Montgomery opens game week with weekly presser

Published: Aug. 29, 2016 at 9:47 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, NC -- Over nine months have passed since East Carolina last played a regular season football game. That drought is about to end.

As of Monday, the Pirates are just five days away from Saturday's opener against Western Carolina.

Monday afternoon, first-year head coach Scottie Montgomery met with the media to discuss the first game week of the season. Looking at the matchup with the Catamounts, the Pirates have won seven straight in this series that dates back to 1936. These teams haven't met since a 42-6 ECU win in 1981, but both teams are ready to renew this in-state showdown.

Saturday's season opener is rapidly approaching and when asked if he is nervous, Scottie made note of his long-standing butterflies.

"I think they kicked in December 13th," said Montgomery. "This is what we live for as coaches and competitors. You have got to realize that we prepare sometimes 35, 36 weeks of the year to have the ability to work for 14 weeks. Our coaches, they understand the gravity of the moment. I understand the gravity of the moment, and we've done a good job of making sure our players understand the gravity of the moment. It's a big-time week."

Kickoff for Saturday's opener is set for 6:00 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.


Opening Statement:

“There is a lot of excitement in our building as you can tell, as we enter game week. We started this morning as a staff with a devotional about focus. I think that’s a good segway as to where we are. We’ve prepared a long time for this week and weeks to come. It’s a great opportunity to see where we are as a team on Sept. 3rd. We are looking forward to the energy and the enthusiasm that Dowdy-Ficklen (Stadium) provides us. We’re really excited to be in front of our entire fan base and it really gives us a chance to play against someone else as we move forward.”

On Western Carolina’s Offense:

“Coach (Mark) Speir has a good football team at Western Carolina. We’ve been able to watch them for a while now offensively. They return seven or eight starters and the scheme presents a few challenges for us defensively. One of the things you see on tape is they use the scheme to benefit their players, and a lot of people wouldn’t understand exactly what I mean. They do a good job in the zone-read scheme, and not only a zone-read scheme, but also the triple-option. They present some problems in the fly motion with some of the things they do. They have a quarterback battle going on right now between Wes (Holcombe) and Tyrie (Adams), but it’s a good quarterback battle. A lot of people are always fearful when battles come down to trying to figure out who your quarterback is going to be, but both of those quarterbacks are capable. The challenge it presents is that they are different at the position. Also, at running back, number 21 (Detrez Newsome), every stadium that he shows up to on Saturday afternoons, he plays well. He’s a hard tackle. He’s quick. Not only is he quick, but he’s a guy that if he gets out two-to-three yards in front of you, he can take it the distance. If you don’t believe me, you can ask some of the big-time opponents they’ve faced. Number 85 (Randall Emerson) is a guy that can take you, from a safety standpoint, and put you in a lot of positions in different situations because he is going to be their fly-motion guy. He’s a really talented individual. Those quarterbacks have some weapons to use and we’re trying to prepare ourselves defensively for anything that they may throw at us. A guy that is not talked about a lot in their offense is the adjuster, or the tight end number 15 (Michael Helms, Jr.). He’s going to line up in multiple positions in the run game. He also can transition quickly into the pass game to give you difficulties in coverage. He’s also a big-time part of their offense and their position flexibility.”

On Western Carolina’s Defense:

“Defensively, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Dustin) Landry. He brings a different pedigree to their defensive side of the ball. If anyone knows where he’s been, he’s been in big-time situations in the SEC. In the ACC, he’s been mentored by some big-time football coaches and coached in some big-time situations. We think we know what they’re going to do, but there’s always the concern of the unknown. The best thing about for our offense is that our offense has been facing a defense – us – that has played multiple fronts from the beginning of camp all the way until now whether it has been a three-down scheme, four-down scheme, bare or all those things included. Their linebackers, in my opinion, are the strongest part of their team. They do have some great cover guys and number 26 Trey (Morgan) is a guy that’s aggressive in coverage and will always be a guy we’ll have to know where is on the field. They’re anchored by number 91 (Tyler Junius). He has done a good job of making sure that the defense is coming off the ball and also getting pressure on the quarterback. This is a team that is going to be a gap-sound team. We look forward to the challenge.”

