Luke Montgomery Getting Acclimated at Right Guard, Focused on Improving Each Day As He Competes for Starting Job

By Dan Hope on April 2, 2024 at 5:05 pm
Luke Montgomery
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Going into the start of spring practices, many believed that Luke Montgomery would compete with Josh Fryar to be Ohio State’s starting right tackle. Instead, Montgomery has spent the spring practicing exclusively at right guard.

While Fryar is currently in line to remain Ohio State’s starting right tackle – though Fryar says he has also taken some snaps at guard this spring, while Tegra Tshabola is also in the mix at RT – Montgomery has emerged as a frontrunner to start at right guard in his sophomore season with the Buckeyes.

Coming out of high school, Montgomery expressed a desire to continue playing tackle collegiately. The Findlay native spent his freshman year on the edge, competing for a starting tackle job in the preseason. He ended up playing right tackle with the second-team offensive line while also seeing occasional snaps with the first-team offense as a sixth offensive lineman in the “bison” package.

Now, though, Montgomery just wants to get on the field wherever he can help the Buckeyes. And he believes his skill set is well-suited for the guard position.

“I think my height is more of a guard height, and I’m fast on my feet,” said Montgomery, who’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds. “I just need to get used to the technique right now.”

Montgomery says there has been an acclimation process this spring as he’s learned how to play inside. Going up against Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton and the rest of Ohio State’s defensive tackles has put his skills to the test. But Montgomery has grown from that experience.

“It's a little different, for sure. I'm just getting used to it,” Montgomery said Monday. “Spring ball is all about technique, so I’m getting used to the technique. It’s a little faster inside, but I'm enjoying it. I'm having a lot of fun out there, especially with the guys I'm around, they're awesome.

“You’re just trying to get better and you're gonna lose (some of) those reps. That's what I struggled with when I first got here is just from where I came from, I was the best, and you don't know it till you know it when you're here. You're playing against guys that are older than you and way more experienced and are a lot better than you and you're gonna get beat. You just gotta keep getting back up and fighting.”

Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye says Montgomery still has a lot to learn at his new position, but he’s pleased with how Montgomery has developed so far.

“You can't make moves or shift guys if they're not mentally there,” Frye said. “For him, He's got a pretty good football IQ. He's growing every day. He's working. And he's getting beat every day too, and he's learning from those. It's only springtime.

“We have a saying in our room where in the spring, it's yes and it's know. And the know is k-n-o-w. Why didn't a rep work? What happened? And how do I make sure I don't repeat the same mistake? And so whether he's coming in and watching the tape on his own and then coming in with questions, he's grabbing me and watching tape with me or we're doing stuff as a unit, he's learning so the game can slow down and he gets more comfortable there in friction. 

“His weight’s up, his strength’s up. He’s been in an offseason with (director of sports performance Mickey Marotti). There's a lot of development that still has to be had. Obviously not a finished product, but being able mentally for a guy to handle that helps a lot.”

There’s good reason for Ohio State to give Montgomery the first crack at winning the starting right guard job this year. Among the offensive linemen currently on Ohio State’s roster who haven’t started a game, Montgomery may have the highest upside. A top-100 prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, Montgomery is one of the most athletic offensive linemen on the Buckeyes’ roster, and Ryan Day believes he has star potential.

“He's very athletic. He's somebody who, to me, is very skilled in a lot of areas,” Day said at the start of spring. “We think he's got a very, very high ceiling. And he's got a list of things, just like everybody has, that he's going to work on this offseason.

“He played tackle last year and did some good things. And we think he can still play some tackle. But we also really want to look at him at guard. One, because that's sort of an open spot right now. And then two, we also think with his quickness, he can get on guys quickly and he can bend, and that's very, very important in that position. And so with some of the schemes we're going to be running, we think he has the skill set in order to do it. So now he just needs the reps to go prove he can do it.”

Montgomery has impressed his teammates with his development so far this spring, including those who are lining up against him.

“I go against him every day. This man is strong,” said Ohio State defensive tackle Hero Kanu. “He’s got the basketball feet. It's not like you can just do an inside move. He recovers really fast. … And he doesn't give up on a play. He's gonna go in and watch the film. He's doing that every day. And you’re seeing it on the field. From practice one to now practice nine, you can see the improvement every day.”

“We think he's got a very, very high ceiling.”– Ryan Day on Luke Montgomery

Seth McLaughlin, who has often lined up alongside Montgomery this spring as he competes to be Ohio State’s starting center, described Montgomery as “a tremendous athlete.”

“He's a good guy. He's really striving to get better,” McLaughlin said. “I think all those guys in those positions really have to take the next step to do better. And I think they're all doing a really good job of taking Coach Frye’s advice and taking each step going forward.”

As a native Ohioan who’s long dreamed of playing for the Buckeyes, Montgomery says it “would mean a lot” if he gets to start this year.

“You put a lot of work in to play here, and it's been a dream just from being an Ohio kid,” Montgomery said. “I mean, that's the biggest wish possible, I would say. It'd be pretty cool.”

That said, Montgomery knows he still has “a long way to go” in his development to get to where he needs to be if he’s going to start this season, so he’s keeping his focus this spring on improving with each rep rather than his standing on the depth chart.

“The biggest thing for me is just staying consistent and worrying about the next play,” Montgomery said. “That's what I'm thinking of it as right now in the spring is I'm getting another rep. It doesn't matter who I'm going against or who I'm playing with. Just having that extra rep, it means a lot to have that.”

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