As offensive linemen are rarely ready to contribute heavily as true freshmen, Tulane did more than just pick up three newcomers at its greatest position of need Wednesday.
Although NCAA rules do not permit coach Willie Fritz to talk about transfers until they arrive for the spring semester, Brown graduate transfer Christian Montano confirmed Wednesday he would join the Green Wave in January.
Tulane is losing three starters on the offensive line — graduate transfer left tackle Noah Fisher and guards John Leglue and Dominique Briggs. Montano is ticketed to start at center, allowing sophomore Jesuit grad Corey Dublin to move back to guard, his position as a freshman.
“I had great coaches at Brown and they really taught me the intellectual side of football — being able to identify defenses, being able to see what you think the defense is going to do next so you're not just reacting to it,” Montano said. “You're able to anticipate it and then sort of have a better first step.”
Montano became Brown’s starting center in the fifth game of his redshirt freshman season. Aside from two games he missed with a concussion, he never left the lineup until his senior year, starting at center as a sophomore and at tackle as a junior.
Moving back to center last season, he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the first quarter of Brown’s opener and was granted a sixth year of eligibility, which he will use at Tulane. He will pursue an MBA after graduating from Brown with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
He said he also considered Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Villanova before deciding Tulane was the best fit.
“It was always a school I was interested in based on its level of athletics and academics,” he said. “My dream is to play in the NFL, but I needed to get a sixth year and have a good redshirt senior season.”
Montano is eager to prove skeptics wrong that he cannot make the jump from the Ivy League to the American Athletic Conference. In 2017, four NFL centers had an Ivy League background.
“I think the FCS and the Ivy League in particular do get a little underrated,” he said. “They really get some good recruits, but the step up from the FCS to the FBS is one of the things I’m most excited about. We'll play Auburn next year, so I'll get to be down there at a big SEC school at a big stadium.”
Montano has huge plans for his final year. When he picked Tulane, he said he told offensive line coach Alex Atkins the Wave ought to win the AAC championship, and he wants to be the guy touching the ball first on each play.
“I just like having the ball in my hands and being able to control the pace of things, he said. “I like to be in the middle and see both sides of the defense, the left and right side of the field.”
Tulane’s lone New Orleans signee, Colby Orgeron of John Curtis, will move to the offensive line after playing defensive tackle for the Division I champion Patriots.
Fritz said Wednesday players like Orgeron (6-foot-5, 265 pounds), who worked as an offensive lineman at one of Tulane’s camps, were the Wave of the future up front.
“We need to get taller and longer on the offensive line, and Colby is a big fella and a hard worker,” he said. “We were happy that he played defensive line all season for John Curtis. He knows how to do all those different things, and he’s going to be a great addition to our program.”
Orgeron is the first John Curtis player Tulane has signed under Fritz and one of only four players from Louisiana in this class, along with Zachary safety Tyler Judson, Hahnville wide receiver Jha’Quan Jackson and Ponchatoula running back Tyjae Spears.
Fritz said he expects to get more local players if the Wave — which finished with a winning record for only the sixth time in 37 years — continues to improve.
“We’re excited about those guys,” he said. “I feel like the more we win, the more we’re going to get guys to stay at home, particularly these big-time Division I football players.”
Two of the Wave’s 18 signees will enroll in January — Wildwood (Florida) safety Kanyon Walker and Indian Land (South Carolina) linebacker Dorian Williams. ... Senior cornerback Donnie Lewis has been selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 19 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Lewis started 44 career games, making 161 tackles and eight interceptions while breaking up 43 passes. ... Tulane’s 41 sacks this season are the second highest total in AAC history, ranking behind Louisville’s 43 in 2013, the only year the Cardinals were in the league.