On ECU’s Offense:

“Offensively, we think we’re in position to go out and play a clean football game. We’ve been able to scale back on what we want to do. Philip (Nelson) has a great understanding of what we want to do and his weapons offensively. Our offensive front, we have worked really, really hard to become a better running football team. I think this has been a physical camp. A lot of people in camp don’t tackle, don’t go to the ground. A lot of people stay up. We’ve had multiple opportunities where we had live opportunities, whether it is in the run game, scrimmages or 9-on-7 and 9-on-8, to be physical. We are looking forward to seeing the way our kids respond to the physicality over a two, three, four-quarter game, and overtime if it takes that.”

On ECU’s Defense:

“Defensively, our point of emphasis is communication. We have to communicate at the highest level. I think that Coach (Kenwick) Thompson and his staff have done a great job of making people understand that communication is key. We’ve really worked hard on it from and offensive, defensive and special teams standpoint. What we’ve tried to do is keep the officials out probably a little more than some people do. We’ll continue to have some officials at practice to make sure that we start the season clean, and we’ll continue to have those guys so that it’s not a shock when we get in a game.

“In addition to those players on the injury report, our offensive tackle Messiah Rice and defensive end Demage Bailey will also not dress to comply with a one-game suspension as a result of an offseason rules violation. That is not something that happened recently. That is something we’ve known about and something that we’ve prepared for. We are going to make sure we do things the right way whether we’re in-season, out-of-season or otherwise. That is where we are as a group right now.”

On Junior Left Tackle Justin Sandifer’s Rapid Ascension On The Depth Chart:

“Justin is extremely athletic. He has a great understanding of our offense. He provides us some flexibility at his position because he cannot only pass protect and pass block, but he’s great in the run game. He’s also a guy that stays over here a lot trying to get as much teaching and coaching as he possibly can. We trust him. We know that he is ready for the opportunity and we look forward to seeing him compete on Saturday.”

On If/When Butterflies Kick In For Him During Game Week:

“I think they kicked in December 13th. This is what we live for as coaches and competitors. There is nothing like the focus that goes into trying to get yourself prepared for spring ball, summer workouts and fall camp, but there is nothing like this week. We had a great workout last night. I think everybody’s mentality, of course, goes into a little bit of an overdrive because we’re trying to focus on every detail and not leave and leaf unturned. Every stone will be turned over as we move forward because this is what we prepare for. You have got to realize that we prepare sometimes 35, 36 weeks of the year to have the ability to work for 14 weeks. Our coaches, they understand the gravity of the moment. I understand the gravity of the moment, and we’ve done a good job of making sure our players understand the gravity of the moment. It’s a big-time week.”

On Adjustments Being Made For Players Unavailable To Play This Week:

“We’ve been blessed because we’ve had a lot of growth on our defensive line as camp has moved on. You’ll see some younger players, and I’m not giving them sugar by telling them that you’re going to see them, but you’ll see some of Alex Turner. He’s done a really, really good job for us, but we’re prepared to have Fred Presley and Demetri (McGill) ready to step in there. We’re in a spot, from a schematical standpoint because of our multiple fronts that we can utilize guys like (Dayon) Pratt and both Yiannis (Bowden) and Pratt together, and have positional flexibility. Some of those situations and issues that we’ve had a lack of before, we’ll be able to mask in some situations during the game.”

On Redshirt And Playing Freshmen:

“That’s definitely ongoing because we have to realize that they may not be ready week one, but weeks four, five and six are really important weeks. So if we can continue to try to stretch them every day with the preparation of game week and not show team or scout team, they will be ready when we call on then week five or six. We have to make sure that they are prepared and this is part of our developmental process as well. They didn’t have spring ball, but our guys had spring ball. Having essentially four, five or six weeks to get them ready is like spring ball for them. If they’re not ready then we won’t play them. That goes for anyone that comes into this program. If they’re ready to play as 17 or 18-year-old kids when they come in here and they’re better, we’re going to play them.”

