As Lane Kiffin and newly-hired Ole Miss defensive coordinator Pete Golding attempt to overhaul the Rebel defense through the transfer portal this offseason, a phrase I’ve heard (and used) often is “move the needle.” While depth, system fit, future potential, etc. are all important, Golding needs to identify and land guys who represent an improvement over the defensive starters Ole Miss rolled out in 2022. While finding those guys has proven difficult so far, on Friday the Rebs gained a commitment from Louisville linebacker Monty Montgomery, an explosive, hard-hitting playmaker with 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles in essentially three seasons for the Cardinals. A super senior who will use his extra COVID year at Ole Miss, Montgomery missed most of his 2021 season with an ACL injury, before returning in 2022 with 70 tackles, six sacks, four forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Again, in one year. While I think player rankings for portal recruits are very flawed, On3 ranks Montgomery as the #2 linebacker in the portal.
Montgomery committed on Friday, confirming the news on Saturday with a Tweet featuring the typical commitment photoshoot pics:
Monty is listed at 5’11, 220 lbs, but what he lacks in prototypical size, he makes up for with almost comical swagger. You’ll notice his Twitter banner image currently reads “The Best Defensive Player in NFL History.” Quite the claim for someone who has not yet played an NFL down, but you really have to admire his optimism. The good news there is that Ole Miss doesn’t need The Best Defensive Player in NFL History; it needs someone who makes more plays at linebacker than Troy Brown, Austin Keys, or Ashanti Cistrunk did last year, and I love Montgomery’s odds of making that happen. A highlight video of Montgomery’s 2022 season shows him terrorizing ball carriers and quarterbacks. In these highlights, he most often lines up on the edge, and gets to the quarterback in a hurry.
Pete Golding’s plans for the Ole Miss defense are unknown, so it’s hard to project what kind of role Montgomery might play; will he line up essentially as a standup pass rusher like he did at Louisville, or will he be expected to play more of a Mike linebacker role, spying the quarterback and taking on running backs up the middle? Either way, he’s a phenomenal addition to an Ole Miss linebacker unit that returns just one starter-level player from last year in Khari Coleman. Coleman and Montgomery have similar strengths as pass rushers, so it’ll be interesting to see if they both end up on the field at the same time. Other likely contributors in the linebacker room include UCF transfer Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, incoming five-star freshman Suntarine Perkins, and rising sophomores Tyler Banks and Trip White.