Scottie Montgomery previews Central Florida

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – First-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to this Saturday’s home game against UCF. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:
“It was a tough football game for the Pirates this past weekend. I take my hat off to Virginia Tech. I’ll tell you what, their program is successful. They’re successful because they’re well coached. I think they enjoy football and they played lower than any team we’ve played this year. It’s a testament to their program. The way they played was truly connected to the base fundamentals of the game. They do have a really talented crew of guys. That will be a team I keep my eye on as they move forward because they were a good football team.

On Virginia Tech Game Overall:
“Number one, I think it goes to our front and pass defense, and for us, pass offense. We felt like we had some good matchups offensively against them. Unfortunately, we could not hold up against their defensive pass pressure. It was two at a time, three at a time, and sometimes we had what we knew we would have. That is what was so discouraging at times because we got exactly what we thought and just could not hold up.

“I thought our front did a good job for the most part holding the run until that big run where we missed all those tackles. We did a good job holding our fronts. Unfortunately, when we went to pass-rush them, they consumed our pass rush and blitzes and it put our defensive secondary in situations. They were in man-to-man coverage inside of the zone coverage for way too long. We’ve got to continue to make sure those work hand-in-hand. It’s never what it appears to be on tape or what it appears to be from the stadium, where it looks like a guy is out there not covering. It’s really hard to cover for a certain amount of time, and then sometimes, the pressure did get there and on those times our guys did a good job covering.

“We had a lot of mental errors on special teams, but the blocked field goal and blocked punt goes directly back to what I said earlier. They played lower than us (pad level). They put their strongest people right in front of our strongest people. Their pad level was better. They pushed through in some one-on-one situations and made the block from the interior without jumping. We have to address that from a kicking standpoint and we also have to address it from a protection standpoint. We’ve already started to address both of those.”

On Offense Against Virginia Tech:
“I thought, offensively, there were some good things to come out of it. Once again, Zay Jones continues to prove that he is one of the better players in our conference, if not the nation. Philip Nelson did some really good things with the football. We’ve got to do a good job of keeping him upright. Also, he has to understand the management of the football game. There were some issues in the game where we didn’t manage it the right way by throwing the ball away and not taking some hits.”

On Defense Against Virginia Tech:
“Defensively, we’ve got to tackle better. I think we’ve had great tackling circuits. We’ve got to move a little bit from tackling circuits to actually tackling people, which is sometimes problematic at this time of the year because of the little amount of depth that we have. The other change that will be coming is that you will start to see a lot of our starters on special teams. We knew that we needed to get to this part of the year, going through a tough non-conference part of our schedule which we enjoyed going through. We learned a lot about our team and now it’s time to win the AAC, and the way to do that is by putting our best foot forward in every situation. We’re going to call on guys to play more snaps than they ever have at any level of football, but that’s what we have to do. Our kids embraced that challenge last night. We look forward to that challenge.”

On Upcoming UCF Game:
“UCF is a team that’s riding a little bit of momentum now. He’s (Head Coach Scott Frost) doing a good job with them. They’ve played some tough opponents, whether it is Michigan, Maryland and FIU. They know how tough this league is. They’re led by Scott Frost, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Offensively and defensively, they have done a good job to get their program where it’s at. This is a great test for us to start the AAC, but the best thing about all of this is being able to start it in Dowdy-Ficklen (Stadium). We needed to return home. It’s time for us to be at home. I think Virginia Tech’s fans were very intelligent in the way that they went about the game. They did feed off their crowd momentum and I thought that their team enjoyed playing. We use them as an example of how we played at times when we played at Dowdy-Ficklen. We have to be prepared to go and go at a high level.”

On Philip Nelson Getting Rid Of and Holding Onto The Ball:
“We have to err on the side of caution. Punting is not a bad thing. If we throw the ball away in the South Carolina game and we punt and take care of it more, he’s not getting up off the ground. We wouldn’t be banged up like we’re banged up a little bit now in certain situations. It was a tough schedule. You just have to understand the management of the game.”

On The Difficulty Of Deciding Which Guys Play On Special Teams:
“It’s very hard. At the beginning of the year, what you want to do is get those young guys out there as much as they can, and you hope that they develop enough so when you get to your conference schedule, they’re ready to go. Throughout that process, you continue to put them through different tests. Some of them pass. I’ll tell you this; some of them pass with flying colors. I’ve said it to our whole special teams staff and the kids that if we had everyone come out and perform like Austin Teague did in that game, we would have performed at a very high level across the board. And that comes down directly to ‘want to.’ He had to go against guys that were 6-foot-4, 230 pounds (and) his will overcame the other issues that we had. It’s hard because you want to get those young guys as many reps. You’re going to need them. At this point in time, we’ve got to put our best foot forward. We’re going to try and play as many guys as we can, but understand we have problems in certain situations with depth.”

