Perhaps the biggest change of the offseason made by Charlotte 49ers football Brad Lambert is the hiring of offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery, who takes over for Greg Adkins after the 49ers went 1-11 in 2017.
Montgomery, a former N.C. State quarterback, spent the past eight seasons at Youngstown State. Under Montgomery – who was the Penguins’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach – Youngstown State had four of the most prolific offensive seasons in program history. The Penguins advanced to the 2016 Football Championship Subdivision game, averaging 422.9 yards per game (242.7 rushing, 180.2 passing).
Montgomery, 50, also has four years of experience as a head coach. He was 17-31 in four seasons at Miami (Ohio) before being fired after going 2-10 in 2008.
He takes over a 49ers offense that was 13th in the 14-team Conference USA in scoring (14.2 points per game), total offense (303.6 yards) and passing (137.3). But there are some potentially strong pieces already in place for Montgomery, including an offensive line that returns intact, running back Benny LeMay (732 yards) and quarterback Hasaan Klugh, who is more of a threat running the ball (532 yards, nine touchdowns) than he is passing (47.7 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, 13 interceptions).
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Montgomery talked with the Observer’s David Scott about his philosophy and what he expects from the 49ers’ offense:
Lambert said that he wanted his offensive coordinator’s coaching philosophy and style to fit his. Do you think that’s the case?
We had some conversations. I knew what he wanted to do and that pretty much fit into what we’ve been doing. Being a former head coach, I know how important it is for coaches to complement each other – offense, defense and special teams. We both know we want to run the ball first – and stop the run on defense -- and take care of the ball. I think we’re on the same page. He knows what he wants to do and I feel like we’re a good match.
How have you spent the first week on the job?
I got in last week and watched a handful of games, trying to get a feel for what they had and what they were doing. Really the biggest thing now is getting to know the players already here and the mid-year kids coming in.
But I don’t want to make any judgments on anybody yet. We’re going to give them all a chance to prove themselves to me and our staff members. They’ve got a clean slate.
What’s stood out for you about Charlotte’s offense?
We’ve got a lot of starters back up front, which is obviously good. It starts there for use. Benny LeMay had a pretty good year at running back and it’s always good to have a good running back. Hasaan ran well at quarterback, so it starts with being able to run the ball. We’ve got a good starting point with that.
What kind of offense will you run?
I always say we’re very multiple. You hear people say they’re West Coast or Spread. But we’ve got principles that bring in everything. But we’re also not going to sit here and say what we’re bringing in only everything that we did at Youngstown State. I want to see what they’ve done here before.
How can you help the program overcome the doldrums that come with a 1-11 season?
I know they had a tough year. But even at 1-11, they had some tight games they could have won. When (Youngstown State) played for the (FCS) national championship, we had some close games we won that we could have lost. Last year, we were 6-5 and we lost some close games. So it can go both ways on you. It’s a fine line. You have to find that edge to get you over the top.
What’s your early take on Klugh?
I got to meet him a little bit over the last week. He’s a great kid who’s played a decent amount of football. The biggest thing is to help him in the passing game. Obviously he’s had more success in the running game. But it’s not just him, it’s everybody around him. We’ve got to play well up front and the receivers have to help, too.
Is the job automatically Klugh’s, or will others, like freshman Brady Pope, get a chance to start?
I don’t think you can ever expect or count on a freshman to come in and help immediately, but the quarterback position is wide open. Hasaan is coming in with a lot of experience, and he should be ahead of everybody. But everything is a clean slate. I’m going to play the best player. There are no preconceptions about what people can do. Guys who played should have the advantage because of their experience. But we’re bringing in a new offense. Everybody is starting over. We’ll see who picks it up the best.
David Scott: @davidscott14
Birthplace: Newark, Ohio
Playing career: Quarterback, N.C. State (1986-89); Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks, World League of American Football (1991).
Coaching career: 1991-92, N.C. State (assistant); 1993-2000, Chattanooga (assistant); 2001-04, Miami, Ohio (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks); 2004-08: Miami (Ohio), head coach; 2009, Akron (offensive coordinator, tight ends); 2008-17, Youngstown State (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks).
Notable players: Montgomery coached wide receiver Terrell Owens at Chattanooga and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at Miami.
Family: Wife, Sandy; sons, Tanner and Trent.
Bet you didn’t know: Montgomery still owns N.C. State’s single-game passing yardage mark (535 yards, vs. Duke in 1989).