On Fear Of Hiatus Between Quarterback Philip Nelson’s Last Game And Saturday:

“That’s the unknown. I have a lot of other things to worry about a little bit more than Phil because of the way that he’s prepared to this point in time. We’ve been on teams elsewhere that we’ve had a guy that’s been in his third or fourth year starting, and in the first game of the year, we’ve still had to settle him down. We’re not expecting him to come in here and be Superman. We just want him to execute our offense and do what we ask him to do. If we have to settle him down, we have ways of doing that. He’s been pretty levelheaded. There have been some situations we’ve put him in, in practice that are just awful. I like to do that. I like to put guys on the 4-yard line with two downs to get out and make them respond to it. They know it’s not fair. I really don’t care if it’s fair, I just need to see them in those adverse situations and he’s handled those for a quarterback who hasn’t played in some time. There is the physicality part of it, like him getting tackled; all of us have to go through it. There are some teams that don’t tackle at all, and a lot of those teams have not been tackled since the last time they played in a real game. He’s done a good job preparing himself for this opportunity.”

On If Will Dancy Has Made An Immediate Transition Upon His Arrival:

“No, he didn’t make an immediate transition. I think the one thing he had to understand was verbiage and vernacular. It’s kind of hard when you’ve been in a system for so long. As coaches, it’s kind of easy because we’re almost in different verbiages every two to three years, and it’s easy to reset and get going again and learn from a schematical standpoint what we’re trying to get coached. The verbiage and vernacular was a little bit of a hurdle and obstacle for him, but once he got it, he was pretty much ready to go. And then he had to gel with his teammates. A lot of people think that with that offensive line it’s all physical, but football is an emotional game, too, so you have to understand the balance between the physical, mental and emotional. It took us a few minutes to get him there, but we’re happy with where he is. He still has a lot to prove and that’s the same as a lot of them. He’s going into his first game as a Pirate and we’re really happy to have him.”

On Expectations With The Running Back Rotation:

“There’s an emotional factor to it. If I see a back that goes out there and can’t be tackled and they can’t get a hand on him, guess what? He’s going to get the most carries. However, you want the ball to be spread around. You might want it with the most physical person for the time or the most agile person for the time, so it’s different levels of concern and where we are on the field. There are some red zone things, midfield things and backed-up things, so the game will have its own personality and we’ll let that work out during the game. I can tell you this: If a guy wants to take over a football game, I’m not going to stand in his way.”

On The Senior Leadership:

“I’ve seen the vocal leadership, but what I’m proud about with our seniors is they’re trying to walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk. We’re not giving you lip service saying that we want be the best people we can possibly be. They’re pushing and leading our team. They don’t stand for some of the things you may think some people stand for. When we get out on the field, it’s all football. When we’re away from the field, they understand that it’s about people and loving and caring and taking care of other people. I’ve seen Zay (Jones) and J.T. (Boyd) in verbal altercations on the field. Philip (Nelson) leads our team on offense and then (DaShaun) Amos isn’t afraid to crack the whip on our entire defense.”

On If He Has A Routine Figured Out:

“No, I don’t have a routine figured out yet. I wish I were that good, but every 20 or 30 minutes, there’s another part of the routine to add to. If I could close everybody out, I’d have a great routine. I’ve got a routine I put together five years ago for the first time I’d become a head coach, but unfortunately, that routine gets a curveball thrown in it every now and then. What I’m learning is you can’t swing at all curveballs. Some of them have to hit the glove. That’s part of it right now. We’re just trying to figure out the best way to make sure our team is ready, then that our fan base gets what they deserve and our coaches get what they deserve so they are energized and ready. It’s easy for me to adjust. I’d like that routine to get tighter and tighter as the year goes on for me and my mentality, but right now, it’s a learning process to be quite honest.”

On Thinking About Running Out Of The Tunnel Saturday Night:

“I have, but I have to do it when no one else is around because I don’t want my wife and kids to think that I’m nuts and crazy. I’m looking forward to it. I’m not going to hide that at all. This is something that I’ve dreamed about. Being here is something that I could have never dreamed of it being this good from a standpoint of having a fan culture and running out with your football club.”