On Demetri McGill:
“He was once again in a physical game on the interior. Unfortunately, that’s what football is and we need someone else now to step into his role. We’re not going to look back; we’re going to look forward. We think we have some people that can do that. If we get him back soon – great. I hope we get him back soon. He’s one of the better players that we have on our team, especially from a production standpoint right now. That’s why we have to get young guys in the game earlier in the year so we’re prepared for these types of situations.”

On What Pad Level Means:
“Playing low, everyone can give that lip service, but you have to physically strike people with low pad level. A lot of times in the game, their eye level was lower than our eye level. It doesn’t matter if a guy is 6’5 or 5’10 or 5’11. It’s all about your stance and how you come out of your stance and how you strike. What we try to teach is eyes below their eyes. In a lot of situations, when you go back and look at the game and see what I mean, the one-on-one situations that I’m talking about are not on the perimeter. Everyone in the stadium can see some of those one-on-one battles, but there are one-on-one battles that you have to have in the interior just to protect the quarterback because of the quarterback being the last player on the offense. To protect him in those one-on-one battles, we didn’t win them because of pad level. We will address that and we’ve addressed it before, but when you go against teams that have great collective habits and you have great collective habits and they meet and their eyes are below your eyes, you know that you haven’t met the standard. We have to continue to push forward to meet the standard that we’re going to play against a lot of good football teams.”

On Moving Fred Presley To The Interior Of The Defensive Line:
“We thought he gave us the ability, with (Demetri) McGill inside, to play outside for a little bit more physicality at that position, especially when you’re rolling up against teams with 310-320 pound guys at the tackle and guard positions. To be able to be stout on the edge, as well as on the inside, we’re going to call on Fred just because of our situation with Demetri.”

On James Summers As A Kick Returner:
“We had a lot of plans in this game for James, whether it had been running it, throwing it or returning it. When the game got out of hand, it kind of handcuffed us from a standpoint of what we can do offensively. It really affected our plan because it gave Coach (Bud) Foster the ability to come after us a lot more than we wanted him to. I thought we had significant run-game that we could have used in that game, but once you get down by three touchdowns and you’re in a hurry-up game early in the third quarter, you lose the run game. When you lose your running game, you lose your run-action game. James is going to be a part of all that. Going forward you’re going to see him entered in different places and different spots. Unfortunately, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do coming out of the locker room to give him an opportunity to be as good as he could have been.”

On Wide Receiver Jimmy Williams:
“We’re trying to make sure that Jimmy gets all the targets that he can. As you could see at the start of the game, they were going to give us the matchup with Jimmy, which we don’t think people know how good Jimmy is. That was a matchup we felt comfortable with early just taking shots. We knew there was going to be some shots in this game. They made some of those shots. We didn’t make those shots early. We didn’t make the play on two of those balls earlier, and if we did, we’re looking at a different situation, whereas every time they took a shot on us, they had a diving catch or a guy making a spectacular catch or we dropped coverage or something. We knew it was going to be that type of game. They dropped coverage on us several times in that game and either we didn’t find the open man or we didn’t make the play. We like Jimmy. We think that all year with Zay getting leaned to when he’s on one side of the field, Jimmy is going to be in some one-on-one matchups. That’s because teams pay so much attention to where No. 7 (Zay Jones) is.”

On Possibly Starting Jake Verity As The Placekicker:
“Right now, that is something that is on the docket. I can’t give you an answer to that yet. I’ll found out more as the week goes on. I really liked what he did in the game. I try to critique him as much as anyone else because those situations can be helped from both sides from a protection standpoint and kick standpoint. If you watch him, his vertical kicking game off the hold is up and that was impressive. Not only was it up, but I watched the depth and how long the kick could have been. He did a good job of not only driving it, but getting it up. That’s something we’ve looked at and we’ll continue to look at Davis (Plowman) as well.”

On If There Was Miscommunication By Left Tackle Messiah Rice On The Play James Summers Was Sacked:
“No, It wasn’t miscommunication. We had a mental error right there that came from the sideline. That cannot happen. Messiah has accepted responsibility for it. Those are the types of situations that you cringe as a coach. You have it coached the way that you want it. You have the matchup with Jimmy (Williams) that you wanted, one-on-one, and I don’t think anyone in the place thought we were going to throw it with James. All of those things worked exactly the way we wanted them to work and we had a mental error coming from the sideline. Those are the reasons why you don’t perform well. That in particular, when you have every opportunity to coach it and get it right, and we don’t get it right. I have the utmost faith in Messiah that he is going to come back. Last night, he worked really hard, but we can’t allow those things to happen.”

On Differences With UCF Between George O’Leary And Scott Frost:
“Energy. There is just a ton of more energy. He’s coming off a situation where they weren’t familiar with what it was like to win. He brought in a lot of music in practice, a lot of high-tempo and next play (mentality) – a lot things that we believe in. With (wide receiver) Tra’Quon (Smith) moving into this year – he was rookie-of-the-year last year – he also has McKenzie (Milton) as a true freshman quarterback. Just think of all the energy and the youth and all that goes with it. When it’s all new and everyone understands that there’s nothing to lose, it’s a great, great feeling, a lot like the one we have here. We love the situation that we’re in here.”