After limited offensive freedom in the past two years because of inexperienced quarterbacks, expect Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery to open his playbook a little more in 2019.
“I plan on us being more aggressive,” said Montgomery, who calls the plays on offense. “I think the last couple of years our strength has really been our backfield and our offensive line and trying to let those young skills guys and quarterbacks grow up a little bit.
“You’re bringing those guys back in it, so I feel like we’re going to have to be able to be more aggressive throwing the football this year compared to what we’ve had to do the last couple of years and let our offensive line kind of jell a little bit.”
For a third spring in a row, the Hurricane has a quarterback competition. In the mix are Luke Skipper, a fourth-year junior who started a combined nine games in 2017 and 2018; Seth Boomer, a third-year sophomore who started the last eight games in 2018; and Zach Smith, a fourth-year junior who started 10 games at Baylor in 2016 and 2017.
“You have three guys with some experience,” Montgomery said. “That’s always beneficial. The last couple of years we’ve started redshirt freshmen at quarterback. You go through the growing pains part of it and now we’re ready to take the next step.
“We’ve got these days in the spring to work on that in addition to the summer and fall camp. These days are vitally important for that position.”
Quarterbacks have been off-limits to media interviews in the early going of spring practice, which continued with a third session Thursday afternoon. Smith has shown ability as a sharp passer, and he has familiarity of TU’s offense from having played in a similar system at Baylor and from having studying it while sitting out last season.
“He’s been here a year,” Montgomery said. “Now it’s time for him to go out on the field and compete, knock some rust off and get an opportunity to get back in the groove.”
While young quarterbacks produced 19 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions in the past two years, the run game accounted for 59 touchdowns. Although the one-two punch of backs Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II returns, three veterans who helped pave the way are not.
“We’re losing some of those offensive linemen and that’s a tough thing to replace, but we lost T.B. (Tyler Bowling) halfway through the season,” Montgomery said. “He didn’t play the last six games, so some of those guys had to step in and play.”
Tight ends Cole Neph and Chris Minter also have graduated, along with wide receiver Justin Hobbs. Expected to lead the receiver corps are Keylon Stokes and Keenen Johnson, playmakers who combined for 1,000 yards in 2018.
“(Johnson) has played a lot of games now,” Montgomery said. “(Stokes) has played a lot of games and really the last four or five games, he started to coming in to what I think he’s going to be. … We’re bringing more guys back from a skills standpoint than we have in the last four years.”