Third-year ECU Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery addressed members of the media on Monday prior to this weekend’s home game against UCF. 

Montgomery took the time to announce that former DH Conley standout Holton Ahlers would make his first start at quarterback this week, as the Pirates play host to 10th ranked UCF. 

Opening Statement:

“I am looking forward to hosting UCF, who in my opinion is one of the top five teams in the country. They have definitely done what they are supposed to do to get themselves ranked so high and they probably should be ranked a lot higher. They are led by one of the best players in college football in McKenzie Milton. Defensively, they have done a great job of utilizing their speed on the back end to match their physicality on the front. They are a really good football team and we will have to be ready to go. We will have a few different things this weekend as far as our personnel is concerned. We are excited about starting something new and fresh at the quarterback position.

“We made some huge strides in the Houston game and saw some young guys make an impact in different ways. Offensively, we thought D’Ante Smith played at a really high level throughout the game. We want to give him the ability to lead a little more. Our offensive line needs to do a better job of letting us run the ball. We also have to understand on the defensive end that four or five plays a game can’t hurt us.

“Special teams wise, our effort was as good as it’s been. We did a really good job for the most part across the board. Some of our biggest issues can be fixed and I am energized to see what Holton [Ahlers] can do. He managed a lot of the concepts we gave him in the second half and fourth quarter well. I thought he listened really well throughout the game and got better from start to finish.”

On Managing The Quarterback Rotation:

“Holton does not have a leash this week. I am taking it off. He will play as long and hard as he can. With Holton, we all have to realize that there will be some bad plays in there but also some really good ones. We will have to work through it, as he is a true freshman starting at quarterback. I am looking forward to him playing a lot. We could see some other guys in there depending on where we are in the game but I really want to give him an opportunity to build on his performance over the weekend. I will be pretty open-minded about some of the things we will do with him and we will do more with him than we have done in the past. There is no question about it. He deserves the chance and opportunity to go out and play. Again, I told the offensive staff there will be some plays in there that we don’t necessarily like how they look. In my time coaching, I have had more quarterback in the run option and drop back mode like Holton than I’ve had a normal type of quarterback so, I am excited and I am looking forward to it.”

On Starting A True Freshman At Quarterback:

“It’s not necessarily about what we can’t do with [Holton] because we can do a lot with him. My biggest goal is to make sure the pressure doesn’t affect him. A lot of times you get all this emotion and energy built up when it’s your first opportunity to start. We can do some things early in the game plan with which he feels really comfortable. I will spend the majority of my time this week making sure he feels comfortable. I really started to move toward him playing more last week. One thing I did not want to do was bring him out in a situation under the lights without him having a couple of significant drives. The biggest thing will be how he deals with the pressure of starting. Knowing him, I think this is exactly what he is looking forward to. I like his personality during games and practice. I thought he was really focused Sunday night not knowing what we were going to do. I really like where he is right now.

On Ahlers’ Reaction Of Earning The Starting Quarterback Role:

“I let Holton know Sunday night. It was as simple as ‘let’s go.’ He was fired up and had a tremendous amount of energy. He took the first snap of Sunday night practice. I told him my thought pattern and he went to work. He understands what he needs to do in the next 72 hours to be successful. It’s a lot. If I had to pick someone at his age to do it, it would be him. It wouldn’t matter if I had my own business doing something else.”

On Implementing Some New Strategy Saturday Through The Quarterback Position:

“I don’t even have 100 percent of the playbook. Because of third down football, the playbook can change. Holton will have what he needs this week. Next week he will have something different, new and fresh. He just needs to stay current week to week. It’s not like the old school where you come in and drop a playbook on your guys. It’s a completely different world of adjusting to what we see. With Holton, he challenges you as to what you can do. He can do more so you have to put in more. It feels like we have a chance to be more innovative this week and I believe he can handle it. There will be some different formations and other things that benefit his style of play.”

On Facing The Talent In The American Athletic Conference:

“It’s not good. When you play against two of the top players in the country in Ed Oliver and McKenzie Milton, it’s definitely not something you look forward to doing. Would I like to go out there and see Houston without Ed Oliver? Yes. It would give you a better chance to be more effective. McKenzie Milton is the ultimate general of a college football team. He is doing things out there that seven, eight and nine year professionals don’t have the understanding to do. He understands the clock as well as anyone and does a lot with his cadence. He is very, very talented. What we have to understand is that it is also not good to go against Nate Harvey. That’s not good for people. We have to create more of those situations through recruiting. UCF has done a good job in recruiting and Houston did a great job with Ed Oliver. In a few weeks, I am hoping you all ask me questions in regard to what it is like going against Holton Ahlers and I can tell you that it’s not good.”

On Creating Turnovers:

“We have been close. We have had some rulings that were really close in terms of seeing if the ball was on the ground. I like tackles for loss though. I like what our defense is doing. When you start to create turnovers, they come in bunches. We are putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Regarding last week’s game against Houston, D’Eriq King is a lot stronger than people give him credit for. We got some hits on him and he had only been sacked once or twice the whole season coming into the game. The ball just hasn’t come out. We have put a lot of hits on quarterbacks and made tackles for loss. That usually translates into turnovers, but we just haven’t been as fortunate. There haven’t been a lot of teams that have attacked the middle of the field against us with intermediate passing. They have been much more down the field to the sideline type of throws. That makes it harder to intercept the ball. It is a bit of an anomaly to have that many tackles for loss and sacks but not turnovers.”