Cort Dennison, Monty Montgomery Talk Spring Practice

Louisville outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison and inside linebacker Monty Montgomery discussed several aspects of spring practice with the media.
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(Photo of Bryce Perkins, Monty Montgomery: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville football program is quickly progressing through their 2021 spring football schedule, as they have now completed three of their five weeks back on the practice fields of the Trager Center.

Following their practice session on Friday, outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison and inside linebacker Monty Montgomery took some time to meet with the media. They discussed how spring ball has been for the linebackers, Jack Fagot's transition to outside linebacker, their 'point scale' to improve negative plays, and more.

Below is the transcript from their press conference:

Outside Linebackers Coach Cort Dennison

(On what spring ball has been like for the outside linebackers)

I think that we've had great leadership, first of all, from the experienced guys. Whether that's Yasir Abdullah or Nick Okeke, or even someone who's transitioning into that outsidebacker role in a person like Jack Fagot. So the one thing that I've noticed is just leadership. It's been elevated, and that's just not only on the field, that's in the classroom as well. These guys are taking the young guys, some of the guys who like Isaiah Peterson or Kameron Wilson, some guys who don't have as much experience, they're taking him under their wing, and they're showing them how to do things on and off the field. So that's the one thing that stood out to me in my group, is leadership.

(On Jack Fagot's transition from safety to outside linebacker)

It's going well. The main thing that impressed me most about Jack, is just his football IQ, and his instincts. He's a very cerebral player, he's got great awareness, he's instinctive. The transition, he hasn't skipped a beat. Obviously, the terminology is different. Some of the fundamentals and techniques are a little different because you're closer to the box. You'll be taken on offensive lineman, so fundamentally, he's had to get adjusted. But in terms of play, nothing has been lost. He's continued to elevate the standard, and I think he's gonna have an outstanding year that outside linebacker position.

(On how the Card position has developed during practice)

Those three guys (Jack Fagot, Zay Peterson, Marvin Dallas) have done an outstanding job. Obviously, none of those guys have - Rodjay (Burns), for the last two years, has been the guy at that position, so there's not a ton of experience coming back. But as far as on the field play, they're doing a great job. There are athletic - what you look for in a Card position. As you look for kind of a jack of all trades, you've got to be able to play in the box, you got to be able to play out in open space, you got to be able to cover receiver vertically. You've just got to be an all-around athlete, and I think all three of those guys have done a great job. Like I mentioned before, Jack's a really heady player. He's a cerebral guy. Marvin Dallas is one of the most athletic players on the football team. He can really run. He's continued to add weight to his frame and he's got a great spring. Then Zay Peterson's another guy with a high football IQ who's done a good job as well. So, all three of those guys have stepped up, and I'm excited about the competition going into the fall.

(On Yasir Abdullah and Nick Okeke)

Those guys have been tremendous this spring. Every day, those those guys are making plays. Yasir, he's on a mission right now, I'll just say that. He's on a mission. This is the highest level he's ever been at in these three years. He's effective in both run and pass game, obviously he's a great athlete, he's got tremendous speed. But the way he's been able to be physical in the run game, taking on much bigger opponents in the O-linemen, his ability to drop into coverage and play in open space and be comfortable. He's really elevated his play. Then Nick Okeke, he's got great position flexibility. He can play in or outside linebacker, and he's added - he's done a tremendous job in the weight room with Coach Sirignano. His diet's changed, he's taking care of his body. He's a real cerebral player as well. He's instinctive. Those two are doing great. Kam Wilson's a guy who's a young player, but he's got all the talent in the world. He flashes a lot, and he'll do things for us this year. So I'm excited about that group, and like I said, just like the Card position, there's a lot of competition at that Dog position, which is only going to make our team better.

(On how he thinks the defense has improved, and what they will try and accomplish for the rest of spring ball)

Our mantra for the spring, defensively, is elevate the standard. Obviously, we've taken steps forward the last three years. But we're not going to get complacent. You're either getting better, and our motto every day, obviously, is to elevate the standard and get better. The main thing that we're gonna preach these last six practices, is to just finish. We had a lot of games last year where we were in the fourth quarter, and we didn't ways to finish the game. So these last six spring ball practices, take them day-by-day, be where your feet are, seize the day, and finish. Whether it's every individual drill, group drill, team drill, doesn't matter. We need to find ways to finish. This spring, the guys have done a great job. We're flying around, they're playing fast, very, very fast. That's the one thing when you watch our defense right now, it's just a different speed, and I think it's because of that continuity. Guys are playing fast because they know what to do, guys are talking, and I'm excited about this fall, I'll tell you that much.

