FRISCO, Texas — Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery is biased, and doesn’t try to hide it.
Watching one of his best players from last season get drafted in the first round by the Cowboys was a great moment for him personally, along with the school, which produced his first first-round pick in 37 years.
So when the narrative on Tyler Smith pivots from being drafted in the first round to the excessive holding penalties he endured last year, Montgomery is quick to defend his player. In fact, the head coach said Smith’s brute strength is what leads to many of those penalties.
“Nah, I think he’ll be fine in that regard,” Montgomery said of the penalties. “I will say this, and I’m a little biased so I’m going to throw this part in there … Tyler plays so physical that at times, he got some penalties called against him that weren’t penalties. (The refs) saw somebody on the ground and they were like, ‘well, something must have happened so I just threw a flag there.’ He was that dominant and that physical of a guy.”
Montgomery leads a Tulsa offense that is one of the fastest-paced teams in the country. He pointed out that while most guards in this draft average anywhere from 700-750 snaps in a season, Smith played 915, suggested that more reps will lead to a higher number of penalties.
But Montgomery did admit that Smith had some technique issues earlier in his career, that led to a few more holding calls. But he’s adamant that if Smith sticks to his technique and relies on his strength, he can be a dominant player.
“His hands got wide (at times) … once he gets his hands back inside and corrects some of those technical things, he can be a beast,” Montgomery said. “Once he gets a hold of you, you’re not going anywhere. He can be out of position, he is so damn strong that he can pull himself and you back into a position where he’s back where he’s needs to be.”
Montgomery also talked about his conversations with Smith, who was debating whether to return to Tulsa or enter the draft. He also had some options to enter the transfer portal and go to other schools, including a few that are regularly contending for national championships.
“Yeah there were teams out there contacting him that were trying to get him to jump away from us,” Montgomery said. “He and I visited about that, it came down to – he was either going to come back and play or take his shot in the league. I’ll be honest, I was telling him to come back to school because I was him telling that he would be the No. 1 tackle taken in next year’s draft. I truly believe that. Clean up some of the technical stuff and I think that’s what he would do. But it went down to the wire.”
Obviously, we know the decision Smith made. And now, he joins the Cowboys, perhaps as the starting left guard, but with a chance to eventually get back to tackle.
“I think, starting him off inside, getting some experience in there, it’ll give them some immediate help,” he said. “He’s so strong so athletic, when he locks on people, it’s done. But I think it gives him an opportunity to mature a little bit more. I think he’ll slide out there to tackle and be one of the best there is. “