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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
D-line coach Montgomery making a mark

By Brandon Chatmon

NORMAN, Okla. -- The foundation of championship teams is often built upon the disruptive nature of its defensive line. The foundation of a quality defensive line is unearthed on the recruiting trail.

Cracks in both foundations emerged during the 2012 season at Oklahoma.

The Sooners finished 10-3 with a Big 12 co-championship but had one of their least disruptive defensive fronts in recent memory. And they’ll kickoff the 2013 with a very inexperienced defensive interior.

Jerry Montgomery
New Oklahoma defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said he looks for defenders with "great foot quickness."
Earlier this year, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was hired to reconstruct the Sooners' defensive line into a championship-level group. As he strives to make that goal reality, evaluation is critical. Shortly after he was hired, he talked about what he looks for in an defensive line recruit. Montgomery said there’s one attribute that sits atop the list during his search for difference-makers in the trenches.

“You have to have great foot quickness,” he said. “You like size, but size is not always the tell all. If a kid can play the game, he’s long enough and tall enough, he’s very athletic. You need guys who can run; foot speed is something I look for.”

Several new offers have gone out since Montgomery took over the Sooners’ defensive line, including a recent offer to Lufkin (Texas) defensive tackle D.J. Williams.

“With the offenses we play now, the athleticism of defensive linemen has to be pretty good,” Montgomery said. “You can’t take too many 330-pound defensive tackles in this league because you’re not seeing two back [formations]. You’re seeing 10 personnel [one-back] and spreading it out, getting people in space.”

Williams fits that mold as a 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive tackle prospect who moves like a player half his size. Montgomery’s desire for quickness and speed over girth is apparent in his offer to a player like Williams.

Yet finding quality prospects is just part of the battle.

Montgomery knows success on the field begins with success in living rooms across the nation. He preached the value of building quality relationships as soon as he was hired on Feb. 26.

“If my kids know I care about them, they’re going to do anything for me,” he said.

Defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) already had an OU offer and had shown strong mutual interest in the Sooners before Montgomery was hired. Shortly after he arrived, Thomas made a return trip to Norman to get to know the Sooners’ new assistant.

“I like the way he coaches,” Thomas told SoonerNation shortly after visiting Norman this spring. “He coaches real similar to how I’m coached in high school, so I really like that.”

In his two-and-a-half months in Norman, Montgomery also is making an impression with recruits that are new on his radar, such as Thomas, while continuing to develop relationships with others he’s pursued since his Michigan days.

Defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) is a perfect example of a recruit with a previous OU offer who is emerging as a legitimate target for the Sooners thanks in large part to Montgomery. Even though Georgia is not a common recruiting ground for the Sooners, Montgomery has done a terrific job realizing where he needs to focus his efforts.

“You’ll know right away if a kid is really interested or not,” Montgomery said. “If they are, you have to get them on campus, sooner than later.”

It’s paying off with Williams, who told SoonerNation he hopes to visit OU this summer, a clear sign of his legitimate interest based on the trust he has built with Montgomery.

Montgomery arrived in Norman with high expectations and a strong reputation, particularly as a recruiter. He made a strong impression with his words and detailed, teaching approach during spring football and there are signs he has already starting to make a difference on the recruiting trail during in his short time at OU.