(On the decision to move Jack Fagot to outside linebacker)

Jack's extremely athletic. If you were to go to a combine, Jack would blow the combine away. The thing that was most attracted about him, like I mentioned, is just his football IQ. He's got position flexibility. Last year, he played free safety. There were times in the games where we might even play strong safety. He played different positions in some of our sub packages. So we knew he had that position flexibility and could do a multitude of things. But you really need a guy at that Card position, who's a heady player. Formation recognition, you got to be sound in your fundamentals and techniques, and Jack is extremely consistent. So you have a consistent guy, you got a guy who's got a high football IQ, who won't panic, who's got the frame, who's got the athletic ability. That's the kind of guy you want for that position. It's been an easy transition. Jack's flourished in it, and we're excited definitely about Jack in this fall and what he's going to do for our defensive football to

(On how they have been performing creating more sacks and tackes)

We've done a good job. We, obviously, need to continue to get better. We have, for the spring ball, we're doing a competition every day. It's a point scale in things like tackles for loss, sacks, are all tallied. What we're doing is, we're doing our D line, and our inside backers vs. the outside backers and the DB's. Often times you think about, DB's are probably going to get more PBUs, they're probably going to get more interceptions, but the D-line, they're going to get more tackles for loss and sacks, just because it happens more frequently. What we've done is implemented a competition scale, and it's created a great competition for our defense, and it's encouraged things like getting in the backfield, and really changing the field position and changing the dynamic of a game. What we've done this offseason, and it's it's worked, is we've just created that competition within our defense. I think guys have really gelled with it, they've taken it to heart, and it's been it's been an exciting spurt.

(On who's winning the point scale competition)

I'll let you guys know that was spring ball gets wrapped up. I don't want any bulletin board material for either side.

(On what the hardest challenge has been from the last 12 months)

I think there's two things after looking back at COVID. Two things that we have learned one, is be where your feet are. Live in the present day. You can learn from the past, you can be where you are today, and there's nothing you can do about the future. So be where your feet are. Two, is control the controllables. A lot of things, in this COVID cycle, have been out of our control. So, we as a staff have reiterated to this football team that there's some things you just can't control. So, be where your feet are, live in the moment, control what you can. When you do that, often times that leads to success, and successful football teams,

We're definitely excited about the progress of this football team. The culture, the standard that's being raised day in and day out, offensively, defensively and special teams. We're looking forward to finishing strong, and having a great offseason, and leading up to the fall.

(On if there was a specific point where they defense really started to grow)

That last year, things didn't go our way, obviously, on the field like we would have liked. Obviously, things that brought in our control off the field. The one word that describes last year is adversity. I think our guys have done a great job of realizing that nothing's ever going to be perfect. There's going to be ups and downs, there's gonna be highs and lows and everything, and that includes offseason, during the season. A lot of the best stories are written, are written because of people having to go through adversity. That's how our team has really approached this offseason, and I think they've learned a lot from this last season. The things that we needed to improve on, we're improving on right now, and we're looking forward to translate that into the fall.

(On if there was a galvanizing moment)

I just think, looking back at the whole season in general. There's games here and there, there's instances in games. It's hard to really pinpoint, because obviously, there are so many different things that happened. But I think our guys are just learning in general that if you control the things you can, and we learn to finish games. we learn to force turnovers defensively, we learn to hang on the ball, this team can be very good. The culture of this this offseason has been outstanding. So, like I said, we're very excited about the direction of his football team. 

Inside Linebacker Monty Montgomery

(On his offseason weight gain)

I've put on a little weight, but we ain't gonna speak on that. But yeah, I feel very smooth. My transition, I put on like two pounds. Not too much, but I feel very elusive to be honest.

(On his weight distribution)

Honestly, it's been helping me also - like me shedding blocks. It's just feeling great during the physical aspect of the game.

(On preparing for a bigger role this season)

I gotta take everyday serious now. I can't joke around in the back like how I used to. I gotta be focused on every detail, no more lollygagging in the back with the young kids.

(On how much Dorian Jones and CJ Avery helped him get to where he is now)

They're like O.G.'s, man. Great, great mentors to me and other linebackers. Honestly, they taught me, molded me how to play football better. Like technique, reading plays reading my keys and all that. They taught me a lot, honestly. CJ, to this day, since he's silent right now, he teaches me a lot to be honest.

(On how he and his position ground are doing in the point scale competition)

We're leading in every category. Picks, touchdowns, TFL's, everything category. We got a competition going on right now. We're literally dominate. We're going after the offense, man. We're getting better man, really getting better. Scoring, TFLs, sacks, we get to the quarterback fast.

(On how the competition helps them improve)

It's just excellent to have competition, because if you don't have competition, you're not gonna grow. Our competition is a healthy competition. It's not like one guy hating on another, it's just like, he made a play, we're all clapping, we're all cheering, we're all dancing and having fun, and we're ready to make the next play and for ourselves. We ain't thinking like it's 'me'. We're not a 'me' team no more, we've grown out of that phase. We've transition to an 'us' culture.

(On how other inside linebackers are performing)

Dorian Jones has impressed me a lot, man. He's pushing me to get better and make more plays. He's showing us how to play the game very well.

(On if this team has an elevated confidence and swagger after last season)

Most definitely. Our Swag is definitely growing, it's definitely going to show this fall.

(On how they keep their chip on their shoulder while still being confident)

That chip on your shoulder always has to be there. You got to always remember your upbringing, your roots and all that. You got to always have a chip on your shoulder. For me, I know I got to have a chip on my shoulder. I'm undersized, and so are the other guys, but we all got a chip on our shoulder. We're ready.

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