership is coming to work. You have to come work every single day, even if you’ve got a banged up rib or hip or ankle. People respect people that come to work every single day no matter what.”

On Playing On The Road Three Of The Next Four Games:

“We just have to go back to work. We’ve done it, where we’ve been on the road. I thought the South Florida game was going to be a huge challenge for us because we hadn’t gone on the road and there were so many things going on. What we have to do right now is focus on what we’re doing well. I think we’ve found a few things offensively by a complete restructure of our offense three weeks ago with Holton and the things we’re doing to be positive and keep going in that direction. Defensively, there’s a few things we’ve got to clean up. But I’ll go back to what I’ve said. I think there was a heavy restriction on the defensive end players. We’ve got to take our defense on the road and play well. That’s why we had a chance at South Florida. Our defense has to go on the road and play well. Now we’ve added a quarterback, that we’ve got to protect, that can move the ball as long as he continues to grow in the offense, which I know that he will.”

On Improvement Of Both ECU And Teams In The AAC:

“If we go on the road and turn the ball over, it will be a tough slate. If that happens, no matter where you are, turning the ball over hurts you. South Florida turned the ball over in some ways you normally don’t see. A receiver spins out and throws the ball 20 yards back down the field. A muffed punt return that directly resulted in the touchdown. We can’t turn it over. What we’ve gotten better at, I think, is our route discipline on the offensive side of the ball. We understand the scramble drill very well. We’re blocking better on the perimeter offensively. Our left side of our offensive line has been really, really sound. We need to keep growing and give the right side of our line that opportunity. I think Garrett McGhin is getting better and better by the week. I’m very impressed with the center right now, Peyton Winstead. Where he is in his progression, his mental errors are going down. He’s playing harder and he’s in a situation where he’s fighting through and battling through some small dings. So, we’ve gotten a little bit better there.

“Defensively, where we’ve gotten better throughout the year I think, is our front seven if you will, our front six. I’ve been really impressed with the growth of our nickel position with (Devon) Sutton. Every week he’s been kind of coming into more plays and making some more plays. I’ve just thought we’ve had a little bit of a setback at linebacker this week with some alignment issues that really upset because Coach Blackwell and I put those guys in some of those positions earlier in the week and throughout the week. That we should be able to get corrected. But we’ve gotten better there and we’ve gotten better at not giving up, of course, the deep balls down the field. We got hit with a slant that was a back breaker, but we’ve done better playing top-down on some of the plays. We’ve gotten better. I think that our specialist has been as good as anybody and us trusting him and growing the trust in him. I felt there were some points in the game that I would have went with him at 55, 56, and 57 (yards). It stops us from making some bad decisions and going for it on fourth-and-five in that 35 to 30 yard or 40 to 30 yard range. So those are some of the places we’ve gotten better at.”

On Missing Raequan Purvis And Jalen Price:

“That was something that hurt us because of our rotation. You guys have heard me talk about all year we like to play those guys around 35 to 40 snaps. Alex Turner, I’m going to start with him. If you guys want to see something impressive, what he did in the game was unbelievable. Then he came over and asked us if we wanted him to play the three-technique so he could take on double teams even though he was having to play every snap. That was impressive. It did hurt us a little bit with our rotation. We probably won’t have Raequan back, but we hope to have Jalen back this week. We need Jalen to play in this football game because of the stress it puts on our rotation. But we’ll also have to call on some of our younger kids. Chandler Medeiros, some of those other guys that are involved that you don’t really know about. We’re going to have to add a guy to our rotation.”