Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery was Art Briles’ main man at Baylor, calling the shots as the offensive coordinator from 2012-2014, after serving time as the co-offensive coordinator for the prior six seasons. As one would assume, the Tulsa offense has Baylor written all over them.
Like the Bears, Montgomery wants to play a chess-match with the defensive coordinator at a blazing tempo. Tulsa is going to run the ball when the defense gives them the look they want, or check to a quick pass — typically a screen — if they have numbers. They’re going to want to put pressure on the defense in a couple of different ways, whether it be by going horizontally or vertically, both in the running and the passing game. If the defense is not properly set after a big play, they’ll catch you napping and strike it deep.
Here’s Philip Montgomery running the Baylor offense vs TCU. The TCU defensive backs are not quite lined up on this play, which then plays right into what Baylor wants: playing with tempo and getting to the line of scrimmage. Baylor is going to run a 4-Vertical Concept out of an empty set, with a shallow crosser.
On the Trips side of the formation, Baylor wants the inside slot receiver to catch the attention of the safety, which will allow the outside slot receiver to run free down the field. Still on the Trips side, they also want the outside receiver to break off his vertical route, taking the outside corner with him. With the safety keeping his attention on the inside slot receiver and the outside cornerback getting fooled by the outside receiver, the outside slot receiver is left uncovered.
As you can see below, it works to perfection:
Flipping to a play from Tulsa’s season opener, here’s an example of running back D’Angelo Brewer breaking a long run, then the offense immediately getting to the line of scrimmage to run their next play.
This shows the tempo that Tulsa wants to play with:
The problem with Tulsa running this scheme is that they do not have the talent — except for WR Keyarris Garrett last season — that Montgomery had in Waco. Montgomery always had the talent on the perimeter at Baylor, he also had backs that fit the scheme, but most importantly, he had excellent quarterbacks.
Luckily this season, Tulsa returns veteran Dane Evans at quarterback, who completed 63-percent of his passes and threw 25 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions. They lost Garrett at receiver, but they return Joshua Atkinson, who caught 76 balls last season and was who Meyer was talking about when he said they have “two NFL prospects at wide receiver.”
One guy who looks to be taking a major, and important step for this offense, is running back D’Angelo Brewer. Brewer finished last season with 60 more yards on 39 less carries than the departed Zack Langer and racked up 164 yards and three touchdowns in their season opener versus San Jose State. As we mentioned, Montgomery’s offense needs a run/pass balance, and it looks like he has it this year.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, they have a surplus of elite athletes on defense and the proper conditioning by the best strength coach in the country, Mickey Marotti, which will counter the tempo of Montgomery’s offense. Although this scheme works in the Big 12 for a team like Baylor, Montgomery — in his second year — has yet to fill his cupboard at Tulsa with “his players” to run this scheme at a level like Baylor. With Ohio State scheduling Bowling Green and then Tulsa, it looks like they wanted to get their conditioning in early in the season, to prepare them for Oklahoma and future high tempo offenses that they’ll play.
Defensively, this game will come down to the secondary and linebackers to stick to their keys and do their job based on their game plan — while not allowing Montgomery to win the chess match.
The Buckeye offense will score at will on Tulsa’s defense, but Tulsa’s offense should give Ohio State a pretty good test — from a conditioning and mental standpoint — on defense.