How Auburn football's Hugh Freeze, Philip Montgomery are trying to 'marry' offensive systems

Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze is interviewed at the Woltosz Football Performance Center in Auburn, Ala., on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2023.

AUBURN — Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze has called offensive plays for virtually his whole career. But starting next season, he's passing that responsibility to new offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery.

Freeze explained Thursday the reason he's handing those duties off is so that he can better focus on overseeing the total operation that is his team. In other words: The CEO approach. That doesn't mean his fingerprints won't be all over the offense, though.

"Philip and I are trying to marry two systems," Freeze said. "They’re very similar, we believe in the same things, but it’s a lot of different ways to get to them and a lot of different things to call them."

CALLING PLAYS:Why Auburn football's Hugh Freeze isn't calling plays for first time as a head coach

TRANSFER PORTAL:Why Auburn football's Cadillac Williams wanted USF transfer RB Brian Battie

Montgomery hasn't ever been in a situation quite like this before. He's had jobs that allowed him to grow into the play-caller − he started as the quarterbacks/running backs coach at Houston in 2003 before getting promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2007 − but never has he come in and immediately been tabbed to call plays with someone he hasn't previously worked with.

Especially not by a coach with the cachet of Freeze, whose proficient offenses at Ole Miss and Liberty are well-documented.

"This is a little more unique, but it's been really, really good," Montgomery said. "I've enjoyed that aspect of it because I like the idea of, 'Hey, y'all were really good at this.' Very few times in our business, right, when you sit down with another ball coach − even if he's one of your buddies − you're not telling them everything you want them to know. You don't really open up and give them the details of how you do stuff.

"You can give them ideas and thoughts, but you never get into the fine details of how you run it. For us being in the same room together and being open to, 'Hey, this is how we did it, and this is why we did it' and finding the ins and outs of it, that's been fun."

Freeze still plans to "call a share" of the plays, particularly when the offense is moving with some pace.

"We both want to be up-tempo," Montgomery said. "What we do formationally, spreading guys and our thought process of how we're breaking out defenses and trying to go attack those things − those things really align perfectly for us. Yes, some of the verbiage and what we call things and how we're getting to it is a little bit different, but our meetings have all been really good."

Freeze described the time crunch he and his staff are on with spring practice set to begin Feb. 27 and culminate in A-Day on April 8. Since taking the job in November, most of his time has been spent on the road recruiting, with the exception of a few weekends.

"And those weekends I'm sitting in my office and meeting with prospects," Freeze told reporters Jan. 27.

Wednesday was the first day the staff could get together and, as Freeze put it, have a "full day of ball." He knows getting everything installed on both sides − defensive coordinator Ron Roberts is brand new, too − by the start of spring is a pipe dream. But he's looking to prioritize what's most important: "We’ve got thousands of discussions that have got to take place between now and the 27th of February," Freeze said.

Montgomery's early assessment? So far, so good.

"I was excited about the opportunity to be able to sit and really take the two things, the two thought processes and the unique things that he does and what we do, and mesh those together," Montgomery said. "I think we're going to be able to create something different that's going to be exciting to watch and exciting to play in."

Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at or on Twitter @rich_silva18.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: How Auburn's Hugh Freeze, Philip Montgomery are trying to 'marry' offenses