DURHAM — Scottie Montgomery, who was promoted to the role of Duke’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, exudes intensity.
“What I like most about coach Montgomery is his fire,” rising senior offensive guard Laken Tomlinson said. “I like his fire a lot. And he does a really good job of motivating the guys. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it great.”
Montgomery, 35, also demands precision – as the receivers coach last year, he instructed his group to start with a specific foot forward and take an exact amount of steps before breaking off for whatever route was called. He has carried that to the quarterbacks room, too.
That said, he’s not uptight all the time, as evidenced by his reaction to certain songs on the Duke football practice playlist.
“We view coach Montgomery as an old guy, a coach,” rising junior running back Shaquille Powell said. “And every time a song comes on, like a rap song or something, you’ll always see Scottie on the side shaking, rocking, kind of signing along, and we’re just like, ‘What is he doing over there, acting like he’s all young?’ That happens a lot of the time.”
Setting aside the fact that 35 qualifies one as being old, Montgomery’s prowess for play calling will be on public display Saturday at noon for the first time, when Duke plays its annual spring game. Admission is free.
Montgomery, who grew up in Shelby, played receiver at Duke and graduated in 1999, twice earning team MVP honors. He played in the NFL from 2000-2003 and was hired to the Duke staff in 2006 by then-coach Ted Roof. Montgomery was the only coach retained when David Cutcliffe took over for the 2008 season. He spent three seasons (2010-12) coaching receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers before returning to Duke last season. He also serves as Duke’s top recruiter, with South Florida and North Carolina as his territories.
Coaching receivers was natural – he played that position, after all. But Montgomery has long been prepping for his role of coaching quarterbacks.
“Ever since I was 28, the first time I met coach (Cutcliffe), he has known the aspirations that I have,” Montgomery said. “So from day one, it was just getting better at quarterback coaching, and at the time, with (former Duke offensive coordinator) Kurt Roper, it was the same thing, it was just like, ‘OK, I want to know quarterback play.’
“And when I got to Pittsburgh, I inherited one of the best quarterback coaches as well, Bruce Arians (now the Arizona Cardinals coach), along with Randy Fichtner. And in the NFL, it’s more about the quarterback than any other position, so everybody works so hard to make sure the quarterback is exactly feeling the way that he wants. That’s how I’ve worked into it. It’s always a learning experience, but with Coach Cut here, I’ve got a dictionary here. Also another good thing to have in your back pocket if things aren’t going the way you want them to go.”
The key for quarterbacks in Montgomery’s mind: “You’ve got to be willing to understand that you don’t have to be the reason that you win the game, you just can’t be the reason that you lose the game.
“There’s so much of an aggressive nature to the position, leadership position to the position that it’s all about being able to manage yourself and control yourself,” he said. “You’ve got to be diligent in studying. I expect those guys to work as hard as the coaching staff.”
Montgomery is fortunate to have two experienced quarterbacks in rising seniors Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette and an established offensive scheme. After spending time the past two years working on his “phantom” role (lining up at quarterback, receiver, tight end, and, in one game, even safety), Connette is taking snaps exclusively at quarterback this spring. If both Boone and Connette continue to play at a high level, the last year’s in-game rotation will remain.
Cutcliffe has praised Montgomery’s organization of the offense throughout spring practice and said he doesn’t expect to miss a beat with Montgomery calling plays, with Roper now offensive coordinator at Florida. There’s just one outstanding issue for Montgomery to settle: Will he coach on the field, like he did last year – NFL coordinator style – or up in the box, as most college offensive coordinators?
“So many people have asked that question, and I don’t know why so many people have asked that question,” he said. “I think we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I like it, I really do like it in the box. I have the ability to see much better. You always feel like you have more control. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re looking down on everyone.”
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley