NORMAN — New Oklahoma assistant football coaches Jerry Montgomery and Bill Bedenbaugh inherit position groups with sharply contrasting outlooks for 2013.
OU coach Bob Stoops announced Tuesday that Montgomery will lead the Sooner defensive line, which was nearly an all-senior group in 2012 and will probably see its role significantly changed when spring practices begin next week.
“In anything you do defensively, it starts up front,” Montgomery said Tuesday in an interview with Sooner Sports TV. “If you can get your guys to play up front at a high level, which I plan to do and have done … those guys up front, if you can get them going, we're going to be OK.”
Montgomery spent the past two seasons coaching Michigan's defensive line. Before that, he coached Wyoming's defensive linemen for two seasons.
“I have closely followed Jerry's progress as he has ascended through the coaching ranks,” Stoops said in a Tuesday statement. “I have been impressed by his ability to recruit some of the nation's top student-athletes and then develop their skills once they arrive on campus.”
Last week, Bedenbaugh took over the OU offensive line, which returns nearly all of its starters and key reserves from last season.
By contrast, the Oklahoma defensive line lost seniors David King, Stacy McGee, Casey Walker and R.J. Washington. The only returner in 2013 with any significant experience is junior defensive end Chuka Ndulue; however, in the Sooners' expected shift to a 3-4 defensive scheme, he might play more of an outside linebacker role.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops denied on signing day that coaches had decided to make the change to a 3-4 system, but several signees have said they've been told the switch is imminent.
Such schemes require bigger defensive linemen across the board, meaning traditional defensive ends likely become outside linebackers.
The defensive tackle group, though, remains thin for Oklahoma entering spring football. Last week, Marquis Anderson and Damon Williams left the team, leaving the Sooners with only three tackles on campus: sophomore Jordan Phillips, redshirt freshman Jordan Wade and junior Torrea Peterson.
Phillips played some in reserve duty last season, and is considered a raw talent with a high ceiling.
Junior-college transfer Quincy Russell, from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, was supposed to enroll early and be available for spring football, but academics pushed his arrival date back.
He's now expected to join the team in the summer, along with Oklahoma's three incoming freshman defensive tackles.
Like the Stoops brothers and co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, Montgomery played his college football at Iowa, where he was a four-year starting defensive tackle from 1998-2002.
“They sold me that I was a big piece of the puzzle and I was excited about that,” Montgomery told Sooner Sports TV. “I was excited to get here and get running.”
Montgomery replaces longtime OU assistant Jackie Shipp, who became Arizona State's defensive line coach Tuesday.
Shipp and offensive line coaches James Patton and Bruce Kittle were fired earlier this month. Stoops still has one opening to fill on his offensive coaching staff.
At Oklahoma, Shipp only coached defensive tackles, while Bobby Jack Wright handled defensive ends. It remains to be seen if Stoops will shuffle his staff and put Montgomery in charge of the entire defensive line.
“Just high energy and an enthusiastic coach,” Montgomery said when asked what he brings to the program. “Recruit my butt off and coach my butt off and represent OU.”