The cohesiveness of the offensive line is a huge factor in making an offense productive, and the Tulsa front five has been improving its continuity each day. Although four past starters return, the Hurricane still is young up front as 12 of the 16 linemen are either freshmen or sophomores.
Three starters – tackles Evan Plagg (6-4, 292) and Willie Wright (6-3, 296) and center Chandler Miller (6-3, 290) – return from last year, while a fourth, Blake Belcher (6-5, 304), started in the 2014 campaign but suffered a first-game injury in 2015 that sidelined him for the season.
Wright, as a red-shirt freshman, filled in at right tackle last year when Belcher went down. Wright continues to hold onto that spot, while Belcher has moved inside and taken over at right guard for the Hurricane.
The fifth starter will be sophomore Tyler Bowling (6-6, 325) at the left guard spot. Bowling saw most of his playing time last year as a red-shirt freshman on special teams.
"We actually made the decision of the first five offensive linemen a lot earlier than I thought we would," said Montgomery. "Those guys are starting to jell and really come around. I feel really, really good about the first group, and right now I think we have eight guys that I feel good about, and we're still working on the other two."
"I like the combination of who we have in there, and from a depth standpoint with the backups." Said Montgomery. "We've got some of the young guys that may get in the mix because they're really coming on and knowing what to do.'
There has been solid competition through the preseason camp for the back-up positions on the offensive front. Sophomore Isaac Johnson (6-7, 275) at left tackle, junior Zac Uhles (6-3, 276) at center, red-shirt freshman Chris Ivy (6-4, 280) at right tackle, senior Alex Pagonis (6-5, 320) at right guard, and red-shirt freshman Tristan Wyatt (6-5, 299) and true freshman Rowdy Frederick (6-4, 330) at left guard appear to be the next in line at those spots.
In addition to Frederick, Tulsa's freshman class upfront possesses great size and ability. Tiller Bucktrot (6-5, 350), Clay Greathouse (6-4, 305) and Waahid Muhammad (6-7, 295) continue to get better and understand the system. Red-shirt freshman Blake Browning (6-0, 298) has been able to get snaps at the center position and adds depth. Freshman walk-on John Newfield (6-1, 275), from nearby Tulsa Union High School, adds depth as well.