School is out for the summer, so it’s time for Inside Tulsa Sports’ annual series of Tulsa Football position breakdowns, starting with the quarterbacks.
Coaches are traditionally tight-lipped when it comes to tipping their hands in an open quarterback race at any level. And Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery is no exception.
In an exclusive interview with Montgomery in his office earlier this month, when asked about the topic everybody wants to hear about, he said with a laugh and a smile, “I’m afraid you’re not going to get much out of me on that.”
With the two top contenders, Chad President and Luke Skipper, already identified, but with neither player having a clear advantage, there is no way Montgomery should make the decision before fall practice.
However, Montgomery was very open about all of his quarterbacks, discussing their strengths as well as the areas of most needed improvement.
“I think both of those guys present things with their feet that we might not have had in years past,” Montgomery said of President and Skipper. “I don’t think either one of them have the arm talent that Dane (Evans) does at this stage in their careers. But that’s something that is going to continue to develop in their time and years here.
“Those two guys are really the two that are really competing for it right now.”
Replacing the graduated Dane Evans is undoubtedly the biggest feat Montgomery and his staff must accomplish. Not only did Evans break most of the passing records in Tulsa history, he led the Golden Hurricane to a 10-3 record and bowl victory.
Without a competent quarterback at any level, once promising seasons can go south quickly. Montgomery is confident either President or Skipper is up to the challenge.
Skipper looked like the better passer in the spring game, but one scrimmage is not going to win the job for Skipper, especially since President has the experience edge so far.
President is the only returnee with any experience. Playing sparingly as a true freshman in running situations, and injured for most of last year, President has completed only one career pass. He has three years of eligibility left.
Still, having been through three spring practices, President has an edge in experience in the system. Skipper, who was a redshirt freshman last season, just completed his first spring practice.
“President probably has a better grasp offensively of what we’re trying to accomplish since he’s been here longer,” Montgomery said. “Both don’t have any true playing experience of playing underneath the lights. They’re both kind of green behind the ears.
“Chad is very mature, is an excellent runner, makes good decisions. Knows the offense in and out, knows what everybody’s got to be doing. provides great leadership for us.”
President is recovering from a leg injury early in the 2016 season, and Montgomery says that has affected some of his mechanics.
A concern among TU fans about President is that some of his passes fluttered during the high wind spring game, while Skipper’s passes had more control and zip.
“He’s got things we’re going to work on this summer,” Montgomery said of President. “I thought he greatly improved as a passer. With the injury last year, he’s had to work his way back into that from a health standpoint in just getting his body back right and just getting his confidence and all that.
“But he’s got things he’s got to improve on this summer. It’s about decision making and it’s about being able to put the ball where we want to. He knows he’s got to work there.”
As for Skipper, his impressive spring game certainly helped in making him a legitimate contender for the starting job. In addition to his outstanding arm, he is one of the faster players on the team. He may not be known as much for his running as President, but make no mistake, Skipper can move.
“Skipper’s a good athlete and a guy who can do a lot of different things for us,” Montgomery described. “He’s a guy that can pull it down and run and make plays with his feet. He’s got an elusiveness back there as far as the pass rush goes. He’s done a lot better job of staying in the pocket and knowing when to get out and run and knowing when to sit in there and give that route just another second right there.”
The highlight of the spring game was Skipper moving to his left and throwing a rope downfield to Bishop Louie. Despite being covered fairly well, the ball was threaded perfectly, and Louie made the leaping catch on the way to a 59-yard touchdown pass.
“Luke has come a long way this spring as far as knowing what we’re doing offensively,” Montgomery said. “Any time you come in as a young quarterback, it’s always tough. He did a much better job in the latter part of spring ball. I thought he made great strides in knowing where to put the ball, and where we’re looking at, and what we’re reading, and where our eyes have got to be.
“He still has a lot of work to do with his feet and being patient in the pocket. But he’s got the arm to make every throw.”
Both Skipper and President have a lot in common. Both stand 6-foot-2, and both are well built, although President is a little sturdier at 226 pounds compared with Skipper at 208. Both were star high school quarterbacks in north Texas – President at Temple, and Skipper at Forney.
Tulsa’s third quarterback was a record-setting high school signal-caller at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. At 6-5 and 209-pounds, Will Hefley doesn’t possess the running skills of President or Skipper, but anyone who had as much high school success as Hefley, to go along with his size, shouldn’t be counted out.
“I thought Will Hefley probably had his best spring so far and thought he was greatly improved,” Montgomery said. “So, we’ll see what Will does over the summer and over the fall camp.”
Also figuring into the mix is incoming freshman Seth Boomer. The 6-3, 185-pounder from Collinsville has a strong arm and showed he is a very good athlete as a standout basketball player. Boomer displayed a good feel for the game and a knack for making clutch plays while leading the Cardinals to outstanding seasons.
“Seth Boomer has got a chance to be a real special quarterback,” Montgomery explained. “He’s long, he’s lanky, he’s got good mobility to him, he’s got a good, strong arm. He’s from a coaching family, so he’s kind of been around it his whole life. So I’m anxious to see what he does once he steps on campus.”
A walk-on quarterback with some impressive high school credentials is Norman North’s Brandon Marquardt, who was the Oklahoman’s All-State Offensive Player of the Year. Someone with that impressive of a high school career should not be counted out, as OU’s Baker Mayfield would attest.
Although he stands only 6-foot, Marquardt passed for more than 4,600 yards and 48 touchdowns while leading Norman North to the state title game against Union. Marquardt played valiantly in the 57-43 loss, throwing for 351 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tulsa certainly has legitimate options at quarterback. Making the correct choice will go a long way in determining the fate of the 2017 season and beyond.