- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Uplifting. Intense. Intelligent.
Those are a few of the words that have been used describe Jerry Montgomery during his first spring as defensive line coach at Oklahoma. There’s been a change at practice as the Sooners' energetic new assistant starts to make his mark, and it has been noticed, even by players at other positions.
“He is outspoken,” linebacker Corey Nelson said. “He remains positive no matter what. He uplifts a lot of the players. He coaches them up very well and just teaches them how to have character on the field and to work hard with that character.”
Several Sooners have pointed toward Montgomery’s intensity on the field and sincerity off the field as key attributes that the former Michigan defensive line coach has infused into the program.
“I see the intensity on the field,” said center Ty Darlington, who was recruited to Michigan by Montgomery out of high school. “But I think it’s great he couples it with what seems like sincere care for his players off the field and developing relationships with those guys. He seems like an easygoing guy away from the field.”
He has combined a laid back off-field demeanor with intensity while making a point to hold his guys accountable with a positive slant behind his words.
“People can do it a hundred different ways, that’s just how I do it,” Montgomery said. “I believe in a guy making a great play, patting him on the back and letting him know he did something right. And when he does something wrong, teach him how to do it better.”
The players have noticed that approach.
“He’s a player’s coach,” defensive end Geneo Grissom said. “When we do good, he gets hyped. That’s fun to play for, players love to play for someone like that.”
Said defensive end Mike Onuoha: “He’s just a normal guy. He will talk to you like he’s another player just coaching you up and letting you know what’s up.”
Montgomery has also brought a different background to the Sooners' coaching staff as a former defensive lineman. Although he had extensive experience coaching the defensive line, including multiple All-Americans, former defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp played linebacker at OU. Montgomery was a four-year starter at defensive tackle at Iowa before his rise in the coaching ranks.
“He was a defensive lineman back in his playing days,” defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said. “So it’s coming from somebody who’s played in there and knows what it feels like. That’s really all I can say. ... He’s been there, he’s played in there, he’s been in the trenches, he’s had the double team so he knows all that.”
Montgomery was praised for his ability to relate to recruits when he was hired but it’s clear he has shown the ability to relate with OU’s current defensive linemen as well during the first few months at OU.
“He’s an intense guy,” center Gabe Ikard said. “He’s really working the defensive line hard. I like the energy he brings to practice, as a younger guy who played the position. He can relate to those guys a little more and I feel like they respond to him really well.”